18 November: European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse - 2022 Edition
Getting it right: ensuring child-friendly justice through Barnahus structures in Europe
Each year, the Council of Europe invites its partners to focus on a specific topic on the occasion of the European Day.
The 2022 edition of the European Day focuses on “Getting it right: ensuring child-friendly justice through Barnahus structures in Europe”. 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.
Barnahus (Children’s House) is the leading European child-friendly multidisciplinary and interagency (MDIA) response model for child sexual abuse. Its unique approach brings together all relevant services under one roof, to avoid re-victimisation of the child during investigation and court proceedings and provide every child with a coordinated and effective response. The core purpose of Barnahus is to coordinate parallel criminal and child welfare investigations and help produce valid evidence for judicial proceedings by eliciting the child’s disclosure. The child victims and witnesses of violence also receive support and assistance, including medical evaluation and treatment, in a safe environment for children.
The Council of Europe is promoting the Barnahus model for a number of years now. In its 2015 implementation report dedicated to the protection of children against sexual abuse in the circle of trust, the Committee of the Parties to the Convention on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (Lanzarote Convention) identified the Icelandic Barnahus model as a promising practice example for a child-friendly multidisciplinary and interagency (MDIA) response.
Since 2015, the Council of Europe has developed many different awareness-raising and communication tools and resources:
Our co-operation projects
Over the past years, the Council of Europe has also developed several technical co-operation projects to assist member states in setting up Barnahus structures, in particular in Slovenia where the first Barnahus was inaugurated in May 2022. Other projects are in the doing in Finland, Ireland and Spain:
ACTIVITIES FOR THE EUROPEAN DAY
In Council of Europe member states
Planning Familial 67, Centre d'Information sur le Droit des Femmes et des Familles du Bas-Rhin, Thémis 67 and Viaduq 67
Planning Familial 67, the Centre d'Information sur le Droit des Femmes et des Familles du Bas-Rhin (Bas-Rhin Women's and Family Rights Information Center), Thémis 67 and Viaduq 67 co-organised on 18 November 2022 a day of meetings “Fight against sexual violence against children: detect, accompany, prevent” in the form of several round tables: first on an inventory in Europe and in France on the protection of children against sexual violence, then on prevention, detection and accompaniment of the victims. The objectives of this day were to make the decision-making bodies based in Alsace aware of the Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Convention) and the work of its Committee of the Parties (Lanzarote Committee), but also to participate at the local level in better protection and better support for child victims of violence.
CAMELEON deployed on the occasion of the 2022 edition of the European Day a #LePartage awareness campaign with a spot and posters in the urban space to alert parents and the general public to the risks associated with exposure of minors online. While France is the 4th host country in the world of pedophile content, the association has launched a manifesto aimed at increasing the means to fight against cybercriminality.
The State Commission for investigation of cases against sexual liberty and decency against minors under the age of 15 years
The State Commission organised a debate on 18 November 2022 at the Staszic Palace in Warsaw, on the topic “Why we do not hear the voice of children with disabilities who are sexually abused? Emotional, communication and institutional barriers”. The event was held under the honorary patronage of Mrs Agata Kornhauser-Duda, the First Lady of Poland. The Polish government was represented by Mr Paweł Wdówik, the Secretary of State in the Ministry of Family and Social Policy and the Government Plenipotentiary for Disabled Persons. The aim of the debate was not only to publicise a socially significant problem, but also to develop solutions that would help protect minors with disabilities from sexual abuse. The debate was addressed primarily to people who take care of children with disabilities on a daily basis: parents, educators, teachers.
Council of Europe
COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS
During their 1448th meeting held on 16 November 2022, the Ministers’ Deputies exchanged views with Mr Ásmundur Einar Daðason, Minister of Education and Children of Iceland and Ms Maria José Castello-Branco, Vice-Chairperson of the Committee of the Parties to the Convention on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (Lanzarote Committee), followed by an exchange of views.
ICELANDIC PRESIDENCY OF THE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS
High-level event “Towards Barnahus in All European States; Ensuring the rights of every child”
The Council of Europe and the Council of the Baltic Sea States, under the Icelandic Presidency of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, organised a high-level event on the Barnahus model on 16 November 2022, on the occasion of the European Day, “Towards Barnahus in All European States; Ensuring the rights of every child”. The event brought together high-level key international actors with the aim to explore the Barnahus concept, including what works, opportunities for improvement, and potential adjustments to national legal frameworks. Minister of Education and Children of Iceland Ásmundur Einar Daðason, Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić, and Director General of the Council of the Baltic Sea States Secretariat Grzegorz M. Poznański opened the event, and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Violence against Children Najat Maalla M'jid delivered a keynote speech.
