MEDIA RELEASE: THURSDAY 6 SEPTEMBER 2018
WHITE BALLOON DAY IS FRIDAY 7 SEPTEMBER TO HELP BREAK THE SILENCE SURROUNDING CHILD SEXUAL ASSAULT
FRIDAY IS NATIONAL WHITE BALLOON DAY, dedicated to breaking the silence surrounding child sexual assault in Australia.
Every 90 minutes a child is substantiated as having been sexually assaulted in Australia - that’s 1 in 5 children who are sexually harmed in some way before their 18th Birthday – a statistic that is totally unacceptable in Australian society.
Bravehearts’ annual White Balloon Day, now in its 22nd year, is Australia’s longest running and only national campaign that increases community awareness of child sexual assault to help break the silence surrounding a crime that affects more than 58,000 children across Australia, every year.
The importance of being involved in Bravehearts’ national White Balloon Day campaign in preventing child sexual assault and the flow-on destructive impact it has on communities throughout Australia, cannot be overstated.
For Lyndal, Bravehearts’ Ambassador and the woman who changed the course of Australian history through her landmark court case that exposed child sexual assault in Australian institutions and brought about Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, breaking the silence of child sexual assault means everything.
The church had denied her abuse for over a decade. In 1998, at just 21 years-of-age, Lyndal took an extraordinary step for one so young and did something no one else had had the courage to do. Lyndal sued Toowoomba Prep and the powerful Anglican Church in a civil court action that would lead to giving voice to thousands of victims who suffered while in the care of the church and other institutions.
“I didn’t do it for me. I did it for every victim out there. It’s got to stop. Society now demands that this crime against innocent children must stop and through supporting Bravehearts’ vital work, we can all help to prevent other children from enduring this crime that breaks little hearts and destroys lives,” said Lyndal.
While the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has smashed the wall of silence surrounding cases of child sexual assaults in institutional environments; sadly the majority of these crimes are perpetrated inside the family unit or by someone known to the family.
Hetty Johnston AM, Founder of Bravehearts said, “Child protection is everybody’s business - because it takes a village to raise a child, an entire community of adults and stakeholders, we must work together to better protect our children and allow them to grow up safe from harm.
“With rates of child sexual assault and exploitation in Australia remaining at crisis levels, now more than ever before Bravehearts needs the support of communities and governments to help increase awareness to protect our children from a crime that breaks the little hearts and spirits of Australia’s most precious treasures – our children,” Ms Johnston said.
In 2016, of the 23,052 total cases of sexual assault recorded by police in Australia, 12,956 were child victims aged 0 – 19 years accounting for 56% of all sexual assault crimes in this country and of the 5.7 million children living in Australia at that time, an estimated 8% of boys and 20% of girls had been sexually assaulted.
“Sadly, if we were to bring all these children together in one place, they would fill the MCG not once, but a staggering eight times – that is the tragic magnitude of this largely hidden crime against Australian children with the long-term damage caused estimated to cost the Australian economy between $13.7 to $38.7 billion,” said Ms Johnston.
“Child sex offenders are master manipulators, able to perpetrate this crime through the fear driven silence, secrecy and shame. While children feel shame, self-blame, embarrassment, guilt, responsibility and concern for their own safety or the safety of others, their suffering continues and the pain they suffer can last a lifetime.
“For those of us who do care; for those of us who do listen; the sound of their suffering is deafening,” she said.
“Through White Balloon Day we can help break the silence surrounding this crime to help make Australia the safest place in the world to raise a child.
“White Balloon Day is very close the hearts of communities around Australia with individuals, organisations, schools, childcare centres and government organisations getting involved to help Bravehearts break the silence of child sexual assault,” said Ms Johnston.
“This year, when it comes to child protection, we’re asking parents, kids and everyone to ‘chalk about child protection’ and draw chalk balloons on pavements with messages of support and encouragement for our children and adult survivors.
“When people use chalk to draw balloons with a message of hope and support, they can be sure it’s environmentally safe and that someone who needs to see their message will see it,” Ms Johnston said.
