Bravehearts’ White Balloon Day has been shining a light on the crime of child sexual abuse for 25 years. The annual campaign has brought a subject that was once taboo out of the darkness, giving survivors, and all Australians, the language to speak up and speak out against a crime that affects 1 in 5 children.
Where it all began
The White Balloon was originally adopted by Bravehearts back in 1997 as symbolic of the victims of child sexual assault, following a landmark public demonstration in Belgium the previous year in 1996.
During that demonstration, approximately 300,000 people gathered with white balloons in solidarity for child victims of a convicted and released paedophile, who sexually assaulted and murdered four of his victims. Marchers held aloft photos of the four murdered girls along with white balloons, the colour of which was meant to symbolise the innocence of the young victims.
Bravehearts took the symbol of the white balloon and used it the following year in 1997 for the first time in Australia as a representation of all victims of child sexual abuse. White Balloon Day as it was thereafter known, was a way of raising awareness about a crime that had largely been taboo. Little to no support services existed specifically for victims of child sexual abuse and it was a subject that very few were willing to talk about privately, let alone publically.
After more than a quarter of a century, the white balloon is now a symbol of hope for survivors of child sexual abuse and Bravehearts’ White Balloon Day campaign encourages those yet to speak up to break their silence. By encouraging dialogue around the issue of child sexual abuse, Bravehearts’ White Balloon Day also acts as a prevention to this crime, as perpetrators thrive in silence.
How it’s going
Bravehearts’ White Balloon Day not only raises awareness about child sexual abuse and how the community can take an active role in protecting children, the day also encourages survivors of child sexual abuse to speak out. For example, Back in 1999, when Bravehearts’ White Balloon Day had been running annually for only a few years, Senior Police at the time labelled the campaign a ‘phenomenon’ when it was revealed that it resulted in a staggering 514% increase in disclosures of child sexual abuse to Queensland Police Headquarters.
Additionally, since its inception, the funds raised as part of Bravehearts’ White Balloon Day have helped to educate more than one million children across Australia about personal safety, with Bravehearts’ Ditto’s Keep Safe Adventure Show, as well as help provide counselling services for children and families affected by child sexual abuse.
Whilst Bravehearts no longer endorses the use of balloons as part of the campaign, due to environmental concerns, the legacy of Bravehearts’ White Balloon Day continues to grow stronger with each year.
This year Bravehearts is asking all Australians to wear something white and donate to help protect children. Bravehearts has already seen a record number of people register for White Balloon Day 2021 and donate to the cause, so don’t forget to join us by registering today.