"It Remains a Secret. We must become their voice": International Conference of "The Smile of the Child" on Child Sexual Abuse
Athens, November 25, 2022
"It Remains a Secret. We must become their voice": International Conference of "The Smile of the Child" on Child Sexual Abuse
The silence of sexually abused children makes the most deafening noise
- Student volunteers of the Children's Rights Group / "YouSmile": today, we tell every child that there is ALWAYS someone you can turn to for support, understanding and guidance. The National Hotline SOS 1056 of "The Smile" is always here for you, whenever you need it, free of charge, anonymously, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
- Costas Yannopoulos: In the international arena, "The Smile of the Child" represents a crystal-clear effort to change the world. For 27 years, thanks to these international collaborations and synergies, we have been raising awareness about best practices to prevent and deal with violence against children, and we do not dwell on wishful thinking.
- Zoe Rapti: Without partnerships like the one with "The Smile of the Child", we cannot provide effective services to protect children from abuse.
- George Kotsiras: All government initiatives are currently focused on the protection of minors and children's rights. The work and initiatives of "The Smile of the Child" can help us significantly, substantially, and productively to improve the existing framework.
- Elena Rapti: We consider "The Smile of the Child" a supporter of the National Action Plan for the protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation, and we will march together in this effort.
- Ernesto Caffo: We need to work with children and with all the stakeholders to support them. We need to invest in professional knowledge and greater competence to minimize their trauma.
- Stefanos Alevizos: Need for coordinated cooperation and networking of services and agencies for the benefit of the child who is being removed from his or her family environment. The more carefully the process of removal is carried out, the more we help the child take the next step in his/ her life, reconcile with his/her past, not as an anchor, but as a memory.
"The Smile of the Child", joining forces with 800 organizations around the world, and in close and substantial cooperation with both the Greek and the international scientific community, on the occasion of the 18th of November: European Day for the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, organized the 2nd International Conference entitled "Child Sexual Abuse: It Remains a Secret. We must become their voice”, on Thursday, November 24, 2022, at the Great Hall of Ceremonies of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.
The Conference was held under the auspices of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, with the support of the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse & Neglect (ISPCAN), the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the National Children's Advocacy Center (NCAC), and is part of the actions implemented by "The Smile of the Child" for the prevention and treatment of the phenomenon of child sexual abuse, in the framework of the Panhellenic Campaign "It remains a secret", which is under the auspices of H.E. The President of the Hellenic Republic.
For 27 years the Organization has been fighting a daily struggle, recording on a 24-hour basis the silence of sexually abused children, which can make the most deafening noise. Only in the first ten months of 2022, "The Smile of the Child" received reports of the abuse and neglect of 1,854 children. However ONLY for 37 children the reports were related to sexual abuse. Why ... child abuse continues to Remain a Secret!
The Conference was inaugurated by the Rector of the NKUA, Mr. Athanasios Meletios Dimopoulos, who stated: "Nowadays it is imperative to pay special attention to initiatives and Conferences, such as today's, in which valuable conclusions are drawn, which are utilized and translated into legislative regulations for the better protection of children.". More details here: https://www.livemedia.gr/video/474060
It is worth noting that the students-volunteers of the Children's Rights Group of the European Voluntary Student Network "YouSmile" of the Organization participated dynamically in the work of the Conference, submitting their positions against sexual abuse: "In 2022, 14 sexually abused children ... And how many more? We are not here to say what needs to be done, but to emphasize the need to highlight the voices of children who are being sexually abused. Often, an incident of sexual abuse is an open secret. Every child in this position needs support. Today, we tell you that there is ALWAYS someone you can turn to for support, understanding and guidance. The National Hotline SOS 1056 of "Smile" is always here for you, whenever you need it, free of charge, anonymously, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 14... and none more! »
In his opening speech, Mr. Costas Yannopoulos, President of the Board of Directors of "The Smile of the Child", President of the Board of Directors of the European Antibullying Network, and Honorary Doctor of the Department of Education Sciences & Social Work of the University of Patras, stressed that the essence of the initiative is the joining of forces to combat sexual abuse, as well as the need to shield the institutional system, while expressing concern that "today the spotlight does not focus on the real work of child protection institutions".
