Family Planning Queensland (FPQ) has, with the support of Commonwealth Bank, implemented an innovative project on the Gold Coast to assist with protecting disabled children from sexual abuse.
The Commonwealth Bank’s community grants project awarded $10,000 to FPQ for the launch of the ‘Keep Me Safe’ project.
The program intends to develop the protective behaviour skills of staff at 10 early learning centres that care for disabled children between 0-6 years.
Regional coordinator for QFP Natasha Milner said the project teaches staff at early learning centres about how to engage in age appropriate conversations with disabled children relating to sexuality and protective behaviours.
“The key message of the project is about working with children to identify their feelings about sexuality, touch and body ownership as well as letting [the children] know that they have a right to be safe,” she said.
The program intends to address the high rate of disabled children being victimised and sexually exploited.
It has been suggested that children with a disability are 10% more likely to be victims of sexual abuse compared to the general population.
FPQ hopes that effective personal relationships and catered sexuality education from a young age will decrease disabled children’s risk of victimisation.
“We hope that with trusted adults passing on the message and initiating conversations about personal safety that it does prevent the abuse of vulnerable children,” Ms Milner said.
“It will help these children to understand their body and body ownership so that they will know what to do if they do not feel safe.”
The program teaches staff at early learning centres how to interpret and communicate the information with age appropriate books and materials for children with disabilities.
“We want to leave the centres knowing that the staff is comfortable with the material and knows how to use the resources to break down taboos and keep children safe,” Ms Milner said.