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‘Learning from the victims and survivors of sexual abuse can help to keep other children safe’

Addressing sexual violence against children

Statement by PACE President Tiny Kox to mark the European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (18 November):

“Today I am calling on policy-makers everywhere to listen to, and learn from, the victims and survivors of childhood sexual violence when developing laws and policies to combat this terrible crime.

Of course everyone who is involved in caring for children must play their part – any of us who spend time with children need to be on the lookout for the warning signs. But survivors, from their difficult experiences, regrettably know more than most of us.

They know about risky situations. They can warn us when and where children may be most in danger. They are aware of the kinds of behaviour in children that can signal the possibility of abuse. And they may understand – sadly – the family or social pressures which hold some children back from reporting abuse. So we need to listen carefully to their advice when it comes to drafting laws and policies to keep children safe.

Children who are subject to abuse need to know that what is happening to them is not acceptable, is not their fault, and should not be kept a secret. Victims, who have direct experience of these terrible situations, can help policy-makers to shape safe environments for open discussion, advise us on how to protect children after they have had the courage to report abuse, and tell us what support they might need, be it physical, psychological or emotional.

Finally, and crucially, survivors may also choose to tell their stories, encouraging others to come forward and reassuring them that none of us is alone, that courage takes many forms, and that even the most traumatic experiences can be acknowledged and dealt with.

Victims and survivors have a crucial role to play – their insight and their understanding, despite the awful things they have had to endure, can help other children to stay safe. Let us hear them, acknowledge their experiences, and above all learn from them.”