Authorities had received several complaints over the past four years regarding the abuse of three children, whose alleged exploitation as sex slaves by their mother came to light last Friday, but took inadequate action to protect them, it was revealed yesterday. At least three people reported their concerns regarding the two brothers, aged 8 and 9, and the 11-year-old sister – one four years ago, the next eight months ago and the latest in October, sources told Kathimerini. Municipal authorities in Ilion, northwest Athens, took legal action against the 33-year-old mother last April after which a court deprived her of custody. But the court did not ban the 33-year-old access to her children. According to experts, the problem is that public services – and the general public – avoid getting involved as they want to stay away from protracted legal action. «The fear of getting dragged through six or seven years of court action as witnesses tends to act as a deterrent,» said Giorgos Nikolaidis of the Institute of Child Health. As a result, many services whose role it is to protect children actually turn a blind eye or make neutral statements on cases, Nikolaidis said. The general public has a similar attitude. «Citizens avoid interfering even if the crime is occurring before their very eyes,» Nikolaidis said. «Child abuse is still regarded as a private affair – something that is the business of each individual family,» he added. This is why the complaints that are made are nearly always anonymous. The Hamogelo tou Paidiou (Child’s Smile) protection agency said that 92 percent of the complaints it received from the public this year regarding alleged cases of child abuse were anonymous. The four people charged in connection with the case that came to light in Ilion last week are to face an investigating magistrate tomorrow. They are the mother of the three children, her 42-year-old partner, a 60-year-old priest and an 83-year-old man. The latter two are both alleged to have sexually abused the children as «customers» of the couple.