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Social media warning in sex abuse cases

The mother's identity was revealed on Facebook

The naming on social media of the mother arrested in connection with the alleged sexual abuse of her nine-year-old daughter has further victimised the child as it led to her being identified, lawyer Anastasia Papadopoulou said on Thursday.

Speaking to state broadcaster CyBC radio, Papadopoulou, who is the special advisor of the ad hoc ministerial committee against child sexual abuse, said that even though publicising reports concerning child sexual abuse is important to encourage other victims to come forward, media and members of the public should not reveal details that could identify victims.

The identity of the 32-year-old woman who was arrested earlier in the week, along with her 34-year-old partner in connection with the alleged sexual abuse of the former’s nine-year-old daughter, was revealed two days ago by a Facebook group.

After the police were alerted, efforts were made to take the post in question down, but once it’s online, it is not easy to control the spread of such information, Papadopoulou said.

“What they did was criminal, stressful and destructive for the child because they led to its identification,” Papadopoulou said.

She stressed the need for the public to be better informed so that they appreciate that it is wrong to reveal details that could harm the victims.

Papadopoulou said that a legislative amendment is being promoted to protect victims.

“At the moment, it is not a criminal offence for anyone to reveal information concerning cases of child sexual abuse, but an amendment will change this,” she said.

As regards protocols on the protection of children that are sexually abused, she said that Cyprus has improved its practices over the last two years and will be improved even more in a few months’ time when the ‘House of the Child’ opens. The aim is to provide children – victims of sexual abuse – the appropriate services and reduce the traumatic effects suffered in the complaint management process and any potential re-victimisation and stigmatisation.

It will house all services, she said, and this will put a stop to the transfer of the child-victim from one state service to another – police, hospital, legal services etc – and from repeating events over and over.

The building that will house this specialised unit is currently being restored, Papadopoulou said, and the team to man the facility is being trained in how to handle such cases.

As soon as a report is made, the victim will be taken to the ‘House of the Child’, where there will be police officers, psychologists, social workers, and doctors, all ready to provide the necessary support, she said.

The 32 and 34-year-old were arrested earlier in the week, and were remanded for eight days, following a report by a social welfare official that the mother had been turning a blind eye while her current and her previous partners sexually abused her daughter. The sexual abuse allegedly first began in 2012 when the girl was five, reports said, by different partners of her mother.

The case is being handled by the police special investigation team against child sex abuse.

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