We know that due to their trauma and abuse histories, children in out-of-home care are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and are more at risk of being targeted by perpetrators. Contemporary evidence suggests a disproportionate 33 per cent of all child sexual abuse reports to statutory child protection relate to children and young people living in residential care.
The risk of harmful sexual behaviour and child exploitation are significant issues for young people in care, and MacKillop is committed to addressing these issues through its Respectful Sexual Safety project, delivered in partnership with the University of Melbourne.
This project aims to increase young people’s understanding about healthy relationships, sexual safety and strengthen their capacity to keep themselves safe.
The Respecting Sexual Safety project has been designed in consultation with an expert advisory group of key researchers, policy makers and practitioners working in the field of child sexual abuse and has been informed by Dr McKibbin’s PhD research, which involved asking young people who had engaged in sexually harmful behaviour about what could have been different in their lives so that they did not develop these behaviours.
Research conducted through this project has identified three prevention strategies which will form the core of the program, these are: whole-of-house respectful relationships and sexuality education; missing from home strategy; and sexual safety response.
The project has reviewed prevention strategies used across the world and developed a training package for residential care workers to engage with the young people in MacKillop homes to raise their awareness of respectful relationships, grooming behaviour and sexual exploitation. Training and implementation is currently underway. The project is being evaluated and the results will be shared across the sector.