In Australia, one in four girls and one in six boys will be abused before the age of 18.
It’s a confronting statistic but one that could also be conservative.
According to Parkerville Children and Youth Care Clinical Psychologist Amanda Paton, these numbers could actually be a higher than expected.
“The biggest problem we have in WA is that we don’t have good data from our state that tells us how prevalent it is, so rates could be much higher,” she said.
Parkerville Children and Youth Care supports vulnerable children, young people, adults and their families across WA, working to protect and care for those who have experienced trauma from abuse.
Ms Paton said current data from the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing showed that children from lower socioeconomic areas, regional areas and those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent were over-represented. However, the issue doesn’t just stop there.
“Child abuse happens across all contexts, demographics and cultural backgrounds – it does not discriminate,” she said.
Whatever the circumstances, Ms Paton said early intervention was vital in ensuring children received the protection and care they needed immediately, and continuously.
“Abuse brings with it a whole range of impacts that will carry through a child’s life into adulthood,” she said.
“Emotionally and psychologically, they can experience poor self-worth, difficulties managing anger, anxiety and worry, and in some cases they can have symptoms of clinical depression.”
Abuse can also affect their capacity to learn and pay attention in class and may even lead to substance misuse, self-harm, antisocial behaviour and eventually trouble with the law – according to Ms Paton.
“One of the biggest issues we see though is how children then relate to others,” she said.
“Some statistics show that over 93 per cent of abuse is perpetrated by someone known to the child, typically someone within the family or close network, so these children often find it very hard to trust and believe the world is a good place, and that adults can be trusted after they have experienced abuse.”
Ms Paton said through the Multi-agency Investigation and Support Team and the Child Advocacy Centre model – which comprises a police investigation unit, child protection workers, specialist child interviewers, psychological therapeutic services and child and family advocates – children who have experienced child sexual abuse were getting the help they needed sooner.
Since opening its George Jones Child Advocacy Centre in 2011, Parkerville has provided services to 15,700 children, young people and their families. The not-for-profit organisation will be opening its second centre, the Stan & Jean Perron Child Advocacy Centre, in Midland.
You can also find this article on Perth Now