First published by Canberra Times on 21 July 2021.
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In this powerful opinion piece, Natalie Siegel-Brown, Child Wise Managing Director challenges common misconceptions around child sexual abuse and our society's approach to solving this problem.
"Imagine a health system that only had an emergency department. Imagine the needless suffering. Imagine the nurses and doctors who would be completely overwhelmed providing support to people with preventable diseases. So it is with some of our greatest societal problems - including child sexual abuse."
"We are investing more and more in the police response and the support services for victims of abuse. But how much are we actually doing to address what causes people to perpetrate abuse in the first place?"
Natalie reflects on her unique experience of having worked with victims as well as offenders during her previous role as the Queensland Public Guardian that challenged her own views:
"Some people are shocked to know there are individuals out there who actually want help to prevent or stop themselves from offending. Many of these people are young themselves. My experience has really challenged my previous stereotypes of an offender, both online and in our community."
One of Natalie's gravest concerns is that members of the community picture a child sexual abuser as someone who preys on children from outside the family or online.
"...the majority of child sexual abuse that is reported occurs in the home. And this is where lockdown has both incubated and exacerbated the issue. Many perpetrators of child abuse online are also abusing children in the home."
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If you are a child or young person and you feel unsafe or would like to speak to someone about your mental health or any other issues, please call the Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800.
If you have experienced childhood trauma, please call the Blue Knot Helpline at 1300 657 380 to speak with an experienced trauma counsellor.