"I feel very proud of the children of YouSmile who have just given a much more important message than us grown-ups, giving the mark of what really needs to be done for their own good. These children represent a 10-year-old child who 27 years ago founded "The Smile of the Child". They represent the genuine point of view of society and the bright people who always exist in the otherwise understaffed public administration. It is time for us grown-ups to listen to the needs and voice of children if we are to make progress.”
As Mr. Yannopoulos said, ""The Smile of the Child" welcomes and serves the government's National Action Plan against child abuse. We submitted our own proposals, the main one being the staffing and shielding of the Regions and Municipalities with specialized personnel, who will be able to prevent situations, but also to support families with vulnerability. "The Smile of the Child", with all its might, will contribute to the success of this National Action Plan. Because if the institutions of the state, which we serve every day, succeed, then we as a Voluntary Organization will have achieved our goals". More details here https://www.livemedia.gr/video/474078
Greetings were given by the Deputy Minister of Health, responsible for Mental Health, the Deputy Minister of Justice, the President of Missing Children Europe (MCE), the Managing Director of the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN) and the Executive Director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
Ms. Zoe Rapti, Deputy Minister of Health, responsible for Mental Health, welcomed the Conference, noting: " I would like to give my warmest congratulations to the Organization "The Smile of the Child" for its many years of voluntary contribution to the services for the protection, care and hospitality of children. The Ministry of Health, and I personally, have an excellent cooperation with "The Smile" in specialized actions to protect children from abuse. Without these partnerships, we cannot have effective services." More details here: https://www.livemedia.gr/video/474056
Mr. Georgios Kotsiras, Deputy Minister of Justice, in his address, noted: "Recently, with specific interventions, the penalties related to issues related to the protection of minors were tightened and, above all, we gave through legal possibilities the institutional opportunity to children to report such behaviors more easily. I must say that on issues specifically related to the access of minors to justice, in the recent past, we had a very interesting meeting with the Group on the Rights of the Child of "The Smile of the Child", where children who participated in the consultation posed very useful concerns and proposals, in order to be able to co-shape the final draft legislation." More specifically here: https://www.livemedia.gr/video/474058
Ms. Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, President of Missing Children Europe (MCE), presented the contribution of "The Smile of the Child" to the mission of protecting and supporting abused children and praised its active action and networking as a member of MCE. More specifically here: https://www.livemedia.gr/video/474080
Ms. Pragathi Tummala, CEO of the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN), pointed out the importance of the synergy of all actors for the benefit of children, thanking "The Smile of the Child" for the quality and dedicated work it does, daily. More specifically here: https://www.livemedia.gr/video/474062
Ms. Lauren Coffren, Executive Director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), stressed that "The Smile of the Child" is doing an excellent job, empowering the voices of child survivors of abuse. More details here: https://www.livemedia.gr/video/474065
Then, Ms. Elena Rapti, National Coordinator, presented the National Action Plan for the protection of children from sexual abuse and exploitation, noting: "With the belief that informed children are safe, we want society and the state to join forces for the safety of our children. We consider "The Smile of the Child" our supporter in this institutional initiative for the protection of our children, and we will move forward together in this effort". More specifically here: https://www.livemedia.gr/video/474087
In the context of the scientific part of the Conference, which lasted until the late afternoon, distinguished scientists and experts in the field of child protection were introduced, namely:
- Ernesto Caffo, Professor, Founder and President of SOS Il Telefono Azzurro Onlus and Fondazione Child, President and Professor of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, who presented the conclusions of the CARE project, analyzing the importance of building a structured network to promote children's mental health. More detailed here: https://www.livemedia.gr/video/474085
- Vassiliki Artinopoulou, Professor of Criminology, Panteion University and UN International Expert, who presented strategies to prevent and deal with child sexual abuse around the world. More details here: https://www.livemedia.gr/video/474097
