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  • Protect Children

World Children's Day 2023

Updated: 6 days ago

BLOG POST


Today, 20 November 2023, World Children’s Day is celebrated.

At Protect Children, we are committed to the protection of children from all forms of sexual violence. Therefore, we would like to use this day as a reminder that children are at risk of different forms of sexual violence every day, all over the world.


In the global context, there are multiple challenges that create increased risks for children to be exposed to child sexual abuse and/or exploitation. Humanitarian crises, international conflicts, climate change, natural disasters, systemic and structural discriminations and oppressions on intersecting grounds, deepening poverty, etc., are some examples of situations that result in higher risks of children being exposed to sexual violence. [i]



According to the WeProtect Global Alliance’s 2023 Global Threat Assessment, there is evidence that shows that there is a greater likelihood for children belonging to minority groups in relation to their sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, or disability, to be exposed to online child sexual abuse and/or exploitation. [ii] In this regard, a survey conducted by Economist Impact showed that there is an increased risk for children who belong or self-identify as ethnic or racial minorities to experience online child sexual abuse and/or exploitation than those children who do not self-identify as a racial or ethnic minority. Notably, 79% of ethnic or racial minorities experienced at least one event of child sexual abuse and/or exploitation before the age of 18, compared to 68% of children who did not belong or identify as such. [iii] This is of relevance considering the increased disclosure barriers faced by survivors and victims of sexual violence against children belonging to racial or ethnic minorities. [iv]


Additionally, the Economist Impact’s research results show that nine out of ten children identifying as LGTBQI+ had experienced sexual violence in their childhood at least once. [v] With respect to children with a disability, they are three to four times more likely to experience child sexual abuse and/or exploitation than children without a disability and might have trouble recognizing this type of violence. [vi] One of the respondents to our survey ‘Our Voice’, where we gather data from victims and survivors of sexual violence against children, disclosed: "I was slightly disabled as a child, the problem as that I did not understand soon enough that I had become victim of a crime".


Considering all the above, at Protect Children we work hard towards more effective ways to prevent and tackle sexual violence against children.


Adopt an intersectional approach to sexual violence against children


We acknowledge the need to recognize differences between child victims, and understand the intersecting discriminations among them, considering gender, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, class, and other forms of discrimination. [vii] This intersectionality reveals the co-existence of multiple forms of discrimination and allows us to tackle sexual violence against children from all angles.


Educate and inform children about their rights and safeguarding education


We promote that children receive age-appropriate sexual education and digital safety skills education and are well-informed about their rights and the safeguarding mechanisms at their disposal. Children have the right to information, and it is important to make sure that they understand what rights they have and how they must be respected. This should also be done taking an intersectional perspective, considering each child’s personal circumstances and contexts. Hence, making sure the information and resources are adapted and accessible for every child.


Victims and survivors of sexual violence often emphasize the importance of early safety skills education and openly speaking about such topics to help prevent sexual violence and empower children to disclose their experiences, as results from Protect Children’s Our Voice survey suggest. When asking about aspects that could have made it easier and helped them to disclose the sexual violence they experience as a child, some respondents stated:


“If I had understood better that what happened to me was wrong and if more had been told about things such as consent. There should be more different opportunities for children to tell. I had to really fight to get help. We need more awareness!”

“Providing information and openly talking about the wrongness of sexual violence, for example in schools, and openly encouraging children to seek help if they have been a target of it.”

“If you knew how to recognize sexual violence and everything it causes – we need psychoeducation.”

“Understanding the matter – having knowledge. If I had known it was wrong. I felt discomfort and anxiety and couldn't even name these back then.”


As Protect Children’s previous research has revealed, many victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and/or exploitation are not ready to disclose their experiences until they become adults, usually around the age of 30. [viii] We have been conducting new research and will soon publish a report that delves into the experiences of survivors regarding disclosure.



Conclusion


We believe more effective forms of prevention and intervention measures for protecting children against sexual violence are needed from all actors.


On the one hand, it is crucial to further research and promote an intersectional approach to sexual violence against children that takes into consideration the co-existence of multiple forms of discrimination when developing prevention and intervention measures for child protection.


On the other hand, children must be educated and well-informed about their rights and receive age-appropriate and accessible sexual education, digital safety skills and safeguarding education. Ultimately, all of this contributes to strengthening child protection measures and the rights of victims and survivors, to effectively prevent all crimes of sexual violence against children.


At Protect Children we will continue to do our utmost to ensure that no child is subjected to child sexual abuse and/or exploitation.




 

[i] UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, ‘Global emergency of child exploitation and abuse needs global action: UN experts’ (2022) <Global emergency of child exploitation and abuse needs global action: UN experts | OHCHR>.


[ii] Hingorani, S, Gore, M and Greene, N, Global Threat Assessment 2023: Assessing the scale and scope of child sexual exploitation and abuse online, to transform the response (2023) 10.


[iii] Economist Impact, Estimates of childhood exposure to online sexual harms and their risk factors: A study of childhood experiences of 18-years-olds in four European countries (2023) <WeProtect-Global-Alliance_Economist-Impact_English-full-report.pdf> 4 and 25.


[iv] Economist Impact, Estimates of childhood exposure to online sexual harms and their risk factors: A study of childhood experiences of 18-years-olds in four European countries (2023) <WeProtect-Global-Alliance_Economist-Impact_English-full-report.pdf> 4 and 25.


[v] Hingorani, S, Gore, M and Greene, N, Global Threat Assessment 2023: Assessing the scale and scope of child sexual exploitation and abuse online, to transform the response (2023) 13.


[vi] Economist Impact, Estimates of childhood exposure to online sexual harms and their risk factors: A study of childhood experiences of 18-years-olds in four European countries (2023) <WeProtect-Global-Alliance_Economist-Impact_English-full-report.pdf> 25.


[vii] Center for Intersectional Justice <what is intersectionality (intersectionaljustice.org)>.


[viii] Matilda Sandvik, Nina Vaaranen-Valkonen, Anna Katariina Ovaska, Online crimes of sexual violence against children in Finland: Experiences of Finnish survivors and results from perpetrators research (2023) <Online crimes of sexual violence against children in Finland (suojellaanlapsia.fi)> 15.

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