New campaign to warn children about sexual abuse

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A TEENAGE victim spoke out passionately at the launch of a new campaign to protect children from sexual abuse in Dorset.

The 17-year-old, abused along with her two younger siblings for many years by her grandfather, is backing the NSPCC’s successful PANTS campaign in a bid to prevent others suffering in the way she has done.

The NSPCC has joined forces with the Dorset Local Children’s Safeguarding Board and the Bournemouth & Poole Local Safeguarding Children’s Board to support and help people teach children how to stay safe from abuse.

The initials of PANTS stand for Privates are private, Always remember your body belongs to you, No means no, Talk about secrets that upset you and Speak up, someone can help.

A year-long campaign was launched at AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium in front of an audience of childcare professionals including teachers and police.

The PANTS campaign encourages families to talk about the issue of abuse in a child-friendly way which does not frighten them. The issue can be introduced with the PANTS story book.

Bournemouth victim Anna - not her real name - said: “The abuse caused me psychological damage and made me physically and mentally ill. Every small thing that people can do to stop this happening can really help.

“Young children can’t speak up and can’t tell people what’s happening if they don’t understand it. I thought it was completely normal - I thought it happened in every family.

“I should have been told that it was not normal. I don’t want it to happen to anyone else.”

AFC Bournemouth chairman Jeff Mostyn opened the event and later told the Daily Echo that the club is determined to support all issues of safeguarding.

He said: “Everything in relation to safeguarding is the bedrock of this football club.

“It is important to ensure that as the biggest influence in the conurbation we set our stall out to everybody. It is so important to us and we support initiatives in all aspects of safeguarding including sexual abuse, drug and alcohol abuse and healthy eating.”

Chris Cloke, Head of Safeguarding in Communities, NSPCC: “PANTS is a vital tool to have important conversations with children at a young age, in a simple age-appropriate way.

“Our research shows that one in three children who have been sexually abused by an adult did not tell someone at the time. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the PANTS tool with local professionals, parents, carers and pre-school children, building the confidence for them to have conversations which can help to protect children from abuse.”

Over the year a series of workshops for parents and carers will be held across Dorset so they can find out more about the campaign. Resources will also be made available and teachers will be able to download free lesson plans.