One in five children in Greece will fall victim to sexual abuse at least once by the time they reach 18, a Greek NGO has said.
Afroditi Stathis, director of ELIZA, a campaign group set up in 2008, made the claim to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA) in light of the recent abuse case on Leros island which shocked Greece.
The ELIZA director said in Greece’s conservative society many incidents of abuse went unreported, so there is no exact data. Even in the Leros case, she said, neighbors knew what was happening but the rape of children remained a secret.
“Unfortunately, the evidence we have on the phenomenon of abuse in our country is very limited, as there is no national system for recording the incidents,” Stathis said.
“The stories that see the light of publicity are only the tip of the iceberg. The abuse, even today, remains a well-hidden pathogeny of society, a ‘taboo’ affair,” she added.
According to existing data, Stathis said, one in five children (0-18 years old) will experience at least one incident of sexual violence, with a high percentage of such incidents never being reported to the competent child protection services.
Ninety percent of cases unreported
“It is essential to point out that there is no specific perpetrator profile, as many people wrongly think,” Stathis said.
“The offender may be a man or woman, of good appearance or not, from any region and social class. He is not the stranger lurking in the park. It is someone who often develops a close relationship of trust with the victim, a relationship of dependence and obedience.
“That is why it is essential to educate all those involved in the child protection chain. Because children often cry out without talking. Someone should, therefore, listen to them and protect them.”
Stathis stressed that the sooner the victim or witnesses reveal such cases, the sooner the healing of the trauma can begin: “What we often say is that the sooner the incident is exposed, the better for treating the child.
“The parents’ reaction to the revelation plays a catalytic role, and parents must remain calm and ready to listen and ultimately help the children. The message we all have to remember is that children can overcome the traumatic event, provided they find appropriate counseling and above all when a loving and affectionate adult believes and supports them,” Stathis said.