ICELANDIC PRESIDENCY OF THE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS AND SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE
Joint statement by Council of Europe Secretary General, Marija Pejčinović Burić, and Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir
In their joint statement, they have underlined the need to ensure child-friendly justice for child victims of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse through developing Barnahus (Children’s House) structures in Europe.
Ms Maria José Castello-Branco, Vice-Chairperson of the Lanzarote Committee
The theme of the 2022 edition of the European Day for the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (18 November) is "Getting it right: child-friendly justice through Barnahus structures in Europe".
The Committee of the Parties to the Convention on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (Lanzarote Committee) has recognised the Barnahus model as a promising practice in its 1st implementation report in 2015 and this recognition has led to exploring the adaptation of the model by a number of Council of Europe member states (with cooperation projects in various European countries: Slovenia (Barnahus now open and functioning), Finland, Ireland, Spain). The Icelandic model of Barnahus is indeed the best response model to sexual abuse of children.
There are two ways to explain the importance of the Barnahus:
To the public decision maker, we just have to focus on the interinstitutional uniqueness of this model that brings together all services under one roof to avoid re-victimisation of the child and provide a coordinated and effective response to each child. The rationale behind it is to coordinate criminal and child protection investigations and promoting the protection and the recovery of child victims and witnesses of violence, in a safe and child-friendly environment.
But to a child, which has been victim of sexual abuse, this model can warrant respect, care and justice just because it puts the child interest in the first place and is built to be accessible, age appropriated, diligent and adapted to the needs of the child. It means that this child will be protected at the highest possible level, in a much better way than with old-school models.
Having an evolving capacity is also essential to reach all those aims and is one of the most interesting characteristics of the Barnahus.
The Barnahus model is clearly to be promoted to help protect child victims of sexual violence in the offline world. But what about the online worlds?
The Promise Barnahus Network developed a simple questionnaire at the request of the Council of Europe in the context of the End Online Child Sexual Abuse @ Europe funded by End Violence Against Children. This questionnaire was completed by Barnahus in Croatia, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and the UK in June 2020.
Conclusions were very interesting showing that the impact of online abuse on the child can be even more severe than offline abuse, “especially in situations in which perpetrators cannot be identified or where sexual images have been shared on social media”, that “victims of online sexual abuse often require adaptations to crisis support and therapy”, or that they “have increased feelings of guilt and shame in cases with online elements, coupled with a strong sense of loneliness and isolation”.
Please read the survey results to better understand why developing a Barnahus is also worthwhile for online sexual violence against children.
Launch of the video "The Stadium"
On the occasion of the European Day, the Parliamentary Assembly launched a short film conceived and directed by award-winning French film-maker Roland Edzard entitled “The Stadium”, which deals with the sensitive topic of sexual abuse in sport. This is a follow-up to his successful 2013 film “The Lake”, seen millions of times on European TV stations and the web, which focused on sexual abuse within the circle of trust. The Stadium has been produced in four languages, French, English, German and Italian, and the original French has been subtitled in five more, Greek, Romanian, Spanish, Ukrainian and Russian. Each clip is available in a long version for TV (around 2 minutes) and a short version for social media (around 40 seconds).
CHILDREN'S RIGHTS DIVISION
The Council of Europe Children’s Rights Division organized the screening of the documentary "First Do No Harm" on 22 November 2022, followed by an exchange with the director, Eric Lemasson, and the women sharing their experience in the film. The documentary, winner of the CIRCOM Grand Prize (European Association of Regional Televisions), seeks to understand the impact on women of sexual violence during their childhood. Throughout the film, Nour, Elsa, Nina and Brenda reveal that the violence suffered in childhood grows in them and is expressed sooner or later, in particular during the perinatal period. Noting that medical professionals feel helpless and are insufficiently trained to support patients in this particular situation, French midwives and doctors have taken the initiative to raise awareness among their colleagues and the general public of the need to address the situation of women who have been victims of sexual violence as children. They want to change attitudes and encourage a practice that is more respectful of the feelings of patients, whose trauma is, a priori, invisible.