Speech: Kate Handevidt

Speech by Kate Handevidt, Breakthrough Options
For Sexual Integrity Forum
Parliament House
6th-8th August 2005-08-06

Sexual Integrity is important to us all here today or we wouldn't be here.  While I stand in agreement with you I also stand in the gap for the many survivors of sexual abuse who see this as something outside their experience or even if they wanted to live with this experience of joy, security and commitment it would be the impossible dream for them.

Should a survivor decide to save themselves for marriage; the sexual experiences within marriage may trigger memories and pain because of the early sexual experiences through a person they loved and trusted.

The most obvious thing is that we need to strengthen our families, we need to commit to do the right thing by our children and offer them protection and love and a safe environment to grow up in to develop into healthy adults with the ability to love and be loved.

What we have right now in our families and communities are broken people because someone without sexual integrity changed the course of their lives and destined them to crawl through life instead of embracing all that life has to offer them.
We have a serious problem in our society, we have a serious problem in our community and we have a serious problem in our homes. We can't afford to bury our heads in the sand anymore and ignore the statistics. Someone has to stand up and say "Nuh! No More!"

These statistics tell us that 1- 4 girls and 1- 6 boys have reported to authorities that they have been sexually abused.
Figures I've gained from the Bureau of Statistics report that there are nearly 5 million children under the age 17 living in Australia right now.

1 - 4 girls represents 25% of the child population and 1- 6 boys represent 17%. According to acceptable statistics, over 1 million children have reported to authorities that they have been sexually abused.

However, it is important to note that these are reported cases only and when we realize that most victims don't tell anyone; in fact 88% of victims don't tell according to Dr Kilpatrick and associates from the American Psychological Association.

So if we have 88% of kids who are not telling anyone and we have the sexual predators who are "grooming" our children under our parental noses; and we have our heads buried in the sand thinking this couldn't possibly happen in our family, then I would say we have a serious problem that is growing into a huge giant.

If these statistics indicated a disease hitting our society there would be people working around the clock looking for an antidote. We would be doing all we could possibly do to protect ourselves from the disease striking us.

I believe that if things are going to change, we need to change our thinking regarding sexual predators.

The sad reality is that strangers only represent 10% of sexual abusers. 90% of sexual abuse is committed by those close to the child. Most sexual abuse happens in the child's home.
They are not strangers! These are our fathers, grandfathers, uncles, neighbours, siblings and peers. They are sisters and aunts and yes even mothers. It can be anyone in a position of trust.
While the statistics indicate girls as being abused more than boys I believe more boys are sexually abuse…but they don't talk.
Freda Briggs, Professor in Child Development, University of South Australia says:
The education of boys brings challenges that are not yet being tackled. Their protection has to be taken seriously because male victims are the ones most likely to become the next generation of offenders. Research by Abel in the US and Bentovim in the UK (cited in Briggs & Hawkins 1997) showed that between 1 in 4-5 male victims becomes an offender and commits around 580 crimes against children before being apprehended at  an average age of 37 years. Female offenders are becoming increasingly apparent but we know much less about them."
Huge amounts of abuse survivors end up in the ranks of criminals, alcoholics, drug addicts, street kids and suicide victims. In fact the majority of sex workers fall into their occupations as an extension of their childhood experiences. In fact 98% have been sexually abused as children.

Think about this for a moment 1 million kids bring to the attention of authorities that they have been sexually abused…now these kids grow up and get married and another 1million people are living with the long-term effects of their partner's abuse. Now say these couples have 3 children who are now living in a household with the effects of child sexual abuse. That's five million affected by being sexually abused.
We know that most people don't disclose that they have been sexually abused.
What say that there are another 5 million people who haven't told anyone about their abuse?

How can we expect children to grow up and have sexual integrity when they have been sexually violated by a trusted adult?

How can we expect them to have a healthy sexual relationship with someone they love and trust when they have no idea what it means to be valued and loved?

My question to you is how can we have sexual integrity in the community when adults are destroying young lives unchallenged?

We go after the predators, we educate the public, we counsel the abused and nothing changes; children still get sexually abused at alarming rates.

When I first started doing my research seven years ago I studied sexual predators and pedophiles. I wanted a profile so I could pass on a clear picture of what a parent needs to look out for. There is no profile because they hide in the shadows behind closed doors. They are in positions of trust that we feel we do not have the right to question.
So they get away with it unchallenged.

Then I studies for years the long-term effects of survivors and I set up seminars to help them move on with their lives. Not many people came because they were so busy trying to cope with life and why would they want to be confronted with something that they would rather forget about.

I found that many perpetrators came to the seminars and realized that they were looking for answers to why they do what they do.

I created a website five years ago, many hundreds of people from around the world
visit my website per day looking for answers.

The most consistent question I get asked is  "How can I stop this happening to my child?"

Then I started looking at what was available to help stop children being sexually abused.
I found organisations that were available after abuse was reported or discovered

There were lots of pamphlets on abuse………but they dependent on someone picking it up and reading it.
There was sex education in schools but most kids won't see themselves as victims because of the love and trust relationship and the brains ability to shut down the trauma of abuse.
It seems that while we are making some progress in this area as far as public awareness we are not doing enough to stop it happening in the home and still kids continue to be abused and live in silent shame.

We need to empower the parent's to empower the children to protect themselves and out of this belief I created a set of coloring books called Bert the Butterfly as a tool for parents to teach their children self-protective behaviours and skills to recognize when they are being "groomed" by a sexual predator. It teaches them the difference between good touch and bad touch, good gifts and bad gifts, good secrets and bad secrets. It is a beginning but it is not the whole answer. Bert the Butterfly targets children 3-5 with book one and 5-11 with book two but it is also a two edged sword because it has a parents manual to instruct the parent and suggestions about what to do should it trigger something in them as well as the child.

I believe that the answer will come when we as a community stand together as one voice for the children saying "Nuh, No More!"

Out of the blue an ordinary man Alfie Dennen was touched by the powerlessness of the London bombings and set up a website to declare that "he was not afraid" by putting up a simple picture and declaring I am not afraid!
His message touched a cord in the hearts of people everywhere and people all over the world responded and within a week received of 7,000 images from around the world declaring the same message.

If something this simple worked and touched a cord in millions of people all around the world why could it not work in the area of child sexual abuse?

In President Bush's speech to the Federal intelligence agencies this month, he said:.
"To defend our homeland, we need the best possible intelligence. We face a new kind of enemy. This enemy hides in caves and plots in shadows, and then emerges to strike and kill in cold blood in our cities and communities. Staying a step ahead of this enemy and disrupting their plans is an unprecedented challenge for our intelligence community. We're reforming our intelligence agencies to meet the new threats."

We also need to regroup and form new fresh ideas to combat this threat against our children, family and community. We need to come up with unique and challenging plans to stay one step ahead of the perpetrators if we are going to win this war for our children and their futures.

A well known British philosopher Sir Edmund Burke says: "All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in this world is for enough good people to do nothing."

MY challenge to you today is that if we want sexual integrity in our homes and our society changes because of it, then good people I put it to you that we need to change things for our children and give them the best chance possible to grow up with sexual purity.