18 November: End Child Sex Abuse Day - 2021 Edition
Making the circle of trust truly safe for children
Each year, the Council of Europe invites its partners to focus on a specific topic on the occasion of the European Day.
The 2021 edition of the European Day focuses on “Making the circle of trust truly safe for children”. The Council of Europe partners with a wide audience to celebrate the European Day including member states, civil society organisations and national parliaments. This webpage provides access to the various initiatives organised by these partners (displayed below under Activities) allowing all to share their products to generate good practices.
The vast majority of child sexual abuse occurs in the child’s circle of trust. When the harm is done by a person they know, admire, trust and even love, children find it particularly difficult to disclose and overcome the abuse. During the lockdowns imposed to contain the spread of the Covid-19, children closed in with their abusers had even less chances to seek help. When abuse in the child’s circle of trust is reported, the victim and the family often go through an ordeal because of ill-coordinated and poorly prepared justice and social services. But this is not a fatality.
The Council of Europe has provided clear guidance and identified many promising practices to prevent abuse in the circle of trust and protect its victims. Many of these practices have been highlighted by the Lanzarote Committee when monitoring the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (Lanzarote Convention). Its first monitoring round was precisely dedicated to the protection of children against sexual abuse in the circle of trust:
Since 2015, the Council of Europe has developed many different awareness-raising and communication tools and resources:
ACTIVITIES FOR THE EUROPEAN DAY
In Council of Europe member states
Qendra për Mbrojtjen e të Drejtave të Fëmijëve në Shqipëri (Child Rights Centre Albania (CRCA) - ECPAT Albania
Child Rights Centre Albania (CRCA) - ECPAT Albania organised a march on 19 November to raise the awareness of parents, families, society and institutions to prevent any form of violence against children, from Skënderbej Square, by the Ministry of Interior, Boulevard Dëshmorët e Kombit, up to the Albanian Parliament.
On the occasion of the European Day, Child Focus promoted Project Arachnid, which it recently joined, on its website. Project Arachnid is an army of robots that scour the internet to find and remove images of child sexual abuse, launched by the Canadian Center for Child Protection.
The State Agency of Child Protection promoted the European Day on its website and explained what child sexual abuse in the circle of trust is.
Ministry for Equal Opportunities and the Family
The European Commission issued a news on the occasion of the European Day to, in particular, reaffirm its determination to prevent and combat sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children.
Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs
DGHome published a news article to celebrate the European Day, recalling that combating child sexual abuse and exploitation is one of the top priorities of the EU and underlining, most particularly, its initiatives described in its strategy for a more effective fight against child sexual abuse.
The DGHome Communication Department organised a joint Twitter chat on 18 November to raise awareness of sexual violence against children, in cooperation with the Council of Europe Children’s Rights Division, Europol and WeProtect Global Alliance.
Eurojust published a series of tweets to recall, on the occasion of the European Day, that 90% of acts of sexual violence are not reported to the police, 70 to 85% of victims of child sex abuse are abused by someone they know, and that child sexual abuse is a serious crime with long-lasting consequences. It also highlighted that protecting children demands a comprehensive, global, common response and that #Eurojust supports judicial authorities across borders to prosecute offenders: https://bit.ly/CrimesChildren.
EU DELEGATION IN STRASBOURG AND THE PERMENANT REPRESENTATIONS OF ANDORRA AND SAN MARINO AT THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE
The five winning videos of the video contest “My rights, my voice”, reflecting children’s understanding of their own rights, were screened at the Palais de l’Europe in Strasbourg on 10 November 2021, ahead of the European Day. The project was addressed to children from any EU Member State, Andorra and San Marino. With around 100 video projects received from children and schools across Europe, the cultural initiative proved to be a real success. The videos feature themes as diverse as the right to education and healthcare, protection from violence, respect for privacy, right to live in a healthy environment or inclusion of children with disabilities, child marriage and a call to end sexual violence.
AMBER Alert Europe launched its new awareness-raising campaign “Friend or Monster?” on 18 November 2021 on the occasion of the European Day. The campaign underlines the fact that, unlike common belief, the majority of sexually abused children are harmed by someone they know, love, or trust. Visuals have been displayed in several places, in particular in Schiphol Airport (Amsterdam) and the campaign was highlighted in social posts on the official AMBER Alert Europe channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Council of Europe
Ms Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Ahead of the European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse marked on 18 November, Council of Europe Secretary General, Ms Marija Pejčinović Burić, has called on the states to step up their efforts to ensure that children’s “circle of trust” (those around them who enjoy a recognised position of trust, authority or influence over children) is made as safe as possible: “For children, the risk of sexual abuse does not always come from the outside – it mostly comes from the people they trust. States must spare no effort to ensure that the places where children spend their lives – whether at home, school, sports and leisure facilities or care settings – are made safer for children. Carefully checking the background of people who work with children, educating children and parents on the risks of sexual abuse, training professionals on how to detect and report abuse, and making investigations and court proceedings child-friendly are just some of the many ways to prevent sexual abuse and protect the children who become victims of this horrendous crime”.
See the full press release.
COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS
During their 1417th meeting held on 10 November 2021, the Ministers’ Deputies exchanged views with Ms Christel De Craim, Chairperson of the Committee of the Parties to the Convention on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (Lanzarote Committee).
Ms Christel De Craim, Chairperson of the Lanzarote Committee
The Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Convention) has now been ratified by all member states of the Council of Europe, as well as by Tunisia. The Convention was not only the first regional treaty dedicated specifically to the protection of children from sexual exploitation and abuse, but also the first that covered sexual abuse within the child’s family or “circle of trust”.
The Convention should be perceived as a beacon that sets the scene for a safer environment for children, by setting standards, monitoring the implementation of those standards and helping States through capacity building and awareness raising activities.
The first thematic monitoring round of the Lanzarote Committee focused on the Protection of children against sexual abuse in the circle of trust. Recommendations and best practices were provided.
It is no coincidence that the theme of this year's edition of European Day is precisely "Making the circle of trust truly safe for children", because sexual abuse by a person of trust is still a huge problem. The assumption that children are victims of strangers who approach and groom them to sexually abuse them is not correct most of the time. We do not like to think of the unthinkable, but children are frequently abused by persons they trust, with whom they have a connexion. Sexual abuse has a major impact on various areas of the child's life, but if the abuser is a person of trust, the child is hit in the very core of his life, his existence.
Taking legal action and/or seeking medical, psychosocial, and psychological help can be an important step in the recovery process of a victim of sexual abuse. Filing a complaint is a very difficult moment, particularly if the abuser is a person of trust. It is always a moment of deep reminiscence of the trauma. The child wants to turn to a person of trust in order to reveal the secret, but what if this person is the abuser or there is no one to trust?
We all need to reach out to children, don’t look away! Never.
Certainly not now, at a time when life is difficult for everyone, particularly for children. Children need whole-hearted and safe environments in which they can thrive and develop.
We all need to make sure that these environments are safe at all time!
Mr Rik Daems, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
In a statement issued on the occasion of the European Day, Mr Rik Daems, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, calls in particular on all parliaments to raise awareness of the dramatic and long-lasting consequences of sexual abuse against children in the 'circle of trust'.
Launch of the video Around a Lake
To mark 2021’s edition of the European Day, the Council of Europe is launching a new short film encouraging children and young people to "break the silence" over sexual abuse within their circle of trust. Around a Lake, directed by Mr Roland Edzard, is a follow-up to his award-winning video The Lake, produced in 2013 as part of the Council of Europe's "One in Five" Campaign, and features the same actors eight years later.