In March, Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) staff visited the Bravehearts office at Springwood, on the south side of Brisbane.
The well-known charity, founded by Hetty Johnston, aims to protect children from sexual assault. Bravehearts provides individual and group counselling for children who have been sexually assaulted, with the aim of reducing the psychological effects of sexual abuse.
My colleagues and I were privileged to watch 7 children aged 8-12 participate in the final session of their 6-week personal-safety group program. As we watched the therapists work, I thought about their job, which is both special and unenviable. It must be daunting to have a role in the psychological recovery of children who have been sexually assaulted. However, the therapists did a remarkable job of helping the children feel comfortable to participate in the session. The children discussed what they had learnt during the program, including how to recognise feelings of safety and feelings of danger and what to do with secrets (“Spill the beans!”).
Unfortunately, child sexual abuse is not rare – 1 in 5 children will experience sexual exploitation by the age of 18. Most members of the community have sympathy for these children, but we all know that victims of child sexual assault need more than sympathy. Indeed, one of the girls at the session I observed said “I don’t like it when people say stuff like ‘Oh, I’m so sorry.’ I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I just want them to help me.” Thankfully, Bravehearts provides this much-needed help.
The newly opened centre at Spring Hill will also provide counselling to children and young people who exhibit sexualised or offending behaviours, with the aim of preventing offending of re-offending. The organisation also provides school-based education, family counselling, crisis support, and assistance with reporting sexual assault. Most of Bravehearts’ money comes from donations and most services are provided at little or no cost to families.
If you would like to find out more about Bravehearts, or help them continue their work by making a donation, please visit www.bravehearts.org.au.