NSPCC campaign urges parents in Northern Ireland to use the ‘Underwear Rule’

The NSPCC is today launching an ‘Underwear Rule’ campaign to help parents across Northern Ireland protect their children from sexual abuse.

The ‘Underwear Rule’ is aimed at helping support parents and carers to explain how to make it easier to have conversations with primary school age children about sexual abuse. The campaign includes a range of parental guidance leaflets and supporting tools and tips. All materials are age appropriate and child friendly and are available to view and download on the NSPCC’s website. This is also supported by an advertising campaign and a YouTube video, available from 8 July.

It comes as a new online YouGov poll* shows over half (55%) the parents of 5-17-year-olds in Northern Ireland who took part in the survey have never spoken to their sons or daughters of this age about the issue.

Under one in ten (9%) adults in Northern Ireland surveyed said primary school children faced the biggest risk of sexual abuse from someone they don’t know, and previous NSPCC research has shown that in at least 90% of cases the offender is known to the child.

Awareness of sexual abuse has risen dramatically since the vast catalogue of assaults committed by Jimmy Savile were revealed last year, with the NSPCC’s helpline experiencing a huge rise in calls. But while parents want to help their children stay safe from sexual abuse many don’t always have the confidence to explain how. 

The importance of this is underlined by one of the YouGov findings which shows 83% of those taking part in Northern Ireland said they thought parents of 5-11-year-olds were responsible for talking to them about the risk.

The six week advertising campaign, which will be aired on nearly 60 local radio stations throughout the UK is being supported by Netmums and will help these parents teach the Underwear Rule’ to their children during simple conversations. The campaign complements the organisation’s ChildLine Schools Service which is visiting every primary school in the UK advising children on how to stay safe from all forms of abuse.

There will be supportive guidance for parents explaining the Underwear Rule. The NSPCC has developed an easy-to-remember guide – Talk PANTS – that helps children understand the key points of the Rule. (www.nspcc.org.uk/underwearrule)


Privates are private.

Always remember your body belongs to you

No means no

Talk about secrets that upset you

Speak up, someone can help


 Neil Anderson, regional head for NSPCC Northern Ireland, said:

“The shocking case of Savile has horrified many parents and understandably it has heightened concerns around sexual abuse. But most abuse is closer to home and if we are to tackle this issue we must prevent it before it even starts. To do this we must educate our children about staying safe and speaking out. Parents have told us they lack confidence in approaching this difficult but important issue. We’ve worked with parent groups to devise a simple, age appropriate way of making sure children speak up if something happens. It’s a quick conversation but could make a big difference.

“It’s really easier than you may think and you don’t have to mention abuse or sex at all. Just ask them to remember the ‘Underwear Rule’.

“Of course telling kids about crossing the road, stranger danger and bullying are really important but this should be discussed as well. Most parents still think that stranger danger is a threat facing children from the adult world but most abuse is committed by someone known to the child with stranger abuse being very rare. This means traditional messages like ‘don’t take sweets from strangers’ are important but don’t work for much of the abuse that is occurring.”

Siobhan Freegard of Netmums, which is supporting the campaign said: "It's every parents' worst nightmare to find their child has been touched inappropriately - and no family wants to think it will ever happen to them.

“But as the statistics show it does happen to one in 20 kids, and nine times out of ten by someone known to the child. So by talking about it, you are taking the first steps to keeping your children safe.

“No one can deny it's a tough conversation to have. As a mum I can talk openly to my children about stranger-danger. I can talk easily about bullying and how to always tell an adult. But talking about them being touched intimately feels much more difficult.

“As parents we need to find a way to make our kids aware of the danger without scaring them, and that's exactly why the NSPCC is promoting the Underwear Rule. It's clear, simple and easy for even young kids to understand.

“Think of it as a green cross code against sexual abuse. That is why I am encouraging parents to learn the underwear rule and talk PANTS with their children.”

Last updated 7 years 1 month ago