NSPCC Northern Ireland joins forces with local agencies to keep children safe from sexual abuse

20th November 2019

A YEAR-LONG long campaign to help professionals, parents and carers from the Southern Health and Social Care Trust area have simple conversations to help keep children safe from abuse has been launched today (Wednesday, 20 November) in Co Armagh.

The Public Health Agency NI is supporting the delivery of NSPCC’s highly successful ‘Underwear Rule’ campaign, in partnership with the trust’s Promoting Wellbeing Division.The campaign will provide a range of resources and support to help people from all walks of life talk to children about staying safe from sexual abuse and who to talk to if they’re upset or worried.

Since 2012, the NSPCC’s ‘Underwear Rule’ campaign – also known as the PANTS campaign – has been supporting and encouraging parents to talk to children aged between four and 11 about staying safe from sexual abuse. The PANTS tools and resources give adults clear and simple ways to open these conversations in a clear and child-friendly way.

The key messages for children are:

P – Privates are privates.

A – Always remember your body belongs to you.

N – No means no.

T – Talk about secrets that upset you.

S – Speak up, someone can help.

At the launch event at Seagoe Parish Centre in Portadown, Co Armagh, a panel of speakers discussed the impact of sexual abuse, the importance of early intervention and how to teach children about PANTS. Pantosaurus, our friendly yellow dinosaur, was a;sp in attendance to promote how we can start conversations with younger children.

Over the course of the year, there will be a series of workshops held across the Southern Trust area for professionals, parents and carers so that they can find out more about the PANTS campaign. Additionally, resources will also be made available to help them have talks with children about how they can keep themselves safe from abuse.

Margaret Gallagher, NSPCC Northern Ireland’s Local Campaigns Manager, said: “This is an incredibly exciting project. With the support of the Public Health Agency and the Promoting Wellbeing Division, we can reach more families and professionals, offering them our support and knowledge. Traditionally, adults have always taught children about healthy eating and road safety but conversations about staying safe from abuse are just as vital. The PANTS resources offer a reassuring framework for approaching what needn’t be a difficult subject.”

She added: “In 2018/19, there were 817 recorded child sex offences involving children aged 4-11 which is 40% of all child sex crimes against children in Northern Ireland during that period. *

“So, it is absolutely imperative that we talk to children at a young age to help keep them safe.”

Lyndsey Hasson, Sexual Health Advisor at the SHSCT, said: “Part of the development of any young child is learning rules and messages that will help keep them safe and healthy. Just as we teach children about staying safe in a variety of home and public settings, the PANTS rule will help children learn about their own personal safety and who to go to if they need help. We all have a part to play in keeping children and young people safe.”

Barbara Porter, Sexual Health Improvement Lead at the Public Health Agency said: “The PHA fully support the PANTS campaign which promotes simple conversations to keep children and young people safe from abuse. We will continue to work in partnership with the relevant agencies to ensure the roll out of the campaign across the SHSCT area.”

For more information about the Underwear Rule, PANTS, visit https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/underwear-rule/  or to watch the Pantosaurus video visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyalcd955lg

Anyone with any concerns about the welfare of a child can call the NSPCC’s free and confidential helpline on 0808 800 5000 for advice. Children can call Childline on 0800 1111.