Practical, real world solutions are crucial in preventing child sexual abuse. Funded by the Scottish Government and developed by Stop It Now! Scotland, Upstream is the newest online resource for anyone worried about child sexual abuse.
Upstream has been part of Stop It Now! Scotland since 2011 when we were funded by the Survivor Scotland Development Fund to develop and deliver a toolkit to help build the capacity of individuals and communities to prevent child sexual abuse in Scotland. The toolkit was aligned to the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme in Scotland (Keeping Children Safe). Back in 2011 the format for delivery was a CD-ROM containing the information and tools, and Willie Manson, Project Manager for Upstream, supported practitioners with presentations across Scotland.
As time moved on it became apparent that a CD-ROM was no longer fit for purpose. Additionally, we reached a stage where we needed to comprehensively refine and strengthen the Toolkit, properly test and evaluate its fitness as a practical resource to prevent abuse before it might occur and align us to effectively deliver (in a systematic and evidenced way) primary prevention of child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation in Scotland.
It was at this point, supported by further funding from the Scottish Government, that we started to develop www.theupstreamproject.org.uk that we launched in December 2019. The launch was held in Edinburgh and we were delighted to welcome Maree Todd MSP who is the Minister for Children and Young People here in Scotland. We also heard from Professor Kieran McCartan from the University of West of England and Sue Hampson from Safe to Say, a survivor organisation based here in Scotland.
At Stop It Now! Scotland we are absolutely clear that it is the responsibility of adults to protect children and prevent child sexual abuse.
The new resource is broken down into 5 sections. These are Learn, Identify, Prevent, Act and Engaging Communities. There is also a Get Help section for anyone in a situation that needs immediate action. The resource gives practical advice based on a wide range of scenarios and frequently asked questions that often come up during our work. “What if I don’t like the way my uncle is playing with my daughter?” or “What are the warning signs that a child is being abused” or “How do I make my church group safer for children?”. We have tried to make the language as accessible as possible without losing some of the detail and nuances of the complex world that we live in. Whilst the content of the existing toolkit was an important ‘starting point’ in our work we also wanted to include more information and resources to help in the ever evolving task of keeping children safe. A big part of this is strengthening the capacity of adults to safeguard children, as well as building the resilience of communities to keep children safe. We were interested in bystander theory and why people who see things occurring in front of them do not have the confidence to intervene. Upstream aims to give anyone who is worried about child sexual abuse some basic skills to ask the right questions, and have the right conversations at the right time. There are also some resources for professionals about how to talk to others about prevention; myth busting; who perpetrates sexual abuse and how; and also what contribution you can make to tackling the problem.
We have also included a section on self-care. We all know that the prevention of child sexual abuse is everybody’s business, but tackling a subject like child sexual abuse can be challenging and can evoke strong feelings in each of us. There are sections on boundaries, looking after yourself in the workplace, dealing with stress and remembering the reason why we choose to work in the field that we do.
Our ‘Engaging Communities’ section is for anyone working with children whether in a voluntary or professional capacity. There is information to support sports clubs, faith and belief communities, children in residential settings, anyone working with children with disabilities or LGBTQ+ children and young people. All of this has been developed with other organisations who have specialist experience working in these areas.
As always anyone, including professionals, can phone us at Stop It Now! Scotland directly for advice either via 0131 556 3535 for those based in Scotland or on our UK Helpline on 0808 1000 900. We are willing to talk, anonymously and confidentially, through any concerns you have about child sexual abuse, cases that you may be involved in, the behaviour of a loved one or even if you are worried about your own sexual thoughts, feelings and behaviours towards children.
We are hoping that professionals find Upstream and our wider services useful, not only to build their own knowledge but also to share with colleagues, friends, family members or the people they work with – basically anyone who is worried about child sexual abuse! Upstream will only be successful if people know about it, use it, share it and ultimately act on any concerns that they have.
Rachel Tullo, Head of External Relations, Stop It Now! Scotland.
Stuart Allardyce, Director, Stop It Now! Scotland