Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Australia grappling with child abuse 'epidemic'

A child protection organisation says the rate of child abuse in Australia has reached epidemic levels.

Child Wise has collated research showing one in four girls and one in seven boys experience some form of sexual abuse.

It is launching a national campaign to raise awareness about the problem and help parents and others who work with children recognise the signs.

The group's chief executive Bernadette McMenamin says the silence about abuse has to be broken.

"We need to look at children, we need to listen to them, we need to hear them, we need to respond to them," she said.

"So many adults do not believe children. So many adults cannot believe that abuse can happen to the children that they know or that they work with. So we need to completely change our consciousness around understanding child sexual abuse."

Ms McMenamin says there needs to be a focus on prevention.

"Children are so victimised by the court system that often victims will say it [the court appearance] traumatised me as much as the abuse did," she said.

"We need to completely examine our child protection systems, the way that we deal with children who are at risk of abuse, or who have been abused."


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