Bob Atkinson AO APM, Former Commissioner for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse said, “As a long term supporter of Bravehearts, the community’s support for White Balloon Day is vital!
“An individuals’ safety underpins children’s entire quality of life and is a right, not an option.
“While there is still much to do in that regard, Bravehearts is at the forefront of child protection and with widespread community support we will enable them to continue their important and valuable work,” the Former Commissioner said.
Everyone can help our children stay safe by participating in White Balloon Day and creating a chalk art activity or by making a donation at whiteballoonday.com.au.
Parents can also help to protect their kids by downloading Bravehearts’ FREE Personal Safety Parents’ Guide https://bravehearts.org.au/personalsafety
Bravehearts is Australia’s leader in child protection offering specialised training services for government organisations, educators in schools and childcare centres, education and support services for children and their families, while parents and carers can download free child safe information resources from our website www.bravehearts.org.au.
For support, call our toll free Support Line on 1800 272 831 Monday to Friday between 8:30am to 4:30pm (AEST) or visit our website www.bravehearts.org.au.
PLEASE SEE JOURNALIST NOTES WITH STATISTICS BELOW THIS MEDIA ALERT
Interviews with Hetty Johnston AM and child sexual assault survivor, Lyndal, are available on request.
Contact Insight Communications on: 02 9518 4744
Clare Collins - M: 0414 821 957 E: [email protected]
Alice Collins - M: 0414 686 091 E: [email protected]
White Balloon Day is on Friday 7 September during National Child Protection Week 2-8 September
White Balloon Day is endorsed and funded by the Department of Social Services National Initiatives.
Bravehearts Ambassador and Survivor of Child Sexual Assault
Lyndal is an extraordinary woman who changed the course of Australian history through her landmark court case that exposed child sexual assault in Australian institutions and brought about Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
In 1990, Lyndal was just 12-years-old when she was sexually assaulted at Toowoomba Prep; one of the Anglican Church's elite private schools in Queensland. Her attacker was the School’s Boarding Master, Kevin Guy who told her, ‘Don't tell, no one will believe you.’ At the beginning, no one did.
For 8 months Lyndal suffered continued sexual assault while the school did nothing to protect her. Too afraid to tell anyone for fear of punishment by the perpetrator and the school, Lyndal begged her parents to bring her home. Finally they heard their little girl’s cries for help, but it was too late.
Towards the end of 1990, Guy’s assault of Lyndal was reported by another victim and he was charged by QLD Police. On the first day of his trial, Guy committed suicide leaving a note naming 20 school girls that he’d sexually assaulted, and yet both the school and the church ignored his crimes and Lyndal’s pleas for the help she desperately needed.
The school, the church and the then Archbishop, Peter Hollingworth failed to show any compassion or provide offers of support or redress to Lyndal or any of the victims. With her innocence, ambitions and her will for life stolen from her; as a teenager, Lyndal fell into a life of drugs, alcohol and a series of unhealthy relationships while Hollingworth went on to be appointed to the honourable position of Australia's Governor General.
Over time, Lyndal’s anger at what had happened to her grew. Angered by the lack of compassion the church had shown to her and other victims and angered that neither the church nor Hollingworth cared, Lyndal found the courage to fight for justice – and not just for herself but for others.
The church had denied her abuse for over a decade. In 1998, at just 21 years-of-age with her determined local lawyer Stephen Roache by her side and with the support of her psychologist and friend, Joy Connolly, Lyndal took an extraordinary step for one so young and did something no one else had had the courage to do. Lyndal sued Toowoomba Prep and the powerful Anglican Church in a civil court action that would lead to giving voice to thousands of victims who suffered while in the care of the church and other institutions.
In 2001, the trial began in Toowoomba’s Supreme Court and for the first time, Lyndal spoke of the crime that had shattered her young life spending 2 long days giving her heartbreaking evidence. The court found in Lyndal’s favour while media and public scrutiny surrounding Peter Hollingworth’s lack of conscience, care and concern for the rights of victims, grew.
In 2003, 18 months following Lyndal’s landmark case, Hollingworth was forced to resign as Australia’s Governor General.
