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Helping children to stay safe, strong, and free

14 October 2015

The Child Assault Prevention project (CAP UK), which operates in the south west of the UK, is one of 720 community organisations to have received a grant from the Big Lottery Fund over the past month.

Kate Shillaker, project manager at CAP UK, explains the importance of the charity’s work to help empower children to protect themselves.

“Child abuse is a sensitive and complex subject that is unfortunately shrouded in a culture of silence. Recent high-profile cases and allegations of child sexual abuse have proved to highlight that children are often afraid to come forward to reveal if they have been victims of abuse, and are often scared they won’t be believed.

At CAP, our mission is to challenge the secrecy that tends to surround child abuse by empowering children to recognise and report dangerous situations while also working with teachers and community leaders so that abuse claims are taken seriously and never dismissed.”

The project currently runs in Plymouth and South Devon and will now be able to expand to meet growing demand from schools and to establish a new team in Exeter. £467,290 from Big Lottery Fund, will allow us to run three teams across the south west. Over the next five years we plan to have reached 40,000 children, their teachers and families.

A powerful message

A group of children practice yelling as a form of defence

Children at CAP practice yelling as a form of defence

Our motto is for children to stay safe, strong, and free. We deliver workshops for children in primary schools and use a variety of fun and interactive activities to engage and educate.

The children respond well to the assortment of entertaining sessions, which include a powerful safety yell and watching puppet shows (where we deliver serious messages in a child-friendly way). One Year 6 child reported that the positive messages given by the workshop staff ‘made [them] feel safe’.

Although we like to think that none of the children will ever have reason to use the skills and tools we have taught them, there have been some occasions when our workshops have been shown to have a real-world effect, showing just how important this programme is.

One boy found the courage to tell his mum that he was being sexually abused in the park by two teenage boys after attending a CAP workshop and seeing a role play of a child telling an adult about abuse. The police subsequently got involved and, fortunately, the child’s abuse came to an end.

As well as aiming to stamp out child abuse, it actively prevents it.

In November 2013, a 9 year-old girl yelled and kicked a man who was trying to abduct her and she managed to escape. Having recently attended a CAP workshop, this child knew she had a right to resist the stranger and had practised an empowering safety yell and self-defence.

CAP made a huge difference to the outcomes for these 2 children and to many others who learn skills through the workshops that will be useful in all aspects of their lives.

Right to say “no”

Our ultimate aim is to empower children to know they have a right to protect themselves, to say “no”, and tell someone if abuse occurs. Through school staff training sessions and parents’ workshops, we also encourage adults in the surrounding community to listen, believe, and know how to respond if confronted with child abuse.

This initiative has given parents peace of mind; one reported that they were ‘very glad that there is a community approach to children trusting their instincts and having ways to resist or respond to fearful situations or bullying’.

The CAP programme is unique and has an important role in moving society away from an era when abusers use secrecy and threats to keep abuse hidden. One head teacher referred to our work as ‘valid, relevant, and skilfully delivered’, claiming the programme should be delivered to ‘every school in the country’.

The positive message that the children have a right to defend themselves is powerful and plays a key role in protecting them from abuse.”

Find out more about the work of CAP UK –

Find out more about the latest round of Big Lottery Fund grants through Awards for All and Reaching Communities here –>

Interested to know what funding is available?

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