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Issue: July at  18 July 2013

Report shows over half of parents and carers do not feel confident to protect their children from sexual abuse

59% of parents and carers are not as confident as they would like to be when it comes to protecting their children from sexual abuse. And if they had concerns only 70% would feel confident to act upon or report these concerns. 7.7 million families have dependent children in the UK which could mean 4.5 million families are lacking the confidence to protect their children.

The Alvechurch based Lucy Faithfull Foundation reveals the figures in a new report from its Stop it Now! UK and Ireland Campaign and Helpline.

Data was collected from 2,303 parents and carers who Stop it Now! worked with between October 2012 and March 2013. Parents and carers were asked to rate their confidence levels in a number of areas before attending a seminar on child sexual abuse prevention.

Findings show:-

Prior to the workshop only 41% of parents and carers rated themselves as 'confident' or 'very confident' about being able to keep their children safe from sexual abuse. Post-workshop this almost doubled to 79%

► Prior to the workshop only 70% of parents and carers stated they felt 'confident' or 'very confident' about acting on, or reporting, any concerns they may have about child sexual abuse. Post workshop this had risen to 92%

► Prior to the workshop, only 27% of parents and carers stated they felt 'confident' or 'very confident' about being able to spot signs of sexual abuse in their child's behaviour. Post workshop this almost trebled to 79%

► Prior to the workshop only 13% of parents and carers felt 'confident' or 'very confident' about spotting potentially concerning behaviour in an adult. Post workshop 69% rated themselves as 'confident' or 'very confident'

The findings are contained in the Stop it Now! UK and Ireland Helpline and Campaign 10 year report, which also shows that calls to the confidential resource climbed from 1,024 in 2003 to 5,676 in 2012. Over the last 3 years the number of callers has increased at an average rate of 24% each year as the public has become more aware of the Helpline's existence and as public concern about child sexual abuse has risen.  Calls fall into 3 main categories of caller:-

► Adults concerned about their own sexual thoughts or behaviour, 38%.

► Family, friends and other adults concerned about the behaviour of another adult, 27%.

► Parents and carers concerned about a child or young person's sexual behaviour, only 6%.

►  Other callers include adults concerned about children who may have been abused, just, 5%, professionals seeking case advice, 13% and adult survivors of sexual abuse, 7%.

Donald Findlater, Director of Research and Development with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation and Director of Stop it Now! UK and Ireland said:- "Our report clearly shows that while adults can and do take action to protect a child when they know where to go for help, many are not sure of what to look for and what action they can take if they do have concern. The Stop it Now! Helpline is one of the few places they can go for confidential, expert help, and growing numbers of adults are using the service. Child sexual abuse affects 1 in 6 children in the UK. Whilst it often hits the headlines, this is typically only after harm has been done. It is a scandal that so little is done to prevent abuse before it happens. Sadly the Parents Protect! sexual abuse prevention seminars, which achieved so much in improving the knowledge and confidence of those best placed to protect their children, have lost funding from the Department of Education, despite on-going demand. The Governments of Scotland and Wales continue to fund Parents Protect work for their parents and carers.  If we are to take the problem of child sexual abuse seriously, we must behave as if prevention were a possibility. At present it feels like we are resigned to the fact that lots of our children are being abused and we simply wring our hands after the next publicised tragedy. This does nothing to stop it happening and it does even less for the thousands of children suffering abuse in silence.  We need a public education campaign on the same scale as the drink drive and child obesity campaigns. We need Government to take a comprehensive look at services to prevent abuse from happening as well as to respond appropriately after it has happened; and we need all of this yesterday. Our children deserve nothing less."

Peter Saunders, Chief Executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, said:- "'The majority of adult survivors of sexual abuse who contact the NAPAC support line tell us they were abused by someone they knew. It is absolutely vital that parents and carers are confident about what to look for and what to do if they have concerns. It is not up to children to protect themselves and we know very few children disclose the abuse that is happening to them at the time. Parents, carers, family members and other protective adults are best placed to protect children but they must be informed and able to seek help and take action if they have concerns."

The Helpline and Campaign report covers ten years of pioneering work to protect children from sexual abuse. It concludes by stating that to really tackle child sexual abuse in the UK, Government needs to adopt a comprehensive approach to prevention.   The Stop it Now! Helpline is currently the subject of an independent evaluation funded by the EU and conducted by NatCen Social Research, Britain's largest independent social research organisation. Due to conclude in Spring 2014, the evaluation will inform the development of similar sexual abuse prevention help lines elsewhere in Europe.

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