The final conference of the European project „Breaking the silence together” was held in Noordwijk, the Netherlands on 15 June 2018. The event highlighted a major issue that ruins the lives of millions of children around the world: sexual abuse, and presented the tools developed in the project for its prevention using schools as a vehicle. One of the tools produced is a guide for parents and caregivers.
Sexual abuse research shows that 10-20% of children in Europe fall victim of it. There is little data on this as it is estimated that 90% of the cases remain a secret in childhood, a vast majority for lifetime, but the abuse has an effect on both the later life of abused children, and it clearly shows a correlation with absenteeism and not continuing education on higher levels.
The problem is made worse by that fact that an estimated 70-85% of abusers come from the circle of trust of children, and it makes the problem even more difficult. This fact is one of the reasons that an estimated 60% of victims do not receive any support, not even in adulthood. Abusers can come from the family circle (relatives or family friends), the school (teachers or peers), church, and it may take different forms from sexual assault to prostitution, trafficking and child pornography.
At the event, the Director General of the Dutch Ministry of Education talked about 3 major dilemmas: responsibility and the responsibility of schools in particular, the need for intervention and its timing, and the necessity of capacity building for teachers. In a panel discussion later the three dilemmas were addressed coming to the conclusion that schools necessarily have a role in prevention, not only teachers, but all school staff needs to receive a certain level of training, but finding solutions is the job of other professionals.
The project that was finished with this conference had an interesting consortium of traditionally conservative countries where talking about sexuality is even more difficult, Austria, Greece, Poland and Spain. The 5th partner, the European School Heads Association brought in a multi-perspective. During their working together they put together an interesting analysis of successful prevention programmes, developed a toolkit for school heads on implementing a community-based prevention programme, a related teachers’ manual, an awareness raising kit, included information for children on their website, created a set of cards that helps talking about sexual abuse and the guide for parents and caregivers mentioned earlier.
You will find details and more information on the project website: http://www.preventingchildsexualabuse.eu