PARTICIPANTS of Australia’s mightiest marathon – Bravehearts’ 777 Marathon – are putting their best foot forward today, 27 June, to raise much-needed funds to support vital counselling and support services suffering from child sexual abuse.
Now in its eighth year, the 777 campaign is one of the Bravehearts’ major annual fundraisers, which will see national participants take on a gruelling endurance challenge by running seven consecutive marathons, held across seven states, over seven days, as well as virtually.
Bravehearts provides industry-leading child protection training and education programs, specialist child sexual abuse counselling and support services, as well as research and lobbying.
Bravehearts’ CEO, Alison Geale, said the statistics are devastating, with approximately 1 in 5 children experiencing child sexual abuse, and hopes to see record numbers of Australians join one of the country’s largest runs for children.
“Bravehearts is dedicated to creating a world where people, communities and systems all work together to protect children from sexual abuse,” Ms Geale said.
“We hope that as many Australians as possible join us in our mission by participating in the Bravehearts 777 Marathon.
“Over the last eight years, we’ve had more than 1,800 people run to protect children either nationally or in their own state for both our physical and virtual Bravehearts 777 events, raising more than $1.9 million for Bravehearts’ programs and services, and this year we’re hoping to raise more than $250,000,” she added.
Fenix, a child sexual abuse survivor, is one such participant who will be lacing up his runners in an effort to shine a light and raise funds for the prevention of child sexual abuse.
Fenix was only five-years-old when he became a victim of child sexual abuse.
He remembers the years of grooming his abuser imposed on him. The abuse resulted in him becoming a drug addict.
“The abuse continued into my young adult years,” Fenix said.
“When I finally broke free of his hold, I was a broken person with a massive drug addiction and terrible mental health.”
Over the last five years, Fenix has managed to raise $50,000 for Bravehearts.
“Bravehearts has given me the courage to speak up and fight,” Fenix said.
“They’ve given me the courage to hold my perpetrator accountable by going to the police.
“They have also provided me with a much-need distraction and support over the last five years of my court case, which has finally resulted in a guilty plea (from my perpetrator),” Fenix added.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, approximately 2.5 million Australian adults (13 per cent) have experienced abuse during their childhood.
This includes 1.6 million adults (8.5 per cent) who experienced childhood physical abuse and 1.4 million adults (7.7 per cent) who experienced childhood sexual abuse.
Ms Geale said it was vital to continue to safeguard the future of Australian children.
“With 98 per cent of all reported cases made by children found to be true  and with the offender being known to the family in up to 90 per cent of child sexual abuse cases , Bravehearts’ vital education programs such as Ditto’s Keep Safe Adventure Show and Project You!, are vital in continuing to safeguard the future of Australian children,” she added.
Starting in Perth on Monday, 27 June, Bravehearts 777 Marathon will work its way through Adelaide,
Melbourne, Launceston, Sydney, and Canberra, before culminating at the Gold Coast on Sunday, July 3.
Bravehearts is also calling on individual state runners to register for their local event, with distances of 7km, 14km, 21km, and 42km on offer along with prizes for the highest fundraiser in each state.
Fenix’s advice for people living with child sexual abuse is to try and be kind to themselves as much as possible.
“Surround yourself with good positive people,” Fenix said.
“Good support is so important for recovery and future management.
“One in five kids are still sexually abused. This is not good enough,” Fenix added.
“Australia needs to wake up and be held more accountable. Parents need to be more vigilant. This is everyone’s fight.
“Don’t wait for it to happen to your kid because I can tell you it made my life hell, and no kid should ever have to go through it.”
To register or for more information please visit: www.bravehearts.org.au/777 or call 1800 272 831.