Too often children are groomed in an attempt by the perpetrator of the abuse to stop them speaking out and award-winning children’s author Christina Gabbitas believes that we are still not bold enough in talking about this topic with children in an appropriate manner in order to protect them. Christina’s passion for improving things in this area led to a year of research, which showed that there were no books for four to seven year olds that addressed this issue in a manner appropriate to their understanding. Using public support from Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform for creative projects, and her own money Christina wrote and published Share Some Secrets. Illustrator Ric Lumb provided the carefully crafted pictures which ensure the story is not at all graphic in tackling this sensitive subject. Christina worded the story to make it not only appropriate for the age range, but to allow those reading the book to the child to use everyday language that they themselves would also feel comfortable with. It is written in rhyme too, making it more engaging. The book received immediate recognition making it to the final of the 2016 People’s Book Prize in the children’s category.
To ensure that the book reached as wide an audience as possible and those that needed it most, Christina forged partnerships with both the NSPCC and Barnardo’s. The NSPCC endorsed the book and placed it in their library, sending out one hundred copies through their Schools Service. In a corporate partnership with Barnardo’s a special edition was produced for their 150thanniversary and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book went to the charity. Further endorsements followed from teachers, parents, children and safeguarding consultants, such as Ann Marie Christian. Christina also had the privilege of being invited to meet Dame Esther Rantzen when she visited The NSPCC’s Leeds base as part of Childline’s 30th anniversary celebrations.
Christina’s passion for getting the message across to as many children as possible hasn’t stopped since the initial publication and partnerships. The book has been translated into Spanish and is awaiting publication, but this isn’t the only ongoing development. In October last year Christina met students studying animation at Sheffield Hallam University, who have worked with Share Some Secrets, and a year after the initial meeting the animation of Share Some Secrets will be launched at the university on 19 October. This important resource will be freely available online after its launch.
However Christina is not content to rest in her mission to promote safeguarding up the agenda. Through her company Eliziam Events she will be hosting a conference on 1 February next year at the Royal Armouries, Leeds entitled Creative Resources Safeguarding Primary Children. It is set to highlight the importance and effectiveness of utilising resources that are currently available in the field of safeguarding. When conducting her research before writing Share Some Secrets, it became apparent to Christina that there are more resources available to help ‘pick up the pieces’, but not enough preventative measures available and in place. The conference aims to help highlight, educate and inform public sector organisations, charities and private organisations, where resources can be found. Whilst Christina will talk about her book, she has also assembled an excellent group of speakers from a broad range of professional backgrounds including charities, legal, social work, the arts and health, and more speakers and panellists are being added to the event. Each will seek to highlight the range of resources and their effectiveness in trying to prevent abuse of the youngest in our society. David Niven, Chair of Bradford and Tameside Safeguarding Children’s Boards is advising Christina for this event. Bookings are now open via the Eliziam Events website http://eliziamevents.com/ with early bird tickets available until 10 October. There are no other events currently focussing on resources and it is hoped that a successful event will allow Eliziam to bring it to other areas of the country perhaps later in 2018.
With arrests and trials still happening in high-profile child exploitation scandals such as Rotherham, it is important that we do not rest in the mission to ensure that children, as well as parents, carers, teachers and other professionals, have the tools they need to prevent child abuse happening or stop it early. We have a long way to go to achieve this, but each step is vital to improving outcomes for all children and preserving childhood as the special time it should be.