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European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson opens Helsinki photo exhibition

PRESS RELEASE 26.05.2023


Suojellaan Lapsia, Protect Children ry. launches ‘SHAME - European Stories’ exhibition shining light on the importance of proposed EU child abuse legislation implementation


HELSINKI, Finland, 26 May 2023 – The photo exhibition “SHAME - European Stories” was inaugurated today in Helsinki by Suojellaan Lapsia, Protect Children ry, a non-profit organisation fighting to end all forms of sexual violence against children, and the Justice Initiative, a European initiative advocating for justice for all survivors of child abuse. The exhibition portrays dozens of portraits and testimonies of survivors of childhood sexual violence, serving as a powerful visual portrayal of the devastating and long-lasting impact of sexual violence against children.


European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, officially opened the exhibition at the launch event held at the Little Parliament building, Parliament of Finland. The opening was followed by testimonies from Nordic survivors of childhood sexual violence and speeches from Guido Fluri, the Initiator of the Justice Initiative; Emilio Puccio, Secretary-General of the European Parliament Intergroup on Children's Rights; Marjo Malja, Senior Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health; Marja Kihlström, Specialist in NACS Sexological Counselling, Author & Media Personality; and Nina Vaaranen-Valkonen, Executive Director at Protect Children.


The powerful initiative raises awareness and demands stronger action from the European Union (EU) in combating child sexual abuse material through the European Commission regulation proposed by European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson.


Johansson states “I thank Suojellaan Lapsia/Protect Children for their tireless advocacy, and the survivors for their courage to speak out. As children they had no power. But now they do have power, standing up for children. Last year, companies sent one and a half million reports of child sexual abuse in the European Union. Reports that police use to rescue children. 70 per cent of these reports come from online messages. If we do not act, such detection of child sexual abuse will be forbidden in the EU. That why it’s urgent the EU adopt my proposal to prevent and fight child sexual abuse, which includes the possibility to oblige detection of abuse in case of a significant risk and if prevention fails.”

The travelling exhibition “SHAME – European Stories” debuted last year at the Venice Biennale and was on display in October 2022 at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. In Helsinki, the exhibition will be open to the public for one week, from 27 May to 2 June, in the Mall of Tripla.


Through a collection of survivor testimonies striking portraits by award-winning photographer Simone Padovani, the exhibition sheds light on the urgent need for the EU to apply comprehensive legislation and take decisive measures to protect all children across Europe. As sexual violence against children is increasingly taking place online, there is an increased urgency to make internet safe for children.


"This sexualized violence on the Internet must be stopped," Guido Fluri, the Initiator of the Justice Initiative, emphasises, "because behind every image is an abuse. And behind every abuse is the suffering of a child."
Guido Fluri continues: "On the one hand, survivors of sexual violence should receive more support. On the other hand, it is about preventing children from continuing abuse. We demand that the European Union take a global leadership position and vote in favor of the current legislative proposal to prevent and combat child sexual abuse so that we can protect all children and adolescents and bring justice to survivors."

One in five children fall victim to sexual violence in Europe, and hundreds of thousands of victims live among us. By breaking the silence, we can strengthen both the protection of children and the realization of the rights of children and victims in Europe in the long term.

“Sexual violence against children online is an issue of epidemic proportions. We must act now with robust legislative changes in order to keep our children safe” states Nina Vaaranen-Valkonen, Executive Director at Protect Children.

Over 28,000 people have signed an international petition launched by the Justice Initiative, together with survivor groups and child protection organisations from all over Europe, to show support for the proposed child sexual abuse legislation.

About:

Suojellaan Lapsia, Protect Children ry. is a Helsinki-based child protection organization working to end all forms of sexual violence against children. Protect Children adopts a research-based holistic method to prevent any child from being subject to sexual harassment, grooming, or any other kind of sexual violence.

Justice Initiative The Justice Initiative, founded by the Swiss Guido Fluri Foundation, is an initiative supported by victims’ groups, researchers and NGOs across Europe, joining forces to strengthen child protection and the realization of children’s and victims’ rights in Europe.

Contact:

Nina Vaaranen-Valkonen

Executive Director, Senior Specialist & Psychotherapist at Protect Children

+358407478829

Matilda Sandvik

Child Rights Specialist at Protect Children

+358400818002

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