Protecting children starts close to home, with breaking the silence

We each play a role in creating a healthy environment for children to grow up in.
We each play a role in creating a healthy environment for children to grow up in.

I recently attended the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SRVI) called Measuring Progress, Driving Solutions in Cape Town, and while at the summit a memory was triggered.

I started thinking about the weekend when I went home for Easter, and told my little brother (10) in the simplest way I possibly could that he must never be afraid to tell me when someone has made him feel uncomfortable or violated him in any way. 

With tears in my eyes, I hugged him as he continued to tell me a story completely unrelated to what I was saying.

If my brother noticed the tears in my eyes, which I'm sure he did not, he was probably thinking, 'What is happening with this lady?'

There's a 14 year age gap between us, and for most of my life, I thought my guitar (which I sold a year ago) was my most precious possession: until he was born, and made me grasp the concept of unconditional love.

Also Read - OPINION: We aren’t doing enough to protect our boys from sexual assault

Global issue 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 1-in-4 girls and 1-in-7- boys are victims of sexual abuse.

Katherine Stewart, Public Policy Consultant at the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), says child abuse is a global challenge, regardless of a country’s economic status or its citizens’ quality of life, and has devastating emotional, health and socio-economic consequence.

However, Stewart also states that sexual abuse is preventable and there are promising strategies for reducing sexual violence committed against children, including implementing national plans of action and devoting more resources to execute plans.

Read more here: INSPIRE: This how you can help create a safer world for every child

Technology plays a critical role

All of us play a role in creating a healthy environment for children to grow up in, improving societal attitudes and using data to inform decision-making that is vital and will help end the problem of sexual abuse against children.

Effective reporting mechanisms where countries collect and publish information on the number of reported offenses against children must be implemented. Technology also plays a critical role in the response to ending child sexual abuse and exploitation both on and offline.

Governments, businesses and societies globally need to have a stronger, more targeted response, while measuring progress to end sexual abuse against children.

Breaking the silence 

Daniela Ligiero, the CEO of Together for Girls, shared a bit of her story during the panel discussion and urged people to break the silence, explaining that everyone has a role to play when it comes to the sexual assault of children, adding that she believes there is a lot we still need to do in terms of breaking the silence regarding sexual assault.

"When I say break the silence I am not talking about survivors," she said. "I am talking about families, communities, government, institutions. We all have a role in breaking the silence. That means we need to start having these tough conversations."

She quotes the words of Eleanor Roosevelt "Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world."

The onus rests on us

I agree. As an older sister I know the onus rests on me, and on all of us, to ensure that my brother lives in a safer country. And not just him, but all children in the world. I also don't believe you necessarily have to have a younger sibling or a child to want a safer world.

In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., I (too) have a dream. A dream that parents, siblings, family, friends, community members, won't have to protect children from the threat of sexual abuse.

That we will have peace of mind regarding the safety of the world's children at all times.

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Read more:

An involved parent is the number one "protective factor" against child sexual abuse

‘Your sexual abuse stays within these walls’

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