Protect Children Against Sexual Abuse


 

New strategies used in Europe!

The first report, adopted in December 2015, scrutinised the Parties’ legal framework, judicial procedures and data collection mechanisms to protect children against sexual abuse in the circle of trust.

This secnd report, adopted in January 2018, examines Parties’ [Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Spain, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Turkey, Ukraine.] strategies (structures, measures and processes in place to prevent and protect children from sexual abuse in the circle of trust). This report more specifically looks into Parties’ strategies with regard to the

[i] involvement of relevant stakeholders

 

[ii] in awareness-raising,

 

[iii] education and training. It also assesses the processes in place to

 

[iv] screen and

 

[v] deny access to children to persons convicted of sexual offences against them. Finally, stock is taken of the

 

[vi] measures and programmes to assist sexual offenders. most Parties have yet to take action to offer effective intervention programmes or measures to assist both persons (including children) who fear they might commit sexual offences against children and persons already convicted for sexual offences against children.

 

In this context Parties are urged to also put in place a tool or a procedure to assess the dangerousness and possible risk of repetition of offences against children. Similarly they should have in place a tool or procedure to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention programmes and measures.

 

With regard to all the above areas, the Committee identifies promising practices that may be of inspiration for those who are not yet doing so.

 

Protection des enfants contre les abus sexuels commis dans le cercle de confiance : stratégies envisageables

 

***

Protection of children against sexual abuse in the circle of trust: workable strategies

In a new  report published today, the Council of Europe’s Lanzarote Committee analyses the strategies used by 26 European countries [*] to protect children against sexual abuse in the circle of trust (extended family and persons close to the child who exercise influence over the child).

According to the report, states-parties to the Council of Europe’s Convention on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse [Lanzarote Convention]are undertaking effective steps in this field. Enabling children to take an active part in the development and adoption of policies is a highly promising practice. Almost all parties’ national authorities cooperate with civil society organisations and the private sector in awareness–raising, education and training of people working with children to prevent child sexual abuse. 

The report stresses the important role of the media in informing about child sexual abuse paying particular attention to the full respect for the privacy and the rights of the child. In Croatia and Romania, for instance, it is prohibited to reveal the identity or any other information about the private life of a child.

The Lanzarote Committee acknowledges the relevance of general awareness-raising campaigns on child sexual abuse carried out by many state parties. It reiterates, however, that it is s necessary to also envisage targeted actions to effectively inform the general public about the risk of sexual abuse of children specifically in the circle of trust, and the means to protect children against such crime.

The report highlights various formats of informing children of sexual abuse at school. The information is generally delivered within the context of broader school subjects such as biology or life skills. The fact that child abuse may be perpetrated in the child’s circle of trust is however not always addressed specifically. In some state parties (e.g. in Albania, Malta and Portugal) child sexual abuse, including in the circle of trust, is addressed as part of a “sexual education” course. The Lanzarote Committee considers that those states parties that are not doing so yet, should specifically address the issue of sexual abuse in the circle of trust while providing information to children of primary and secondary school.

The Lanzarote Committee also recommends allocating adequate financial resources to regular training on child sexual abuse in the circle of trust for all professionals in regular contact with children. It is noted that only Denmark and Iceland have permanent governmental funding for such training programs for all institution levels (day-care, primary schools, etc.)

Reporting suspicion of sexual abuse of children is an important part of preventing and combating it.  In some countries, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg and Malta, failure to report child sexual abuse cases may entail criminal liability. The Committee stresses that confidentiality rules imposed on professionals working in contact with children should not be an obstacle to reporting to the services responsible for child protection where these professionals have reasonable grounds for believing that a child is the victim of sexual abuse.

To keep persons convicted of sexual abuse far from children, the Lanzarote Committee urges the parties that limit mandatory screening only to specific professions (Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Iceland, Lithuania, Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, San Marino, Serbia, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Ukraine) to extend such screening to the recruitment of all professionals in regular contact with children. All perpetrators should be denied the exercise of the professional or voluntary activity in the course of which the offence was committed. The situation needs redress in this regard in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Republic of Moldova, Montenegro and San Marino.

Parties to the Lanzarote Convention should assist persons who fear they might commit sexual offences against children. The Lanzarote Committee is alarmed by the absence of specific measures or services for such people in most of the countries. The Lanzarote Committee urges Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and Ukraine to put in place effective intervention programmes for all persons who fear they might offend, with special attention paid to children.

Alternative measures to imprisonment of sexual offenders include therapeutic or psychological treatment and community services. Only Belgium, Spain and Lithuania have special programmes for such persons. The Lanzarote Committee invites all the other parties to widen the scope of treatment programmes and measures. As for treatment in prisons, out of 26 surveyed, only 12 parties (Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Turkey) offer it. The Lanzarote Committee urges all others to put in place such programmes in prisons. In addition, special measures are required after the release from prison to reintegrate the persons into society and to avoid new victims.

[*] As the, 1st implementation report also this one covers the following 26 state parties which had ratified the Lanzarote Convention at the time the monitoring round was launched: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Spain, “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Turkey and Ukraine.

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