Thursday, August 16th, 2018 - Insight Communications for Bravehearts

MEDIA ALERT: Thursday 16 August 2018


White Balloon Day is on Friday 7 September - During National Child Protection Week 2 – 8 September 2018


Every 90 minutes a child is sexually assaulted in Australia - that’s 1 in 5 children who are sexually assaulted in some way before their 18th Birthday – a statistic that is totally unacceptable in Australian society.

Bravehearts’ annual White Balloon Day (endorsed and funded by the Department of Social Services National Initiatives), is Australia’s longest running and only annual national campaign to increase community awareness of child sexual assault to prevent a crime currently affecting more than 58,000 children across Australia, every year.

The importance of supporting Bravehearts’ national White Balloon Daycampaign in preventing child sexual assault and the flow-on destructive impact it has on communities throughout Australia, cannot be overstated.

While the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abusehas smashed the wall of silence surrounding cases of child sexual assaults in institutional environments; sadly the majority of these crimes are perpetrated inside the family unit or by someone known to the family.

Hetty Johnston AM, Founder and Executive Chair of Bravehearts said “Increasing awareness of child sexual assault through White Balloon Day (now in its 22nd year) during National Child Protection week, is critical.

“Child protection is everybody’s business - because it takes a village to raise a child, an entire community of adults and stakeholders, and we must work together to better protect our children and allow them to grow up safe from harm.

“With rates of child sexual assault and exploitation in Australia remaining at crisis levels, now more than ever before Bravehearts needs the support of communities and governments to help increase awareness to protect our children from a crime that breaks the little hearts and spirits of Australia’s most precious treasures – our children,” she said.

Of women who were victims, more than 90% knew the perpetrator with 55% being relatives. For male victims, more than 80% knew the perpetrator with 23% being relatives.

Compared to other recorded crimes against children under 19, the statistics of child sexual assault are shocking.

 “Sadly, if we were to bring all these children together in one place, they would fill the MCG not once, but a staggering eight times – that is the tragic magnitude of this largely hidden crime against Australian children with the long-term damage caused estimated to cost the Australian economy between $13.7 to $38.7 billion,” said Ms Johnston.

“While early disclosure can improve long-term outcomes for victims through counselling and support and lead to preventing further harm and potentially the prosecution of perpetrators; the majority of these crimes continue to go unreported and perpetrators continue to sexually assault children who suffer in silence, too afraid to disclose because they fear consequences or feel they don’t have the opportunity to tell someone who can help them,” Ms Johnston said. 

“If a child discloses and is unsupported or disbelieved, this can cause children grave harm but reports have shown that 1 in 3 adults would not believe children if they disclosed sexual assault, while more than 1 in 4 have said they lack the confidence to recognise the signs of child sexual assault,” she said.

“Child sex offenders are master manipulators, able to perpetrate this crime through the fear driven silence, secrecy and shame. While children feel shame, self-blame, embarrassment, guilt, responsibility and concern for their own safety or the safety of others, their suffering continues and the pain they suffer can last a lifetime.

“For those of us who do care; for those of us who do listen; the sound of their suffering is deafening,” Ms Johnston said.

“Every Australian child has the right to feel safe and as a community, we have the responsibility to work together to protect our kids and raise them in an environment where they can feel safe.”

“Recommendation 6.12 from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has called on all levels of government nationally to help protect children in their communities.

“By working with Bravehearts and supporting national White Balloon Day we can help break the silence surrounding this crime to create child safe communities Australia-wide,” said Ms Johnston.

Bob Atkinson AO APM, Former Commissioner for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse said, “As a long term supporter of Bravehearts, the community’s support for White Balloon Day is vital!

“An individuals’ safety underpins children’s entire quality of life and is a right, not an option.

“While there is still much to do in that regard, Bravehearts is at the forefront of child protection and with widespread community support we will enable them to continue their important and valuable work,” the Former Commissioner said.  

During National Child Protection Week everyone can help our children stay safe by participating in White Balloon Day and registering at

Bravehearts is Australia’s leader in child protection offering specialised training services for government organisations, educators in schools and childcare centres, education and support services for children and their families, while parents and carers can download free child safe information resources from our website 

Call our toll free Support Line on 1800 272 831 Monday to Friday between 8:30am to 4:30pm (AEST) or visit our website  #WBD2018 #ProtectKids #bravehearts#ChildProtectionWeek #WhiteBalloonDay #BeBalloonSafe #1in5



Interviews with Hetty Johnston AM and adult victims of child sexual assault are available on request.


