What to do when you encounter sexual violence?
Empowering children helps protect them
Empowering children is not about making them responsible for their own protection. The state and adults are responsible for protecting children from sexual violence. Children have an active and pertinent role to play in self-protection, but it is far from enough to ensure their safety.
Empowering children is about …
Sexual violence is protected by secrecy and social taboo. Informed families and sexuality education programmes in schools should aim to demystify the subject, putting children and adults at ease with it.
Children's first need is to learn what sexual violence is and how to recognise it according to their level of understanding before learning what to do if it happens to them. Sheltering children only makes them more vulnerable.
Striking the right balance
Empowering focuses on knowledge, skills and responsibility, not on creating a climate of fear and suspicion. The message about adult sexuality and adult's affection and kindness towards children should be a positive one.
Children must acquire resilience skills and other tools to stand up to sexual violence. The well-informed, confident and proactive child who has a clear notion of what abuse is and how to defend him or herself is a perpetrator's worst enemy.
Children need to understand that no child is at fault for sexual violence and disclosure is never betrayal, no matter what anyone has told them. They should also understand any attempt at abuse should be reported immediately to a trusted adult or to emergency services, such as a helpline.
Children should understand that all forms of sexual violence are against the law and a violation of their human rights. These rights are non-negotiable and apply to all boys and girls equally, and no one has the right to exception.