DISY deputy Stella Kyriakidou, who heads the Cyprus end of the Council of Europe`s ‘One in Five’ campaign, which advocates for abused children, plans to call on the government for the creation of a Children’s House as part of a national strategy to combat abuse.
Such facilities are widely available in Scandinavian countries, according to Council of Europe`s Lanzarote Committee President Bragi Gudbrandsson who was in Cyprus this week. The island just recently ratified the Lanzarote Convention on Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse.
A Children’s House brings together all those involved in combating abuse under one roof while providing a safe and suitable environment for interviewing and supporting abused children.
Kyriakidou told the Cyprus News Agency that in with a Children’s House teams of experts from across many departments could come together to review each sexual abuse case. At the moment, even though the experts do meet, children still need to visit different offices for the necessary processes to be completed.
A Children’s House would bring all the necessary services under one roof.
Kyriakidou says she intends to ask the government to draft a national strategy on matters of sexual abuse and exploitation of children in order to ensure that the Lanzarote Convention is being implemented.
Gudbrandsson, is the founder of the first-ever Children´s House, which was established in Iceland in 1998.
he said seven years later the first Children’s House opened in Sweden. Today there are 29 more plus ten in Norway and eight in Denmark.
“I often call it the quiet revolution in child protection,” he told CNA.
Gudbrandsson said many other European countries were planning to do the same, giving the example of the UK where King`s College has put forward to the NHS a detailed proposal for setting up five Children`s Houses in London; a proposal now under review. There are also countries who send delegations to Iceland to study the concept of the Children`s House, he said.
Asked whether a delegation from Cyprus had visited, he replied: “Not yet, but I would love to have Cyprus over. I was very glad to learn about the interest there is in Cyprus about it.”
Gudbrandsson said countries which ratify the Lanzarote Convention, such as Cyprus, “join hands” to ensure that measures are taken to protect children and prevent them from being victimised.
According to Gudbrandsson, “the social awareness issue is so important because it is crucial to have a society that understands the phenomenon of child sexual abuse, as this is a prerequisite for children to be able to disclose.” Without the child`s disclosure, he explains, “there is no case, we are unable to provide the child with the necessary help, we cannon investigate the case.”
“I think the implementation of a Children`s House is a sign of taking the Convention in all its entirety and of implementing it in a very comprehensive manner,” he said, adding that “that would be one important sign of response to the Lanzarote Convention.”
“I am really optimistic for Cyprus, that it can be one of the leading countries in the near future.”