Contact Insight Communications on: 02 9518 4744

Clare Collins - M: 0414 821 957 - E: [email protected]

Alice Collins - M: 0414 686 091 E: [email protected]

For more information please visit: or





White Balloon Day is on Friday 7 September during National Child Protection Week 2-8 September 2018


Bravehearts & White Balloon Day – Educate, Empower, Protect our kids!

Bravehearts is Australia’s leading voice for child protection and has been dedicated to protecting Australian children for 22 years.  White Balloon Day, which is endorsed and funded by the Department of Social Services National Initiatives, is the longest running annual national campaign to increase community awareness of the crime of child sexual assault and its prevention.  White Balloon Day is also Bravehearts’ principle annual fundraising event.

All Australians are invited to support the campaign by registering at

PLEASE NOTE: Bravehearts is aware that balloons, when released outside and not disposed of accordingly, are damaging to the environment. This is why Bravehearts DOES NOT endorse the release or use of balloons out of doors in any way as part of our annual White Balloon Day campaign.


Australian Child Sexual Assault Statistics

  • Every 90 minutes an Australian child is sexually assaulted.
  • 58,000 Australian children are sexually assaulted in Australia each year.
  • One in five Australian children will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday. 
  • The majority of child sexual assault crimes are perpetrated by persons known to the child.
  • A sample of Australian women showed that 45% reported experiencing at least one unwanted sexual incident before 16 years of age by family members (31%), friends (54%) or strangers (14%).
  • Fewer than 28% of victims of child sexual assault disclose to authorities. Of this, only 17% of offences reported to police, result in convictions.


The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

Bravehearts’ specialised services address the recommendations in Outcome 6 of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.  White Balloon Day supports The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020 and is endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments.


The outcomes of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse have given adult survivors hope and in some cases, redress. With data from NSW Police showing 4% of all recent reported allegations were associated with an institution, this indicates that assaults in institutional environments are declining. 

With one Australian child sexually assaulted every 90 minutes, increasing awareness and education of this crime can increase reports of child sexual assault by persons known to the child and empower them with strategies and confidence to find their voice to say NO to child sexual assault and disclose to someone they know they can trust.


Recommendation 6.12

Among the recommendations, the Royal Commission called for support from governments at the national, state and territory levels, local governments, should designate child safety officer positions from existing staff profiles to carry out the following functions:

  • Developing child safe messages in local government venues, grounds and facilities;
  • Assisting local institutions to access online child safe resources;
  • Providing child safety information and support to local institutions on a needs basis; and,
  • Supporting local institutions to work collaboratively with key services to ensure child safe approaches are culturally safe, disability aware and appropriate for children from diverse backgrounds.

The Effects of Child Sexual Assault on Individuals and the Community

The Effects on Child Victims

More than 80% of children who experienced child sexual assault are reported to have some post-traumatic stress symptoms. Disclosure and reporting of the crime of child sexual assault can lead to preventing further harm and potentially; the prosecution of perpetrators while improving long-term outcomes for victims through counselling and support. However, the traumatic impact on victims can cause emotional distress and a range of cognitive distortions in childhood, including feelings of hopelessness, impaired trust and self-blame leading to the following issues:

  • Behaviour problems, poor self-esteem, and sexualised behaviours;
  • Development of insecure attachment patterns;
  • Failure to develop brain capacities necessary for modulating emotions;
  • Inability to discriminate among and label affective states;
  • Detachment from awareness of emotions and self;
  • Under-controlled and over-controlled behaviour patterns;
  • Lower grades and poorer academic achievement;
  • A defective, helpless, deficient sense of self; and,
  • Greater internalising and externalising behaviour problems.


