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The NSPCC and Hertfordshire-based website Netmums have launched a campaign calling on parents to talk to their children about sexual abuse.
As part of it, they're urging parents to teach children about what they're calling the 'Underwear Rule' - that parts of your body covered by underwear are private.
This rule is designed to help support parents and carers to explain how to make it easier to have conversations with primary school age children about sexual abuse.
It comes as a new online YouGov poll shows half the parents of 5-17-year-olds who took part in the survey have never spoken to their sons or daughters about the issue. And of those who have more than two in five (43%) said it was a difficult conversation.
Awareness of sexual abuse has risen dramatically since the vast catalogue of assaults committed by Jimmy Savile were revealed last year, with the NSPCC’s helpline experiencing a huge rise in calls. But while parents want to help their children stay safe from sexual abuse many don’t always have the confidence to explain how.
The NSPCC have developed an easy-to-remember guide – Talk PANTS – that helps children understand the key points of the Underwear Rule.
Privates are private.
Always remember your body belongs to you
No means no
Talk about secrets that upset you
Speak up, someone can help
Colin Peak, NSPCC regional head of service for north London and the east of England, said: “The shocking case of Savile has horrified many parents and understandably it has heighted concerns around sexual abuse. But most abuse is closer to home and if we are to tackle this issue we must prevent it before it even starts.
"To do this we must educate our children about staying safe and speaking out. Parents have told us they lack confidence in approaching this difficult but important issue. We’ve worked with parent groups to devise a simple, age appropriate way of making sure children speak up if something happens. It’s a quick conversation but could make a big difference.
“It’s really easier than you may think and you don’t have to mention abuse or sex at all. Just ask them to remember the ‘underwear rule’.
“Of course telling kids about crossing the road, stranger danger and bullying are really important but this should be discussed as well. Most parents still think that stranger danger is a threat facing children from the adult world but most abuse is committed by someone known to the child with stranger abuse being very rare. This means traditional messages like ‘don’t take sweets from strangers’ are important but don’t work for much of the abuse that is occurring.”
Siobhan Freegard of Netmums, which is supporting the campaign, and based in Watford, said: "It's every parent's worst nightmare to find their child has been touched inappropriately - and no family wants to think it will ever happen to them.
“But as the statistics show it does happen to one in 20 kids, and nine times out of ten by someone known to the child. So by talking about it, you are taking the first steps to keeping your children safe.
"No one can deny it's a tough conversation to have. As a mum I can talk openly to my children about stranger-danger. I can talk easily about bullying and how to always tell an adult. But talking about them being touched intimately feels much more difficult.
“As parents we need to find a way to make our kids aware of the danger without scaring them, and that's exactly why the NSPCC is promoting the Underwear Rule. It's clear, simple and easy for even young kids to understand. Think of it as a green cross code against sexual abuse. That is why I am encouraging parents to learn the underwear rule and talk PANTS with their children.”
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