Lyndal’s lawyer, Stephen Roache was so affected by her story that in 2011 he self-published the book “Don’t Tell”. In 2017, Roache produced the critically acclaimed film of the same name which received critical acclaim and 2 Australian film industry awards from 14 nominations.
On 12 November 2012 the then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, recommended to the Governor-General that a Royal Commission be appointed to inquire into institutional responses to child abuse.
On Friday, 11 January 2013 the Terms of Reference were established and six Commissioners were appointed by Her Excellency Quentin Bryce, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.
On 15 December 2017 the Royal Commission presented a final report to the Governor-General, detailing the culmination of a five year inquiry into institutional responses to child sexual abuse and related matters.
In 2017, following the release of the film, “Don’t Tell” Lyndal gave her first media interview on 60 Minutes. Today, Lyndal lives on the Queensland Gold Coast with her partner and 9 year-old daughter. She works in child education and is an Ambassador for Bravehearts, Australia’s leading child protection advocates.
“I didn’t do it for me. I did it for every victim out there. It’s got to stop. Society now demands that this crime against innocent children must stop and through supporting Bravehearts vital work, we can all help to prevent other children from enduring this crime that breaks little hearts and destroys lives.”
Lyndal, Ambassador for Bravehearts
Bravehearts and White Balloon Day – Educate, Empower, Protect Our Kids!
Bravehearts is Australia’s leading voice for child protection and has been dedicated to protecting Australian children for 22 years. White Balloon Day is Australia’s largest annual national campaign to raise awareness of and funds for, the prevention of child sexual assault.
All Australians are invited to support the campaign by registering at whiteballoonday.com.au
PLEASE NOTE: Bravehearts is aware that balloons, when released outside and not disposed of accordingly, are damaging to the environment. This is why Bravehearts DOES NOT endorse the release or use of balloons out of doors in any way as part of our annual White Balloon Day campaign.
White Balloon Day 2018 – How the community can get involved
- Register to hold a White Balloon Day awareness or fundraising event or activity in your workplace, school, community group, sporting club, council or home.
- Schools and childcare centres - take part in the White Balloon Day CHALK ART PROJECT to win free personal safety teaching resources for your school or centre.
- Download free resources from the website whiteballoonday.com.au to help spread the word about White Balloon Day and child protection week.
- Donate or fundraise online to help prevent child sexual assault and protect Australian children – whiteballoonday.com.au
Australian Child Sexual Assault Statistics
- Every 90 minutes an Australian child is sexually assaulted.
- 58,000 Australian children are sexually assaulted in Australia each year.
- One in five Australian children will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday.
- The majority of child sexual assault crimes are perpetrated by persons known to the child.
- A sample of Australian women showed that 45% reported experiencing at least one unwanted sexual incident before 16 years of age by family members (31%), friends (54%) or strangers (14%).
- Fewer than 28% of victims of child sexual assault disclose to authorities. Of this, only 17% of offences reported to police, result in convictions.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
Bravehearts’ specialised services address the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. White Balloon Day supports The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020 and is endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments.
The outcomes of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse have given adult survivors hope and in some cases, redress. With data from NSW Police showing 4% of all recent reported allegations were associated with an institution, this indicates that assaults in institutional environments are declining.
With one Australian child sexually assaulted every 90 minutes, increasing awareness and education of this crime can increase reports of child sexual assault by persons known to the child and empower them with strategies and confidence to find their voice to say NO to child sexual assault and disclose to someone they know they can trust.
Among the recommendations, the Royal Commission called for support from governments at the national, state and territory levels, local governments, should designate child safety officer positions from existing staff profiles to carry out the following functions:
- Developing child safe messages in local government venues, grounds and facilities;
- Assisting local institutions to access online child safe resources;
- Providing child safety information and support to local institutions on a needs basis; and,
- Supporting local institutions to work collaboratively with key services to ensure child safe approaches are culturally safe, disability aware and appropriate for children from diverse backgrounds.
