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Round table devoted to “Shedding light on a taboo: Cinema’s contribution to the elimination of sexual violence against children”
Speech of the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe,
Mrs Maud de Boer-Buquicchio


Venice, 9 September 2011

Dear President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Available data suggest that about one in five children would be a victim of sexual violence. It is estimated that in 70% to 85% of cases, the perpetrator is known to the victim. These are figures that shock and meet with many people’s skepticism. Most parents have difficulties in imagining that their child might be abused by a member of the family, a teacher, a school mate or a priest. But abuse happens much often than we think. The problem is that victims of sexual violence seldom disclosure the abuse. Paralysing feelings such as shame, fear or guilt lock children in the most terrible of silences, sometimes condemning them to suffer abuse or its consequences during many, many years.

The taboo around sexual violence also offers a comfortable shelter to criminals who can continue their abuse in all impunity.

Shedding light into this taboo has hence become a priority. The media and the cinema have an important role to play in this context.

I am therefore very grateful to the Venice Biennale for having offered us this exceptional platform to debate publicly and openly this issue. I warmly welcome the presence of journalists and cinema professionals. I am deeply grateful for all they can do to raise public awareness on the issue of sexual abuse of children.

One in five is indeed a shocking figure. But even more shocking is the fact that, although we know the precise measures that need to be taken to stop this scourge, we are still far from moving in the right direction.

The Council of Europe has been at the forefront of combating sexual violence against children. European efforts culminated in the adoption, in 2007, of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, also known as the Lanzarote Convention.

The Lanzarote Convention is the first international treaty to address all forms of sexual violence against children. Its trademark is the so-called four “P” approach: prevention of violence, protection of child victims, prosecution of offenders, and the promotion of partnerships.

To prevent sexual violence, the Lanzarote Convention notably requests: the screening and training of professionals in contact with children; awareness raising and education programmes; intervention programmes for potential perpetrators; the mobilisation of the media and the private sector, and involving children in the design and implementation of prevention measures.

To protect child victims, the Lanzarote Convention requests: child friendly reporting mechanisms; the creation of independent child rights defenders; intervention programmes for convicted criminals; child friendly judicial procedures, and assistance for the victims and their families (be it medical, psychological, legal, or other).

To end with the impunity of the criminals, the Convention foresees: the definition and criminalisation of all forms of sexual violence, including those committed with the help of internet; the extension of the limitation period which starts running when the child reaches majority; the possibility to prosecute for offences committed in another country even if the act is not an offence in that country , and measures to ensure corporate liability and avoid impunity by legal persons.

Last, but not least, the Convention wants to mobilise all social partners, to obtain better understanding of the phenomenon of sexual violence and to increase the effectiveness of the measures taken to address it.

To do so, the Convention calls for: the establishment of coordinating bodies at national level; data collection mechanisms; cooperation amongst stakeholders, and exchange of information at international level.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dante Alighieri wrote that the darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis. To this day, only 13 countries are legally bound by the Lanzarote Convention. It is an absolute necessity that all governments promptly ratify and take practical measures to implement it.

The Council of Europe ONE in FIVE Campaign to stop sexual violence against children was launched in Rome last year. It aims, on the one hand, to promote the ratification and implementation of our convention and, on the other hand, to raise public awareness on the extent of the problem and the measures that can be taken to protect children, prevent and report abuse.

Thanks to the courage and determination of Minister Carfagna and to the contribution of Italian parliamentarians, civil society and the media, Italy was the first country to join the Council of Europe campaign and broadly spread its message.

ONE in FIVE Campaign is being launched in other countries such as Greece, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovenia, Spain and Mexico.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

ONE in FIVE is an “empowering” campaign. All our efforts are aimed to provide governments, parliamentarians, professionals working with children, civil society, parents, carers and children with the information and tools they need to stop sexual violence.

Clearly, the state and adults have the primary responsibility to uphold children’s rights, protect children from sexual violence, address factors that give rise to sexual violence and respond effectively when sexual violence occurs. But children and young people also have a role to play and we have to empower them.

Empowering children does not mean shifting our responsibility for their safety onto their shoulders. It means helping them to establish boundaries, to express themselves and to seek help if need be.

It also means creating the conditions allowing for their active engagement in the planning, implementation and evaluation of policies to prevent sexual violence.

We are very pleased to welcome here Mr Donald Findlater, who has an important expertise in the issues related to the prevention of sexual abuse. Mr Findlater is leading the “Stop it now” campaign in the United Kingdom and Ireland and will share with us his thoughts in a few minutes.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

For millions of children, life is a never-ending horror film. And we need you. These children need you. Because your talent can touch the souls and the minds of millions of people. And this can change a life’s script for the best.
I thank you very much for your support and attention