Child sexual abuse is a global public health crisis, with long-term adverse consequences to the health and wellbeing of victims their family members, and the community. Most victims never tell anyone of their abuse because of shame and stigma. As a result, many victims will live anguished lives. We believe survivors of child sexual abuse deserve to know that their lives matter, that what they experienced was wrong, and that healing is possible.
In 2019, a group of survivors and individuals whose lives have been impacted by child sexual abuse launched the April 8th Global Collaborative to establish an International Day for Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Prevention, Healing, and Justice.
Today, our collaborative has a network of over 50 international child welfare and advocacy organizations, faith-based institutions, survivor networks, and governments working together to protect children and bring healing to survivors of abuse. We believe the time has come for all nations to stand with us, speak out, and commit resources to accomplish these aims.
Launch of the World Day for Child Sexual Abuse Prevention, Healing and Justice:
The members of the Global Collaborative believe a World Day will provide a forum to bring survivors, civil society, and governments together to focus and better align vital resources, heighten awareness of the problem of CSAE, and support victims and their families in their quest for healing and justice.
The aim of the World Day is to end child sexual abuse and exploitation, bring healing and justice to victims/survivors, eliminate the stigma for survivors of abuse, and break the silence about this tragic crime by providing a forum for those who experienced sexual abuse to raise their voices and be heard. This will be accomplished through the following actions:
Bringing global visibility to the right for every child to grow up free from all forms of sexual abuse, both online and offline.
Raising awareness of measures that can be taken by communities, schools, religious institutions, recreational venues, inter-governmental organizations, families, and young persons to ensure that every child is protected.
Harnessing the power of social media with celebrity and high-profile survivors sharing their stories to help eliminate the stigma experienced by victims of child sexual abuse and exploitation.
Channeling the creativity and influence of a range of partners to accelerate the adoption of legislation, policies, and procedures to ensure all children are safe, and victims/survivors receive justice and have access to the resources they need to heal.
Accelerating adoption of evidence-based practices by health care providers, social welfare organizations, and faith communities to enable effective healing for victims/survivors of abuse, their family members, and communities.
On April 8, 2021, the Global Collaborative launched the first World Day for Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention, Healing, and Justice. On this historic day, over 50 child sexual abuse survivor networks, and child welfare advocacy organizations signed an open letter calling on world leaders to formally recognize child sexual abuse as a serious, and pervasive global public health crisis.
Harvard University, the Catholic University of America, and the Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities. hosted an international, interfaith, interdisciplinary symposium called Faith and Flourishing: Strategies for Preventing and Healing Child Sexual Abuse. The program received international recognition, with 73 speakers, and 1,800 participants from over 23 countries, and blessings and messages of support from religious leaders from the major houses of worship, including a blessing by Pope Francis.
High-Level Political Forum 2021 Side Event:
On 14 July 2021, 7:30 AM to 9:00 AM EST, the World Childhood Foundation, USA, Shine on Sierra Leone, and the leadership of the CSAE-World Day movement hosted the April 8 World Day side-event during the United Nations, High-level Political Forum.
The side event attended by survivors, and representatives from civil society, academia, and key Missions focused on SDG target 16.2, End abuse, exploitation, trafficking, and all forms of violence against and torture of children, and accompanying indicators aimed at reducing the proportion of young women and men aged 18-29 years who have experienced sexual violence by age 18 by 2030, within the broader decade of action and delivery for sustainable development.
An esteemed panel of child sexual abuse survivors, and advocacy leaders highlighted current challenges, lessons learned and necessary, evidence-based interventions to increase global actions. The speakers discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated child sexual abuse and exploitation (CSAE) and the various ways in which the international community and member states could get back on track for achieving SDG target 16.2, including:
Reducing the stigma associated with child sexual abuse by recognizing the April 8, World Day for Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention, Healing, and Justice established by a global network of child sexual abuse survivors and advocates.
Deploying evidence-based prevention and detection efforts in communities, schools, recreational venues, faith-based organizations, and online to ensure the safety of all children.
Providing survivors of child sexual abuse and exploitation access to essential health care services, including mental health and supportive services to help them heal.
Ensuring access to fair, child-focused, survivor-centered justice.
We received messages of support from faith leaders, the government of Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, and Victoria Atkins, Minister for Safeguarding of the UK. In addition, Ms. Christel De Craim, Chairperson of the Committee of the Parties to the Lanzarote Convention (Lanzarote Committee), provided an overview of the Convention, its monitoring body, and the European Day for the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (18 November) established by the Council of Europe in 2015.
The Global Collaborative will host a series of events to increase awareness of the 18 November Day for Child Sexual Abuse Prevention, and to promote the UN resolution to Member States. A Calendar of events may be found in the attached (EXHIBIT B).
The Lanzarote Convention
The Lanzarote Convention, is the world’s first international instrument to establish the various forms of sexual abuse of children as criminal offences, including such abuse committed in the home or family, with the use of force, coercion, or threats. The convention signed, and ratified by all 47 Europe Member States of the Council of Europe, and Tunisia the first Member State outside of Europe, requires criminalization of all forms of sexual offences against children and sets out that states in Europe and beyond shall adopt specific legislation and take measures to prevent sexual violence, to protect child victims and to prosecute perpetrators.
The Lanzarote Committee is the body established to monitor whether Parties effectively implement the Lanzarote Convention. The Committee is also charged with identifying good practices, in particular during capacity-building activities (study visits, conferences, etc.). In 2015, the Council of Europe established the European Day for the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse and decided that it would be held on an annual basis on 18 November to link it with the Universal Children’s Day (20 November).
Following the HLPF Side-event, the founders of the April 8th Global Collaborative met with the designated representative of the Council of Europe and agreed to recommend the 18 November to the Member States of the United Nations for consideration as the World Day for Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention, Healing and Justice, and we revised the name to the “Global Collaborative.”