What is the issue?
An estimated one in five children or more around the world suffer some form of sexual violence, with abusers in the overwhelming majority of cases being somebody the child knows and trusts. Statistics do not tell the full story, however, as most cases of sexual violence against children are not disclosed to anyone, with at least 90 percent of cases not reported to the authorities.
The type of abuse children suffer can range from harassment, grooming, rape, slavery and exploitation, to genital mutilation, forced marriage, and forced or coerced sterilisation or abortion. And the abuse can take place anywhere: online and offline; at home or in school; at work in cases of domestic labour; in the community in cases of sex tourism and exploitation; during armed conflict as a form of torture and a weapon of war; in camps for refugees or displaced persons; and within institutions such as orphanages, shelters, care homes, hospitals, or detention centres.
What needs to change?
Sexual violence is one of the worst crimes against children as it violates so many of their rights, but it will continue if the root causes that allow it to exist in the first place are not challenged. Fundamentally, the perpetrator always engages in an abuse of power by singling out victims for their young age, smaller size and the lower chance that they will stand up for and defend themselves. Then it is the silence that shrouds every sexual abuse story which conceals the violence and, in turn, protects the abuser who may go on to abuse more children.
Barriers to accessing justice are also significant, as they allow perpetrators to escape accountability. This is the case with time limitations which prevent survivors from accessing justice if the abuse happened years ago; or when children who have been abused are prevented from making a complaint altogether without the approval of a parent or guardian, even if the abuse happens within the family.
CRIN believes transparency, accountability, access to justice for children, and protection from violence are crucial to ending sexual violence against children. To this end, our work so far has focused on closed institutions, which are notorious for their lack of transparency and accountability. Our goal is to push for reforms that will open these institutions to scrutiny, prevent cover-ups and allow victims to access justice. Our current campaigns challenge:
Sexual violence in religious institutions: starting with the Holy See, the sovereign State headed by the Pope, which is bound by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Sexual violence by UN peacekeepers: our focus began following the revelations of sexual abuse of children by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic.
Helplines: Child Helpline International
Information page: Sexual violence
Briefings: Forms of violence against children