An empowered child grows up to be a balanced, healthy adult.
And the only efficient way to equip children with resilience and stop cycles of abuse and trafficking, is through personal safety education, says Hayley Walker, Advocate and Activist at Protective Behaviours South Africa.
"Protective Behaviours SA has been teaching personal safety education in Southern Africa for the last eight years," she tells Parent24, adding "the program gives people the tools they need to feel safe and have important conversations in a non-threatening way."
What is protective behaviour training?
Protective Behaviours is a practical down to earth approach to personal safety.
Walker explains to Parent24 that it is a process that encourages self-empowerment and resilience, and brings with it the skills to raise self-esteem and to help avoid being victimised.
Who needs it?
Every single person can benefit from Protective Behaviours Training, Walker says.
Protective Behaviours South Africa runs training for children, teens and adults to enable them to know and apply the core concepts of Protective Behaviours.
What can a child do to ensure their safety?
There is no one thing that children can do to ensure their safety, Walker says.
"Strictly speaking it should be the responsibility of the adults around them to create an environment that is safe while still allowing for age appropriate risk taking. Being taught the Protective Behaviours Program and applying the principles will go a long way to helping children stay safe," she explains.
Protective Behaviours works with two key concepts and a few strategies to assist young people. The two key concepts are: "We all have the right to feel safe at all times" and "We can talk with someone about anything no matter what it is."
These create an expectation for all people on their right to feel safe and by encouraging children and families to talk about anything including things that may unsafe or uncomfortable, this limits opportunities for perpetrators to introduce secrets.
What can a parent do to ensure their child is safe?
Walker advises parents to have open conversations with their children around body safety, as well as be the advocate for their children’s safety.
"This means listening to the child, allowing children to have body autonomy and to speak out if they notice someone is not respecting their child’s boundaries," she says.
Walker also says parents must listen to and believe their children, and take action where necessary.
She says it is important too limit opportunity, as most abuse is opportunistic.
What risks should parents be aware of in SA right now?
Walker warns that families face the following risks in South Africa right now:
- Online Sexual Exploitation (This is a rapidly growing problem for young people)
- Sexual Abuse
- Human Trafficking
How do you know if your child is at immediate risk?
"The unfortunate reality in South Africa is that children are all at immediate risk all the time," Walker warns.
"As a parent you would need to look out for a change in behaviours in your child," she advises, explaining that a good rule of thumb is sudden change in behaviour.
Also, any adult suddenly taking more interest in your child than you are huge warning signs, she says.
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