Indicators of Child Sexual Assault for Parents & Teachers
As children often lack the words to describe sexual assault, they find it exceptionally difficult to disclose. The more severe the degree of harm, the less likely it is that the child/young person will disclose. The fear of a negative reaction and possible punishment can also prevent children from speaking out.
Children may try to subtly open the conversation by asking “Do you like so and so?… I don’t” or “I’ve got a secret”. However, there are a number of physical and behavioural symptoms that indicate a child or young person may have been harmed. While physical and behavioural symptoms should be viewed as a sign that something may be worrying the child, it should NOT be automatically assumed that harm is occurring.
By talking to the child, this may reveal something quite innocent so be sure to speak with the child before making accusations.
What Parents & Adults Should Look For
Parents, teachers, carers, child protection workers, counsellors etc., all need to know the symptoms of child sexual assault so if there are significant changes in behaviour, increased fears, or physical symptoms, they can talk to the child to discuss what they might be feeling.
Common Indicators in Children
Common Indicators in Offenders
The Effects of Child Sexual Assault on Individuals and the Community
The Effects on Child Victims
More than 80% of children who experienced child sexual assault are reported to have some post-traumatic stress symptoms. Disclosure and reporting of the crime of child sexual assault can lead to preventing further harm and potentially; the prosecution of perpetrators while improving long-term outcomes for victims through counselling and support. However, the traumatic impact on victims can cause emotional distress and a range of cognitive distortions in childhood, including feelings of hopelessness, impaired trust and self-blame leading to the following issues:
- Behaviour problems, poor self-esteem, and sexualised behaviours;
- Development of insecure attachment patterns;
- Failure to develop brain capacities necessary for modulating emotions;
- Inability to discriminate among and label affective states;
- Detachment from awareness of emotions and self;
- Under-controlled and over-controlled behaviour patterns;
- Lower grades and poorer academic achievement;
- A defective, helpless, deficient sense of self; and,
- Greater internalising and externalising behaviour problems.
The Effects on Adult Survivors
The impact of the crime of child sexual assault can last a lifetime with adults suffering from a number of behavioural and metal health conditions including:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, anxiety, reduced self-esteem, drug and alcohol dependence, heavy and hazardous drinking, illicit drug and substance abuse, drug overdose, anti-social and harmful behaviour; and increased violence and hostility among male victims.
- There is an increased likelihood of being arrested in adolescence by as much as 59%.
- They are 49 times more likely to die from accidental overdose than other Australians.
- Suicide is significantly higher (18 times higher) among adult victims of child sexual assault compared to other Australians. Women victims are 40 times more likely to take their own life.
The Fiscal Effects on the Australian Economic & Community
According to studies (2007), the future financial cost to Australia over the lifetime of abused, neglected and sexually assaulted children is estimated to be approx. between $13.7 ($105k per child) and $38.7 billion ($297k per child).
Adult Responses to the Subject of Child Sexual Assault
In 2009, the Australian Childhood Foundation published outcomes from their third survey on the national community attitude about child sexual assault and child protection. Key findings included:
- 1 in 3 Australians would not believe children if they disclosed they were being assaulted.
- Greater than 1 in 4 Australians do not feel confident enough to recognise the signs of child abuse, neglect and child sexual assault.
- 1 in 5 lacked the confidence to know what to do if they suspected that a child was being harmed.
- Unless they come face to face with the issue, collectively Australians rate petrol prices, public transport and roads as issues of greater concern than child abuse and sexual assault.
- 90% of adults surveyed believed that the community needs to be better informed about the problem of child abuse and sexual assault in Australia. 86% of Australian believed that Commonwealth and State Governments should invest more money in protecting children from abuse, neglect and sexual assault.
'As a long term supporter of Bravehearts, can I ask your support for White Balloon Day?
An individuals’ safety underpins their entire quality of life and is a right not an option. There is still much to do in that regard and Bravehearts are at the forefront. They need assistance to continue their important and valuable work.'
Bob Atkinson AO APM
Bravehearts Ambassador & Former Commissioner for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
Clare or Alice CollinsP: +61 2 9518 4744
M: 0414 821 957 or 0414 686 091