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An Australian Catholic University study has found that children aged 10 to 18 are most likely to turn to their mother, followed by a trusted friend, and then their father when they feel at risk of sexual abuse. Source: The Australian. 

But a deeper dive into the survey of more than 3400 children by the university’s Institute of Child Protection Studies reveals stark differences between how girls and boys say they would react to “concerning behaviour” from either an adult or a peer.

While the boys in the survey indicated they would turn first to their mother, then to their father, and then to a friend, in situations where they felt unsafe, for girls, dads dropped to a distant third.

In situations where an adult was making them feel unsafe, 69 per cent of 10 to 18-year-old girls said they would talk to their mother, and the same percentage said they would turn to a friend. Just 41 per cent said they would tell their dad.

For boys facing the same situation, 69 per cent would go to mum, 63 per cent to dad and 60 per cent to a friend.

A similar pattern emerges if a peer was putting a child in an unsafe situation, the data, part of ACU’s Children’s Safety Survey, finds.

Others they might turn to are siblings and teachers, though both were further down the list.

ICPS director and study co-author Daryl Higgins said Australian families still hadn’t shaken the paradigm of mothers being seen as responsible for most of the parenting.

“[Mothers] are most often the ones asking their kids how they’re feeling after a bad game or consoling them over not being invited to the big party. My sense is that children are following this pattern when it comes to needing to talk about unsafe sexual behaviour,” Mr Higgins said.

He said fathers could take something from the report’s findings.

“For dads, now is the time to step up. These conversations don’t need to be the big ‘birds and bees’ talk, but lots of micro-conversations that show you can be trusted with your child’s emotions.”


Kids feeling at risk of sexual abuse turn mainly to mum (By Stephen Lunn, The Australian)