Survivors urged to speak out

ON THE eve of White Balloon Day, national child protection advocate Bravehearts is asking all Australians affected by child sexual assault to come forward and tell someone about their experiences.

Disclosure Day will take place on September 6 as part of the White Balloon Day national awareness campaign that takes place during the annual National Child Protection Week.

National ‘D Day’ is an integral component of the Sexual Assault Disclosure Scheme (SADS), a joint initiative designed to provide survivors of child sexual assault an avenue from which to anonymously yet officially disclose their experiences, so that further sex crimes against children can be stopped.

Bravehearts founder and executive director Hetty Johnston said unless victims come forward, many other children remain as targets for paedophiles.

“One disclosure today from a survivor could save another child from having to endure a similar fate tomorrow,” she said.

“The only person who can identify the offender is the victim – they have the power. Many are afraid to come forward but Disclosure Day gives survivors the chance to break the silence anonymously so they can get on with their lives and also help others.

“Silence, secrecy and shame are the sex offender’s best friends and the child’s worst enemies. The aim of Disclosure Day is to make what can be a difficult decision easier for people.

Bravehearts are encouraging survivors to tell their story in a safe and non-confronting way so that thousands of other children can be protected from these predators.

“Survivors are everyday people doing everyday things and it’s vital they’re given an opportunity to disclose. D Day provides a reporting avenue that does not require a detailed statement, nor direct police contact, until they’re ready to proceed. They decide.

“They can remain anonymous if they wish. We want them to know that it’s safe to make a stand and to help police bring paedophiles to justice.

“If victims are ready to disclose to police then we encourage them to do so. In 1999, White Balloon Day resulted in an increase of 514 per cent in disclosures of child sexual assault directly to Queensland Police Headquarters.

But for those who are not ready to pursue official charges and wish to remain anonymous but still want to give police the information they need to stop the offender from hurting others Bravehearts has SADS, the Sexual Assault Disclosure Scheme. Here Bravehearts acts a conduit to Police protecting the identity of survivors unless and until they chose otherwise.

D-Day is a day where we encourage all survivors to tell someone - anyone. If not police, if not Bravehearts then tell someone you can trust. Silence, secrecy and shame protects the offender, traumatises their victims and put today’s children at risk. D-Day is a day for survivors to feel proud and strong – a day to take their power back and to break their silence.

“Bravehearts works as a conduit and is there to provide support programs and to encourage survivors to come forward. What we need is help in identifying offenders everywhere – inside and outside of institutions, organisations and family units.”

SADS was created with the assistance of the Queensland Police Service, Queensland Crime Commission, Criminal Justice Commission, Attorney General’s Office, Commission for Children and Young People, the Public Defenders and the Department of Public Prosecutions.

Bravehearts has a researched strategic business plan to make Australia the safest place in the world to raise a child by 2020 and to halve the incidence of child sexual assault, currently being perpetrated against one in five of our children before their 18th birthday.

Equally as alarming is the fact that the assault is likely to be inflicted by someone known and trusted to the family and the child.

Bravehearts will also soon release its 3 Piers strategy – Educate, Empower, Protect – solid foundations to make Australia the safest place in the world to raise a child.

The organisation also provides an education program called Ditto's Keep Safe Adventure to schools nation-wide. It ensures children have the confidence to come forward and are equipped with the skills required to handle themselves when faced with an unsafe situation.

Bravehearts will launch its 16th annual White Balloon Day on September 7, the day before Disclosure Day as part of National Child Protection Week. Individuals and groups wishing to be involved with White Balloon Day can register online at www.whiteballoonday.com.au.

Organisations can register their event online and receive a kit which includes posters, flyers, a donation box, balloons, a White Balloon Day guide and a letter of consent to fundraise. Additional ideas for community participation can be found online.

For more information or to talk to someone please call 1800 BRAVE or go to bravehearts.org.au

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