AD | In common with many families, our daughter has attended – and enjoyed – her local Beavers group. She’s now loving being in the Cubs, and will join the Scouts when she’s older. However, we’ve become aware of a rising level of child abuse within certain scouting organisations. Something that their now adult victims have revealed. Scout leaders, and other adults in positions of authority, have sadly used their power to take advantage of young children. For any child who has been abused at Scouts, this is the complete opposite of the aim of that organisation. Their ethos is to encourage the adventurous, fun side of childhood and help them to learn useful skills for life. So it’s vital to understand the nature of child abuse, how to recognise it to stop the perpetrators from getting away with it, and how to help the victims.
What should you do if you suspect a child has been abused at Scouts?
You may suspect that your child is being abused, or even realise that you were abused as a child yourself. Historical abuse, unfortunately, appears to be all too common these days. As adults, there are many organisations open to us that are available to help. But a child will most likely not be aware of them, or be too scared to go for help by themselves.
What is child abuse?
There are many types of abuse towards children. Abuse can be sexual, physical, emotional, or neglectful. Child abuse occurs when a person who is in a position of trust, such as a Scout leader or assistant, uses their authority over the child to harm them. Child abuse can also occur when another child within the Scouts is abusive towards the child in any of these ways. Here are some examples of child abuse:
- Causing deliberate physical harm (including as a result of excessive punishment)
- Manipulating, belittling, or threatening the child
- Illness or injury due to inadequate supervision
- Sexual assault or exposure to sexual activities
What are the signs of child abuse?
Unless your child, or someone else, tells you about abuse, you might not be aware that it’s happening if you don’t witness it yourself. However, you can look out for these behavioural cues from the child if you have concerns:
- Becoming anxious and withdrawn
- Sudden behavioural changes or extreme behaviours
- Acting inappropriately for their age (adult or infantile)
- Frequent unexplained injuries or patterns of injury
- Fearful of a particular person or tries to avoid them
- Does not like to be touched
- Has trouble walking or sitting
- Displays inappropriate sexual knowledge
How to report child abuse
The trauma and consequences of making an allegation makes it difficult to know what to do. Whenever you suspect child abuse, do not confront the abuser yourself. Speak calmly with the child and make sure they know that you believe them. Try and get as much of the story from them as possible. You should make a record of the names, dates, and events and take the child to a GP or doctor as soon as you can. They can assess any physical and mental injury that the child has or is experiencing and produce a medical report. This will then be supporting evidence for any case against the abuser.
Remember, child abuse is a serious crime, so you should also report it to the police. And make sure you get a crime reference number, because the victim could be eligible to get child abuse compensation. These compensations are usually made before the victim’s 20th birthday, but exceptions are sometimes made for historical cases. It’s true that money doesn’t make up for what happened, but it can help the child to move on and cope.
While it can seem unthinkable that those with responsibility for children would take advantage of the trust parents and children place in them, the sad reality is that it can and does happen. We’re so very lucky that our local Beavers, Cubs, and Scouts groups are run by such incredibly kind and lovely leaders, and the kids love them. But if that’s not the case for you, hopefully these guidelines will help you and your child if they are ever in a position of being abused at Scouts.
* This is a sponsored post.