On This Day … 07 January

People (Births)

  • 1946 – Michele Elliott, author, psychologist and founder of child protection charity Kidscape.

Michele Elliot

Michele Irmiter Elliott OBE is an author, psychologist, teacher and the founder and director of child protection charity Kidscape. She has chaired World Health Organisation and Home Office working groups and is a Winston Churchill fellow.

Early Life

Elliott was born on 07 January 1946 to James Irmiter and Ivy (née Dashwood). She graduated from Dixie Hollins High School in 1964. She attended the University of South Florida and the University of Florida, gaining a BA in Science and Education and a Master’s degree in Psychology She began working with families and children in 1968 in London.

Work

Elliott worked as a child psychologist at The American School in London, where her husband was a social studies teacher.

Kidscape

Elliott founded Kidscape (see below) in 1984 to help children stay safe from sexual abuse and from bullying.

Elliott has been a high-profile figure and Kidscape was named Charity of the Year in 2000. Writing in The Guardian, David Brindle suggested the award was “an undoubted reflection of the vibrancy of Michele Elliott”.

Female Child Sexual Abuse Offenders

Elliott, who had previously written books about male abuse of children, has undertaken pioneering work in investigating and raising awareness of the problem and extent of child sexual abuse committed by women, and the topic of female paedophilia, publishing the book Female Sexual Abuse of Children The Last Taboo in 1992. The book was well received by professionals and survivors’ organisations. Mike Lew described it as “an important and challenging work”, helping “to forge a new understanding of the issues”. Doody’s annual stated it was “an extremely valuable book for all professionals, and it greatly increases the current state of knowledge, or lack of that knowledge, that can have a profound influence on the survivor’s development and recovery”.

Elliott’s work in exposing the issue of child sexual abuse committed by women has also resulted in hostility from feminists. While compiling Female Sexual Abuse of Children, Elliott organised a conference in London concerning sexual abuse by women. After publishing the book, Elliott was subject to a “deluge” of hate mail from feminists.

Awards

In 2008 Elliot was honoured with an OBE by the Queen for services to children. The following year she was named Children and Young People’s Champion. She was awarded an honorary doctorate by Post University in 1998 and another honorary doctorate by the University of Birmingham in 2003. She was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship in 1996. Her book, “Bullies, Cyberbullies and Frenemies” received the Literary Classics Gold Award in 2013.

What is Kidscape?

Kidscape is a London-based charity established in 1985, by child psychologist Michele Elliott. Its focus is on children’s safety, with an emphasis on the prevention of harm by equipping children with techniques and mindsets that help them stay safe.

After a 1984-1986 survey of 4000 children, their parents and teachers, it was apparent that the main threat to children came from people known to them – bullies, friends, or family members. Kidscape’s Child Protection programmes are now taught UK-wide in thousands of schools and community groups.

Activities

Kidscape’s work falls into four main categories:

  • Providing children, families and professionals with advice and information to keep children safe.
  • Providing a range of training opportunities for professionals working with children and young people to support the provision of safe and nurturing environments.
  • Delivering high impact programmes of support for children, parents, care-givers and professionals to prevent bullying and keep children safe.
  • Working through a variety of communication channels, partners, campaigns and events to raise awareness of bullying and how to stop it.

Work with External Organisations

Kidscape is a member of the Anti-bullying Alliance and the National Suicide Prevention Alliance

Awards

  • In 1998 Smith Kline Beecham awarded Kidscape an Impact Award recognising Kidscape’s work in improving community health.
  • In September 2000, Kidscape was named UK Charity of the Year in the first Charity Times awards.
  • In 2007 Kidscape was Highly Commended in the 2007 Charity Awards Children and Youth category and Michele Elliott was Highly Commended in the Charity Principal of the Year category.
  • In the New Year Honours 2008, Michele Elliott was awarded an Order of the British Empire by HM the Queen in recognition of her services to children.

Patrons

Kidscape’s patrons are children’s author and journalist Anthony Horowitz and Dame Mary Perkins, co-founder of SpecSavers.

Controversy

The effectiveness of Kidscape’s methods for handling bullying behaviour were criticised in 1997 for not being benchmarked against other methods for preventing bullying. In some cases other education experts felt that Kidscape’s methods might encourage further bullying. However, a 2018 independent evaluation of Kidscape’s approach found that 98% of children felt more able to deal with bullying and three-quarters experienced a significant and sustained drop in bullying.

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