Strasbourg, 17.11.2016 – Ahead of the European Day on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse marked on the 18th of November, Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland called on European states to step up providing assistance to survivors.
“There can be no trivial cases - any harm caused by the sexual abuse or exploitation of a child is significant and must be addressed,” Jagland said. “States should provide medical and psychological assistance to such children until they fully recover, and ensure that criminal investigations and court proceedings do not aggravate the trauma already suffered by the child.”
The consequences of sexual abuse or exploitation of children may well last into adulthood, and it is important to establish measures that would provide also those adults who were abused to reveal these facts and to receive necessary assistance. This is the key theme of the Global forum for adult survivors of childhood sexual exploitation to be convened at the Council of Europe by the NGO ECPAT International on the 18th of November.
Children in precarious life situations, including those affected by the refugee crisis, are in an especially vulnerable position. The Council of Europe’s Lanzarote Committee is currently preparing a special report examining the situation of children affected by refugee crisis in 41 states-parties to the Lanzarote Convention, highlighting promising practices, pinpointing shortcomings and recommending steps to reinforce the protection of children against sexual abuse and exploitation.
One of the major concerns is that the official data on the number of children victims of sexual exploitation or abuse does not reflect reality, as there is no robust system in place in for collecting such data. Housing shortage, the length of asylum procedures and a long waiting time for settlement, difficulties in communication and building trust due to linguistic and cultural differences, and a taboo nature of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation are among other challenges European states face in preventing the crime and protecting children.
The European governments need to do more to prevent sexual abuse and protect children on the move from this scourge: age assessment and identification of children migrants should be improved, all unaccompanied children must be provided a safe shelter and a guardian, with a special attention paid to girls; family reunification after a careful examination should be made easier; foster families and all persons working with refugee children should be screened to exclude a possibility of sexual abuse; helplines should be established and other assistance provided.
The draft report is on the agenda of the Lanzarote Committee meeting in Lyon on the 24th of November.
Contact: Tatiana Baeva, Spokesperson/Media officer, Tel. +33 685 11 64 93