The Be Sure, Before Campaign: The Problem – Why Must We Take Action?
The NSPCC estimate 1 in 4 children are severely mistreated in some way during childhood, and the vast majority of these children are mistreated by an immediate family member (around 25% for sexual abuse, around 45% for physical abuse) or someone known to the child, such as a parental partner, babysitter, friend or extended family member (around 47% for sexual abuse, around 45% for physical abuse).
‘Stranger danger’ is a myth, yet many resources have been used to encourage parents to protect their children by warning them never to talk to strangers. This is great advice, but it is not a complete picture. It makes children and families even more vulnerable, because they are lulled into a false sense of security, thinking they are safe protecting their children from strange, intimidating men lurking in dark places, when the real threat may have his or her feet under the kitchen table, free to terrorise children in their own homes:
“There is sometimes the perception that child sex offenders are strangers, sinister figures lurking in the shadows. But the reality is that most victims know their abusers. They are more likely to be a relative, neighbour or family friend rather than someone they have never met before.” – Baseer Mir, NSPCC Middlesborough service centre manager
Research shows that children are much more likely to be abused by someone they know, for all abuse types, and furthermore are more likely to be abused/murdered by non-biological parents (sometimes referred to as ‘the Cinderella Effect’).
General Related Statistics:
- In England and Wales, a stranger was responsible for only 7% of sexual attacks against children in 2011. 70% of cases involved a relative, friend or someone else close to the child. The remainder were committed by acquaintances (1)
- In Northern Ireland, 44% of sexual offenders were known to but not related to the victim, 20% involved a family member and only 28% were strangers. (2)
- An American study in 2010 found children living with their biological parents had the lowest rate of abuse and neglect, whereas those living with a single parent who had a partner living in the household had the highest rate. (3)
Statistics Related To Child Murder
- In the UK 1-4 children die every week due to abuse and neglect.
- Children who live with adults not related to them are nearly 50 times more likely to die of inflicted injuries than children living with two biological parents. (4)
- Of 56 children murdered in 2011, only 11% were killed by a stranger, compared to 64% murdered by a main caregiver (biological/step/adoptive parent) and 13% by another known person, such as a family friend/acquaintance (3).
- The Home Office statistics make no differentiation between biological, step or adoptive parents, so it is impossible to verify at present, but research suggests it is likely that at least half if not the majority of the 64% of children murdered by ‘parents’, were murdered by a non-biological parent.
Nancy McBride, of The National Centre For Missing and Exploited Children, said:
“’Stranger danger’ – the phrase is so pervasive in our culture that it has become part of the lexicon. Well-intentioned adults perpetuate this misguided message, and the media often uses it as a slogan.
The National Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) has never supported the “stranger-danger” message, especially because experience has shown us that most children are actually taken by someone they know or are familiar with.
When questioned, children will often describe a “stranger” as someone who is “ugly or mean.” They don’t perceive nice-looking or friendly people as “strangers.” And if someone talks to a child or is even around a child more than once, that person loses his or her “stranger” status. The child then thinks he or she “knows” the person. Children also want to be helpful, thrive on adult approval, and respond to adult authority. So, if someone with ill intent asks them to perform a task or tells them something has happened to a loved one, chances are good the child can be tricked.
The “stranger-danger” message becomes even more confusing for children since they can’t tell by looking at someone whether or not the person is “good” or “bad.” Wouldn’t it be great if we could point out the “bad” people to our children and be done with it? Whether it’s in a grocery store or at a baseball game, adults break the rule of “don’t talk to strangers” all the time. But adults have the benefit of experience, judgment, and decision-making skills; children do not. And sometimes adults are wrong. So, if we can’t identify “bad” people, we certainly can’t expect our children to.”
Widely publicised cases where children have been killed by a partner or trusted friend in the UK include examples like that of Victoria Climbie (murdered by her great aunt/guardian, and her aunts boyfriend), Baby Peter Connelly (murdered by his mothers partner), Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman (murdered by their school caretaker who was helped by his girlfriend, Holly’s class-helper at school), and very recently, Tia Sharp (allegedly murdered by her grandmothers partner, a man who had been baby-sitting Tia), but there are MANY more children whose faces are not on the front page of every newspaper, but who die in the similar circumstances.
Children like 2 month old Alexis Matheson, who was shaken and squeezed to death by her mothers partner in 2007. Children like Brandon Muir who was badly beaten by his mother’s boyfriend for several weeks until a final brutal attack stole his life in 2008. Children like ‘Girl A‘ (identity protected), aged 16 months, who died from a abdominal injury deliberately inflicted by her mothers boyfriend in February 2010 (4).
There are children all over the country suffering, many at the hands of a non-biological caregiver. We must make it much more difficult for abusers to prey on children in this way.
LOVE TAKES ACTION – Get Involved!
WE NEED 648 VOLUNTEERS!! Can you help? We only need a moment of your time.
MPs are much more likely to take seriously and reply to messages from their own constituents. We need 1 member from every UK constituency to forward a message about the Be Sure, Before campaign to their MP.
IF YOU CAN HELP, PLEASE EMAIL US AT ACTIONAGAINSTABUSE@HOTMAIL.COM, AND WE WILL FORWARD YOU A CAMPAIGN PACK TO SEND TO YOUR MP, INCLUDING MP’S CONTACT DETAILS BY EMAIL OR POSTAL ADDRESS.
We will then email you a CAMPAIGN PACK, and details of how to email it to your MP with a few clicks, or the postal address of your MP if you’d prefer.
The more people who spare a moment to tell their MP about the campaign, the stronger the message we are sending to the government: action must be taken NOW to end preventable child abuse committed by a trusted family friend/parental partner.
We stand TOGETHER against child abuse :))
THANK YOU! ♥
(1) NSPCC – http://www.nspcc.org.uk/Inform/policyandpublicaffairs/northernireland/sexual_physical_abuse_statistics_wdf86001.pdf
(2) Sedlak AJ, Mettenburg J, Basena M, et al. Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-4): Report to Congress. 2010. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.
(3) The American Child Abuse Death Review Committee vis Health Families Florida- http://www.healthyfamiliesfla.org/
(4) UK HomeOffice – http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/science-research-statistics/research-statistics/crime-research/hosb0212/
(5) NSPCC http://www.nspcc.org.uk/Inform/resourcesforprofessionals/serious_case_reviews_homepage_wda82779.html