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Creating chalk art for hope – breaking the silence on child abuse

Creating chalk art for hope – breaking the silence on child abuse

Creating chalk art for hope – breaking the silence on child abuse

Friday, September 7 marks National White Balloon Day in Australia, dedicated to breaking the silence surrounding child sexual assault in the country.

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.

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.

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; the majority of these crimes are perpetrated inside the family unit or by someone known to the family.

Hetty Johnston AM, Founder of Bravehearts says, “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.” 

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,” says Johnston.

“Child sex offenders are master manipulators, able to perpetuate 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 says.

“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,” adds 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.”

Bob Atkinson AO APM, Former Commissioner for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse says, “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 says.  

Everyone can help our children stay safe by participating in White Balloon Day and creating a chalk art activity or by making a donation.

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