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The Courage Club

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Disabled children at the heart
Trigger Warning: Child Sexual Harm.

The Courage Club is the result of Open Doors: Protecting Our Kids From Harm – a collaboration with our friends at HELP Auckland and Rape Prevention Education and funded by ACC to strengthen community led solutions for child sexual abuse prevention. Evidence indicates that children who live with disability are most at risk of sexual harm, which is why this project focussed on the needs of whānau living with disability. The Courage Club seeks to foster a culture of connection and brave conversations between parents and whānau about our children (0-10), disability and sexual safety.

It’s consistently inconsistent
We understood ahead of engaging anyone in this project, that we would be inviting people into conversations and imaginative spaces that could feel difficult. Therefore, we wrapped our own co-design process in a name (Open Doors: Protecting Our Kids From Harm), using language that felt welcoming and approached all aspects of the project with trauma-informed principles of safety. 

Engaging with an already underserved community, we had to be iterative in our approach, recognising that we did not wish to further burden a community who are often time poor and experience consultation fatigue.

We heard there are a lot of barriers and challenges to taking action to protect our kids from harm. Many parents & whānau find it really difficult to talk about sex, sexuality, sexual harm, and sexual safety, especially with their kids who have disabilities. Trying to find modern and culturally appropriate support for disabled children specific to this topic is largely inconsistent, overwhelming and inaccessible, isolating, problematic, contrary to existing norms and just too big of a topic to tackle. 

However, parents recognise the importance of having these conversations to keep their kids safe. We heard that there is an appetite – talking about sexual safety is wanted, and that it needs to be relational – with peers who understand the realities of living with disability.

Brave Conversations 
We heard and saw that parents, caregivers and systems connected with disability are under immense stress & pressure and are chronically under-resourced. Therefore, we had to listen carefully for barriers, and unlock opportunities that were realistic for the audience to embrace and action.

Parents of disabled, neurodivergent and medically fragile children told us that they needed a community to have generative kōrero, to feel seen and understood and for resources to be realistic and easy to find.  

We identified that there was a need to foster a culture of connection and brave conversations. We determined that if we can create a generative space that enables parents, whānau and caregivers of disabled children to be seen, nourished and empowered, so that parents & whānau are safely able to position their own feelings, thoughts and experiences, we can then equip parents & whānau with the basic tools to initiate brave conversations about sexual safety from a whole of life perspective – ultimately, enabling greater protective factors for our children and young people.

Welcome to the Courage Club
The result was the development of a podcast series called The Courage Club, ‘Brave chats about our kids, disability and sexual safety’.  A safe place to talk about the hard stuff – with those who understand. A space for parents and whānau to feel seen, understood and empowered to take action that is relevant to their life, their circumstance and the realities of their young person. Intentionally in the form of a podcast, The Courage Club is a dynamic resource that is easy to find – anytime, anywhere by anyone – it’s a solution that is malleable, adaptive and can respond to varying community needs and retain relevancy over time.

The podcast was structured as four episodes of honest and empathetic conversations between parents of disabled children – as the experts- facilitated by our host Emily Writes, also a parent of children living with disability. A fifth episode was created as a conversation between Emily and two advisors, reflecting on the issues raised by parents offering support and accessible takeaways.

We want to ensure that the episodes are easy to find, and that there is appropriate support and information wrapped around them, so The Courage Club is supported by its own microsite inclusive of further information and support.

Talking about ‘it’ is prevention in itself
We paid further consideration to the possible accessibility needs of parents, ensuring a minimum set of accessibility standards such as transcription and video recordings. The podcast is hosted on its own microsite, and was promoted and linked from the websites of our partners HELP Auckland and Rape Prevention Education, as well as organisations we have established trusted relationships with, over the course of the project. 

We heard through co-creation, from the parents of disabled children who were involved, that this is the resource they wish they’d had.  The impact of our project has meant that those organisations we’ve partnered with are reviewing the content material of their existing programs and resources, so that they might reflect the identified needs that have come from the insights of Open Doors. 

The Courage Club launched to the public on the 16th October 2023, described as the “Podcast Nobody Wants to Listen To” on The Spinoff, The Conversation Every Parent Needs to Hear on Capsule NZ, and also featured in the NZ Herald and on Radio NZ. We’re seeing consistent engagement with all five episodes, the majority of people who are listening are fully engaged with the content, listening from start to finish.