Updated: May 9, 2022
This article was written by Kayelene Kerr from eSafeKids.
Language is powerful and the language we use is important! Language can empower people but it can also disempower by causing fear, shame, guilt and confusion.
Language is the key to safety. Our words not only allow us to communicate safety messages but they also shape how we think about safety. As a consequence, when language is incorrectly used it can inadvertently affect everything else we are trying to achieve.
We can re-frame our language so that it’s empowering, non-victimising and non- violent/threatening. This means being mindful of ‘what’ is said but also ‘how’ it is said.
It’s important when using language we consider the impact of our language on a person’s experience of safety. Our verbal language and body language can give implicit and explicit messages that are counter productive to the core concepts we’re teaching.
The Language of Safety has been described as, "The glue that holds the Protective Behaviours process together."
There are four elements to The Language of Safety that are important in communication that respects an individuals right to feel safe and the responsibility to respect others right to feel safe.
Quality of language
Ensure language is not racist, sexist, abusive, violent or discriminatory
Ensuring language does not include victim or command modes or putdowns
Promote language that is empowering
Avoid labelling people
Shared meaning in language
Clarification of each other’s understanding of language, avoiding the use of specific terms that may exclude others. eg) PB, not everyone will know PB refers to Protective Behaviours.
Clarity of language
Ensure language is clear and inclusive
Ensure the content and process of communication is clear and consistent
Avoid the tendency to expect people to ‘read minds’ and know what we want or need
Ensure consistency between verbal and non-verbal communication
Ownership of language
Owning your language, thoughts, feelings and behaviour
Encourage the use of “I feel ... when you ...” instead of “You make me feel ...”
Language is a powerful and it’s important we consider our language carefully. It’s essential that we consider how our language could impact a person’s experience of safety.
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Source: The Basic Essentials: Protective Behaviours, Anti-victimisation and Empowerment Process by Peg Flandreau West, Children’s Protection Society Inc. 2003
About The Author
Kayelene Kerr is recognised as one of Western Australia’s most experienced specialist providers of Protective Behaviours, Body Safety, Cyber Safety, Digital Wellness and Pornography education workshops. Kayelene is passionate about the prevention of child abuse and sexual exploitation, drawing on over 24 years’ experience of study and law enforcement, investigating sexual crimes, including technology facilitated crimes. Kayelene delivers engaging and sought after prevention education workshops to educate, equip and empower children and young people, and to help support parents, carers, educators and other professionals. Kayelene believes protecting children from harm is a shared responsibility and everyone can play a role in the care, safety and protection of children. Kayelene aims to inspire the trusted adults in children’s lives to tackle sometimes challenging topics.
eSafeKids strives to reduce and prevent harm through proactive prevention education, supporting and inspiring parents, carers, educators and other professionals to talk with children, young people and vulnerable adults about protective behaviours, body safety, cyber safety, digital wellness and pornography. eSafeKids is based in Perth, Western Australia.
eSafeKids provides books and resources to teach children about social and emotional intelligence, resilience, empathy, gender equality, consent, body safety, protective behaviours, cyber safety, digital wellness, media literacy, puberty and pornography.
eSafeKids books can support educators teaching protective behaviours and child abuse prevention education that aligns with the Western Australian Curriculum, Australian Curriculum, Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and National Quality Framework: National Quality Standards (NQS).