The German police arrested more than 40 suspected pedophiles recently in a country-wide raid. Cyber-grooming –enticing children to conduct sexual acts in front of a web camera – are becoming more common in Germany. The men are charged with the sexual abuse of children and possession of child pornography. They are accused of establishing contact to children via an online social network in operation since September 2012. The police continue to search for other crimes connected to this network. Childhood Germany welcomes this step toward child protection.
Preventing violence against and abuse of children is the focus of the foundation’s work. We believe in empowering children to protect themselves against all forms of violence and abuse, for example against violence in the name of honor or against pedosexual violence . On April 11 Childhood Germany will be supporting a conference by the project Heroes. During the conference, young people will share their own initiatives in protecting children and youth against violence.
Minneapolis, Minnesota. Waking up with an inch of snow on the ground. Thinking about the conversations we had yesterday at The Bridge, and my warm bed suddenly seems unfair. Because out there are teenagers, and children as young as 9 years old, trying to stay warm. In the cold, because they don’t have a warm bed. Or any bed at all.
It only takes 24-36 hours for a child on the street to be approached for sex in exchange for food or shelter. Commercial sexual exploitation, survival sex, tricks, ‘living the life’. A result of not having someone there to protect you, care for you, to make you smile. And nowhere to go. Couch-hopping becomes a daily routine.
The pain, the loss, and the hurt hit a lot closer to home than we might think. YouthLink knows what that means. It’s the 14 year old boy who just can’t take anymore of the violence going on every night at home. It’s the 12 year old girl who can’t take hearing her uncle walking up the stairs to look after her when her mom is at work knowing he will abuse her. Again. Or the 15 year old girl being lured into selling herself, because after being raped when she was 6, she doesn’t know what owning her body means.
Stories like these are home-versions of sexual trafficking. It’s all around us, much closer than we think. It’s easier to imagine sexual crimes committed to children in a faraway country, in a dark brothel. Or at a truck stop, along highway. But that’s not the only truth. The truth is that children are exploited right now, down the street from you. Right this moment.
The Bridge and YouthLink, two of the organizations that Childhood supports in the US work with sexual abuse and exploitation of children every day. Do you want to help?
While travelling for Childhood in various countries I try to meet with people from the office of the local Ombudsman for Children. They are a very good source of information about what is happening in the country when it comes to child protection issues. In Estonia, where the position of the ombudsman for children was created in 2011, I was given a cute and colourful pamphlet which explained who and what the Children’s Ombudsman is, and how the office of the ombudsman can help.
The ombudsman for children is an independent official who is responsible for protecting the rights of children by addressing specific complaints and by conducting general advocacy. Norway was the first country in the world to establish an Ombudsman for Children in 1981. Today around 50 countries worldwide have ombudspersons for children.