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Preventing child abuse can be as simple as listening: Dr Liz Reimer


Anne-Louise Brown
9 September 2015

Dr Liz Reimer’s advice to help prevent child abuse is simple – listen to kids.

The Southern Cross University social work lecturer and expert in child neglect will give a presentation at Coffs Harbour on Thursday 10 September as part of National Child Protection Week.

The event will be hosted by VoiceUp, a local advocacy group for adult survivors of child abuse.

Dr Reimer, who was recently commissioned to research aspects of the federal government’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, said child abuse in all its forms was preventable and that adults need to act as advocates for kids.

“The things that’s really struck me through my research into institutional abuse is that it’s preventable,” she said.

“Kids of all ages, teens too, are vulnerable - more vulnerable than adults think they are - and it’s up to trusted adults to listen to what kids are saying and watch for changes in their behaviour that could indicate abuse.

“Engage with kids. Abuse happens when we’re disengaged with kids and they become vulnerable.”

Dr Reimer said it was also vital to understand ‘institutions’ are not simply orphanages, schools or churches, but organisations that play a part in everyday life.

“We tend to take a narrow view of what constitutes an institution – that an institution is an orphanage or refers to out-of-home care.

“But an institution is much more than that – it’s any kind of public institution. It could be a swimming club, scouts or day care.

“Often offenders will plant themselves in such institutions and become trusted members. This is important, because they’re not just grooming kids, they’re grooming adults too.

“If you’re a trusted adult to a child, work hard to maintain your relationship. And if you have a gut feeling something’s not right or notice a change in a child’s behaviour listen to your gut.”

The presentation will run from 6-8pm on Thursday 10 September at the Coffs Harbour Community Village.

Call 02 6648 3694 to register.
Photo: Dr Liz Reimer