Preventing Sexual Violence against Children: shared purpose, shared language
On Tuesday 22 February, Rape Crisis Network Ireland launched ‘Breaking the Silence: Terminology Guidelines for Data Collection on Sexual Violence against Children’ at an online event featuring contributions from Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Inclusion and Youth Roderick O’Gorman, Biljana Brankovic, member of GREVIO, the independent expert body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) and Niall Muldoon, Ombudsman for Children.
One of the keystones of the Summary Report of the Third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence Strategy issued for public consultation last week by the Department of Justice was the need for ‘developing enhanced coordination of data collection strategies’. Nowhere is this more vital than in the services that work with child survivors of sexual violence who tell their stories in fragments and in whole in a range of fora. This new resource proposes shared terminology for services to join up those fragments to build evidence. This is important because the more comprehensive the picture of sexual violence against the child, the more comprehensive the advocacy, protection and interagency supports can be.
Breaking the Silence: Terminology Guidelines for Data Collection on Sexual Violence Against Children is the culmination of a collaboration with 28 organisations working in data collection and sexual violence against children, one of the most vulnerable and voiceless groups of all survivors. The project goal is a common language supported by guidelines for terminology on sexual violence against children. Adoption of the proposed shared terminology and definitions will bring data collection into line with international obligations, including the Istanbul Convention, and enable the collection of reliable, comprehensive and comparable data, thus breaking silences.
Said Clíona Saidléar, executive director of RCNI:
‘Supporting children experiencing sexual violence, understanding what is happening to them, and working towards prevention is a shared ambition for all the 28 different organisations in this report. We know that being able to share our knowledge effectively with each other and publicly is key to this objective. This is the first time we have come together to examine how we do that, to map the absences, gaps and assumptions and agree here the set of terms and definitions that we can all use to build that shared knowledge. This not only makes us compliant with the law and our obligations it empowers us to create change.’
Said Minister O’Gorman:
‘No violence against children is justifiable and we must do everything in our power to prevent it. Historically, children have been silenced by the use of vague and non-sexually explicit language that erases, condones, normalises or minimises violence against them. The more comprehensive the picture of the violence against the child, the more comprehensive the advocacy, protection and interagency supports can be. By using the shared, internationally recognised definitions and indicators provided in ‘Breaking the Silence’, the reports that Irish frontline services publish can contribute to the national and international evidence base on sexual violence against children.’
Speaking ahead of the launch of Breaking the Silence, the Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon said:
“The importance of how we define abuse in both legislation and every-day life cannot be underestimated. If we are all on the same page in terms of the terminology we use, with a shared set of definitions, the outcomes achieved will be greatly improved.
A shared understanding is needed now more than ever as the long overdue conversations around consent and educating young people and society, are finally taking place. We need to teach our young people how to interact in a respectful and safe way, and a common language is vital for these conversations to be successful.”