As I step outside of the project offices, I am struck by the ordinary-looking, working-class, and foreign-named stores and cafés occupying the neighborhood, abruptly divided by a beautiful, tree-lined path.
Who would suspect that nearby this idyllic, homely setting, boys are being treated to overcome unspeakable sexual abuse and exploitation? Who would imagine that young men do indescribable harm to their sisters and mothers because the women are expected to carry the honor of their families on their shoulders?
But it is all around us. Abuse. Exploitation. Done to boys. To girls. Who are Young. Vulnerable. Alone. Abuse happens because your mother goes to work early and can’t take you to school in the morning; the friendly man who talks to you as you take a morning swing at the playground before you shuffle to class may not be your friend. He might be your abuser.
Or, a brother who is forced by his father to punish his sister because she was caught walking home with a boy after school. He is your abuser, too.
I had traveled to Berlin to visit projects with my colleagues from Childhood Germany. They had selected two organizations working with younger and older boys, faced with sexual traumas and cultural demands.
In our work, we as project managers strive to understand, to help prevent but also to help heal children’s trauma, to empower them to become strong, productive, and vibrant adults.
A bucolic setting can throw you off, take your mind away and make you see the beauty in our surroundings. And it can remind you that prevention is always the better option; and when that is not possible, there must be healing to be found.
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.
Last week, Germany’s most important media award was presented at a glamorous gala in Düsseldorf. Millions of viewers watched the ceremony live on TV. The BAMBI award is a tribute to the heroes of our times and a symbol of recognition. Next to persons from media and film businesses, important pioneers and individuals are awarded for their dedication and commitment. The German Rabbi Daniel Alter was the recipient of the golden deer in the category “Integration”. This summer he was brutally attacked in Berlin. The perpetrators mugged him after asking if he is Jewish. Daniel Alter’s four year old daughter had to witness the violence.
Instead of being intimidated, Daniel Alter took advantage of the situation and became a symbolic figure for peaceful interaction between Jews and non-Jewish Germans. In his acceptance speech, the Rabbi dedicated his award to the project HEROES, funded by Childhood.
“For me the Berlin HEROES is the true hero of the 21st century”, he said. By empowering young people and encouraging them to distance themselves from honour-related oppression, the project HEROES in Berlin is educating boys to become positive role models. They visit peers at schools and discuss themes like gender equality, democracy and human rights. Childhood has funded the project since 2007. The concept originally comes from Sweden and Childhood helped transfer the method to Germany.
“You have deserved this one – it is my sign of solidarity”, Daniel Alter concluded and I can do nothing but bee proud and agree.
See the acceptance speech in German here.