On the International Day for Protection of Children, one Ecuadorean group is breaking the silence on childhood sexual abuse to raise awareness about the problem that impacts at least one in four girls and one in six boys in the South American country.
The campaign Ecuador Says No More ramped up its effort to combat childhood sexual abuse by releasing a series of new informative videos to spread awareness and encourage victims and their family members to speak out.
Paula Andrade, executive director of the group, explained that the awareness campaign focuses on a common story and providing support for victims and families: what to do before abuse happens, what to do or how to act in suspicious situations and finally how to move on.
"The family does not know how to deal with this. Often out of shame, out of appearance, out of pain, because the one who points out is a known enemy,” Andrade said.
Andrade and her husband, Ricardo Velez, were both victims of childhood sexual abuse by family members and confined to silence for many years. Now, through their organization, they are speaking out, raising a voice for the voiceless.
“Sexual abuse suffered in childhood is like a perpetual stamp impossible to deny. We ask courageous women and men and organizations to take a step forward. Especially those women and men survivors of sexual abuse in their childhood, to ensure that no other girl, boy or adolescent is failed as we were failed,” the organization stated.
According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every six boys and one out of every four girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18. In about 93 percent of these cases, the offender is either a relative or an acquaintance. An additional 73 percent of family members will offer no support to victims.
But in Ecuador, as in many other countries, it is expected that the actual statistics are much higher, given significant underreporting sexual crimes.
The campaign has received support from the United Nations, numerous cities and state officials around Ecuador, as well as 60 celebrities from television actors to sports stars to beauty queens. The group has also successfully opened four support groups available for victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Thursday also marks another step in raising awareness, as the organization joined forces with the United Nations Children’s Fund to collaborate in an educational campaign.
The organization also hopes to include an article in Ecuador's Organic Law on Protection of Children and Adolescents and implement this learning proposal into schools and educational institutions.
Videos from the campaign have been published on the organization’s website.