Preventing and tackling the phenomenon of child abuse was the theme of the online conference organized by KMOP – Social Action and Innovation Center, as part of the European Erasmus+ project “Co-Happiness: Happy and safe in the Community“. The aim was to inform and raise public awareness in order to prevent cases of child abuse and maltreatment as well as to empower children to recognize and speak more openly about these incidents through an online game developed by the project implementation team.
The discussion was attended by more than 160 people and it was moderated by journalist Maira Barba. Terms such as “gang”, “demarcation” and “safe touch” were discussed during the event. The types of child abuse and the legal framework for child protection were also analyzed in order to provide audience with the necessary set of knowledge to better recognize the signs of child abuse.
General Director of KMOP and Vice President of the Confederation of Family Organizations in the European Union (COFACE), Dr. Antonia Torrens, pointed out that “child abuse is a very sensitive and important issue because the traumas of childhood accompany us throughout our lives”. The ultimate goal, added, should be prevention, in the wider context of which Live Without Bullying has been developed. This program through its online platform provides 24-hour support to children and parents. Dr. Torrens, as the founder of the Live Without Bullying program, also announced that a similar action in the field of sports will be available to the public in the autumn. In particular, it will aim to inform and train coaches to manage child abuse cases.
Child psychologist and author Alexandra Kappatou referred to the concepts of demarcation, discipline and punishment, adding that the boundary between them often is indistinguishable from parents. “Boundaries are not arbitrary. They are intended to help the child develop maturity and the skills needed to protect themselves,” she said.
During the event a large part of the results of the research was presented, which is carried out within the framework of the program in six countries (Portugal, Finland, the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Romania) and concerns the successful interventions for the prevention of the phenomenon through social capital and collective efficacy. Among others, the need to take more child-centered measures to enable the management of child abuse and maltreatment cases was highlighted. This is because it has been observed that although there are methods and strategies for preventing and combating the phenomenon, few practices are child friendly. Sociologist and researcher of the project, Maria Elli Doufexi Kaplani, demonstrated that most practices focus on case management, rather than on the prevention of the phenomenon. In addition, many practices focus on supporting children and their families after and not before the incident of abuse.
From the ELIZA Association, clinical Psychologist Dr. Tinia Apergi, referred to “safe touch”, an innovative program for the prevention of sexual abuse and education of children aged 5-9 years. She presented the prevailing myths surrounding child abuse, emphasizing that many of the perceptions that prevailed in the past have now been refuted. Psychotherapist and associate of the Eliza Association, Konstantinos Fyssas, referred to the protocol for the identification and management of children for whom there is a suspicion of physical abuse, focusing particularly on the training of professionals.
Educator, researcher and primary school director, Maria Vlachaki referred to the catalytic role of the school in dealing with abusive behaviors. She also demonstrated the need for teachers to have up-to-date knowledge regarding the protection and rights of the child. Criminologist, Chara Galanou, then focused on the forms of child abuse and the bodies responsible for child protection. As she said, “there is no child who has committed a crime who has not been neglected or abused before.”
Co-Happiness manager, Aphrodite Azari, gave an overview of the project and presented the game “Happy on a Mission”. She explained that the game targets children aged 6-9 years in order to help them be informed about situations that may affect their personal safety. It also aims to transfer knowledge through playing, as well as to develop prevention skills and communication abilities. The game, added Ms. Azari, was based on children’s knowledge and experiences so that its content can be easily understood and retained in children’s memory.
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