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SOS for child victims of sex abuse in Greece

VASSILIKI CHRYSOSTOMIDOU

TAGS: Health, Justice

Greece lacks a coordinated system for dealing with child sexual abuse victims, thus increasing the risk of retraumatization, the chairman of the Council of Europe’s Lanzarote Committee has told Kathimerini.

“Greece has a bad record in child protection,” said George Nikolaidis, who was recently elected chair of the agency which promotes measures to prevent sexual violence, to protect child victims and to prosecute perpetrators. One of the main problems is that the court process is extremely lengthy and often traumatic for the victims, said Nikolaidis who also serves as director of the Department of Mental Health and Social Welfare at the Institute of Child Health in Greece and scientific director at the day center of the Greek nonprofit organization The Smile of the Child.

“In this country, during the investigation of the allegation, the child victim of sexual abuse will be called to testify his or her traumatic experience an average 14 times,” said Nikolaidis. “I have personally seen a case [where the victim testified] 28 times,” he said, adding that cases often drag for more than 10 years.

Another fundamental shortcoming, he says, is the large number of agencies and organizations dealing with the matter, often following diverse procedures. As a result, Nikolaidis says, a victim who wants to report a case of sexual abuse can turn to the police, the prosecutor, a social agency, a mental health institution, the school authorities, or an NGO. “The system is very fragmented,” he said.

Meanwhile, placing a child victim in an institution will not always solve the problem. “Each time you decide to put a child in an institution, bear in mind that, according to international statistics by UNICEF, one in three [children] will be sexually abused by other kids – not to mention the possibility that he or she will be abused by personnel – while 85 percent will be subjected to physical abuse,” he said.

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