- George Nicolaou, Professor - Vice-President of the Department of Education & Social Work Sciences of the University of Patras, who analyzed how the deconstruction of the social state and the phenomena of sexual exploitation of minors are undoubtedly connected. More details here: https://www.livemedia.gr/video/474107
- Panagiotis Anastasiades, Professor of New Technologies in Lifelong and Distance Education at the Department of Education of the University of Crete and Director of E.DI.B.E.A., who presented the findings of the program "ODYSSEAS, 2017-2022", documenting how the tool of digital storytelling clearly gave the answers of children who participated in the relevant survey on cyberbullying and seduction (Grooming). More specifically here: https://www.livemedia.gr/video/474121
- Ioanna Noula, PhD in Pedagogy, Director of Research and Development, The Internet Commission, Visiting Academic of the Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science, who introduced children's rights in their digital environments, as well as the role, responsibility and accountability of digital service providers, such as Facebook or TikTok, and the well-being of young people in the digital age. More details here: https://www.livemedia.gr/video/474147
As the conference was held in the framework of the European project "Leaving with Care - Living with Care - CARE", co-funded by the Program for Rights, Equality and Citizenship of the European Union (2014-2020), the representatives of the implementing bodies from Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Croatia made interventions, and in particular:
- Stefanos Alevizos, Psychologist and Coordinator of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children of "The Smile of the Child", focusing on the trauma of the removal and the recorded experiences of children who were removed. More details here: https://www.livemedia.gr/video/474204
- Andria Angastiniotou, Deputy Director of the Humanitarian Sector of the Organization "Hope for Children" of the CRC Policy Center of Cyprus, who also spoke about the foster care program of the Organization. More details here: https://www.livemedia.gr/video/474152
- Selma Nametak, Coordinator of the Florence Service of the SOS Il Telefono Azzurro Onlus Organization in Italy on the contribution of the "CARE" project to the Italian system of prevention and treatment of trauma during and after the removal process. More specifically here: https://www.livemedia.gr/video/474159
- Andrea Gerčar, Project Coordinator on behalf of the Croatian Brave Phone Organisation, presenting the key proposals for an effective multidisciplinary approach to the process of removing minors outside the family environment. More detailed here: https://www.livemedia.gr/video/474166
In the last part of the conference, scientists from Croatia, Cyprus, active in Great Britain, and the United States were invited to answer extremely important questions, namely:
- Ana Marija Spanic, Clinical Psychologist of the Zagreb Center for Child and Youth Protection, presented on "Understanding the needs of children and young people with previous traumatic experiences". More specifically here: https://www.livemedia.gr/video/474171
- Phaedra Constantinou, Social Service Officer in the Social Welfare Services – SWS of the Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare of the Republic of Cyprus, shared her position on the implementation of safe foster care systems and the concept of advocacy for children exposed to abuse on "The removal process and foster care system in Cyprus". More details here: https://www.livemedia.gr/video/474173
- Chris Newlin, Executive Director of the National Children's Advocacy Center analyzed the topic "Protecting Children Exposed to Abuse in the United States: Starting with a Safe Environment." He was then honored by Mr. Yannopoulos with the "ANDREAS GIANNOPOULOS" award for his valuable contribution as a partner, collaborator and valuable friend of the Organization, in the context of their many years of close cooperation for the creation of the Day Center "The House of the Child" of "The Smile of the Child", inspired by the American model of the Advocacy Centers for Children "The House of the Child" in the USA. More details here: https://www.livemedia.gr/video/474211
- Ernie Allen, OBE, President of the WePROTECT Global Alliance, of which "The Smile of the Child" is a member, on "Hidden Victims", regarding the need for a globally coordinated protection of children from sexually explicit material on the web. More specifically here: https://www.livemedia.gr/video/474220
All the interventions and the material of the Conference will be available on the website of "The Smile of the Child", on social media and mainly on YouTube, as well as on the website www.meneimystiko.gr
"The Smile of the Child" warmly thanks NKUA for the kind donation of the Great Hall of Ceremonies.
More information on the European project "CARE":
Detailed Statistics of Abuse of the Organization for 2021:
Detailed Statistics of Abuse of the Organization for 2022:
More information about the Nationwide Campaign against Sexual Abuse "It Remains a Secret":
Watch the entire International Conference at the following link:
See the presentations of the speakers:
See photos from the Conference at the following link:
More information:"The Smile of the Child"Press Office
Tel.11040 (local charge)