The Effects on Adult Survivors

The impact of the crime of child sexual assault can last a lifetime with adults suffering from a number of behavioural and metal health conditions including:

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, anxiety, reduced self-esteem, drug and alcohol dependence, heavy and hazardous drinking, illicit drug and substance abuse, drug overdose, anti-social and harmful behaviour; and increased violence and hostility among male victims.
  • There is an increased likelihood of being arrested in adolescence by as much as 59%.
  • They are 49 times more likely to die from accidental overdose than other Australians.
  • Suicide is significantly higher (18 times higher) among adult victims of child sexual assault compared to other Australians. Women victims are 40 times more likely to take their own life.

The Fiscal Effects on the Australian Economic & Community

According to studies (2007), the future financial cost to Australia over the lifetime of abused, neglected and sexually assaulted children is estimated to be approx. between $13.7 ($105k per child) and $38.7 billion ($297k per child).


Adult Responses to the Subject of Child Sexual Assault

In 2009, the Australian Childhood Foundation published outcomes from their third survey on the national community attitude about child sexual assault and child protection. Key findings included:

  • 1 in 3 Australians would not believe children if they disclosed they were being assaulted.
  • Greater than 1 in 4 Australians do not feel confident enough to recognise the signs of child abuse, neglect and child sexual assault.
  • 1 in 5 lacked the confidence to know what to do if they suspected that a child was being harmed.
  • Unless they come face to face with the issue, collectively Australians rate petrol prices, public transport and roads as issues of greater concern than child abuse and sexual assault.
  • 90% of adults surveyed believed that the community needs to be better informed about the problem of child abuse and sexual assault in Australia.
  • 86% of Australian believed that Commonwealth and State Governments should invest more money in protecting children from abuse, neglect and sexual assault.


Indicators of Child Sexual Assault for Parents & Teachers

As children often lack the words to describe sexual assault, they find it exceptionally difficult to disclose.  The more severe the degree of harm, the less likely it is that the child/young person will disclose. The fear of a negative reaction and possible punishment can also prevent children from speaking out.   

Children may try to subtly open the conversation by asking “Do you like so and so?… I don’t” or “I’ve got a secret”. However, there are a number of physical and behavioural symptoms that indicate a child or young person may have been harmed.  While physical and behavioural symptoms should be viewed as a sign that something may be worrying the child, it should NOT be automatically assumed that harm is occurring.  By talking to the child, this may reveal something quite innocent so be sure to speak with the child before making accusations.


What Parents & Adults Should Look For

Parents, teachers, carers, child protection workers, counsellors etc, all need to know the symptoms of child sexual assault so if  there are significant changes in behaviour, increased fears, or physical symptoms, they can talk to the child to discuss what they might be feeling.

Common Indicators in Children

Common Indicators in Offenders


·        Fear of being hurt during nappy change or dressing.

·        Loss of concentration.

·        Development of eating disorders.

·        Fear of being alone with a particular person.

·        Sexual themes in artwork, stories, play etc..

·        Showing a knowledge of sexual behaviour beyond their years.

·        Bedwetting or soiling after being toilet trained.

·        “Acting out” behaviours; for example, aggression, destructive behaviours, truanting behaviour.

·        “Acting in” behaviours; for example, withdrawal from friends, depression.

·        Vaginal, penile or anal soreness, discharge or bleeding.

·        Problems with friends and schoolwork.

·        Vague symptoms of illness such as headache or tummy ache.

·        Self-harming.

·        Inappropriate displays of affection or sexualised play.

·        Over attention to adults of a particular sex.

·        Paying particular interest to a child.

·        Isolating a child from other children.

·        Engaging in inappropriate/unwanted close physical contact with a child.

·        More interested in children than adults.

·        Suspicious behaviour in relation to children (watching/following/photos/gifts).

·        Often has a special ‘child friend’.

·        Encourages secrets in children.

·        Links sexuality and aggression in language or behaviour.

·        Makes reference to or makes fun of children’s bodies.

·        Describes children with sexual words.

·        Seems unclear about what is appropriate with children and what is not.

·        Has an interest in sexual fantasies involving children.

·        Looks at or downloads child pornography.

·        Asks adult partners to act or dress like a child or teenager during sexual activity.





File Library

Contact Profile

Clare or Alice Collins

P: +61 2 9518 4744
M: 0414 821 957 or 0414 686 091


Child Protection Week, Bravehearts, White Balloon Day, Hetty Johnston,




More Formats

View QR Code