PRESS RELEASE 24.1.2023
“Only 12% of crimes of sexual violence against children are reported to authorities”. Protect Children’s innovative new #MyFriendToo website empowers young people to help their friends disclose sexual violence to a safe adult
Sexual harassment, grooming and sexual violence against children and young people is a form of hidden criminality, where only a fraction of crimes come to the attention of adults or authorities. On the MyFriendToo.com website, young people can access clear information and guidance to better equip them to help friends who have become victim of sexual violence.
Helsinki – 24 January 2023
Recent studies show that the friends of children and young people are often the first to learn about experiences of harassment, grooming and sexual violence. In her latest research, Lahtinen (2022) emphasizes that children and young people do disclose sexual violence, but mainly to their friends. As a result, the crimes remain hidden from adults and the authorities, and the perpetrators go unprosecuted. At the same time, the friends carry a distressing secret and the child victim remains without the support and care they need.
Protect Children, the only organisation in Finland dedicated to preventing sexual violence against children, developed MyFriendToo.com to empower young people to help their friends disclose sexual violence to a safe adult.
In Finland, there are several low-threshold services and reporting channels through which children and young people can report harassment, grooming and sexual violence, as well as the misuse or uncontrolled spread of nudes online.
"Hidden criminality is not about a lack of support services. It is about children and young people not telling adults about their experiences, but instead primarily confiding in their friends. We developed the MyFriendToo.com website in response to recent research. Our goal is to increase and strengthen young people's participation, civic engagement, and the reporting of harassment, grooming, and crimes of sexual violence to adults and to the authorities," emphasises Nina Vaaranen-Valkonen, Executive Director, Senior Specialist, and psychotherapist at Protect Children.
"It's understandable that young people want to be loyal to each other. The MyFriendToo.com website helps children understand why disclosure is important and provides clear instructions on how to encourage a friend to tell an adult or the authorities if they become a victim of sexual violence. The website is available in Finnish, Swedish, and English, and information about the materials is shared to children's and young people's everyday environments, including schools," says Katariina Leivo, Specialist in Developmental Psychology at Protect Children.
The MyFriendToo.com website increases children's and young people's knowledge and understanding of the importance of sharing information both for aiding the victim's recovery and for preventing harassment, grooming and sexual violence. When it comes to crimes of sexual violence against children and young people online, even a single report to the authorities may lead to the discovery of dozens and even hundreds of offences against children and young people with the help of the police's high-quality preliminary investigation. Reporting may also help to prevent further offences against children.
Suojellaan Lapsia, Protect Children ry.
Protect Children is the only organisation in Finland focusing solely on preventing all forms of sexual violence against children nationally and internationally.
Executive Director, Senior Specialist, Psychotherapist
Tel. 040 747 8829, nina.vaaranen-valkonen(at)suojellaanlapsia.fi