What is the ‘Protective Ribbon’ campaign for children?
A report prepared by the Children’s Rights Commission of Human Rights Association of Turkey once again presented abhorring figures about our children on June 12.
According to the report, basing the numbers on official figures, 8,000 children are exposed to sexual abuse on average per year. This is the figure based on only official numbers.
There is also the following figure in the report: The group that is most exposed to sexual abuse in Turkey is children with 46 percent.
The sexual abuse of children is one of the biggest problems in Turkey. Luckily, there are people who want to raise awareness regarding this issue and work with their hearts and souls to protect children.
One of these people is Prof. Dr. Bahadır Erdem, president of the Family Law Association and the Law Commission of the Children Rights Platform—a platform consisting of 26 associations.
Apart from the issues of marriage, divorce, and property sharing, the Family Law Association, with an experience of 10 years, also deals with child custody and state child protection.
Erdem, with who I have recently had the opportunity to speak with, is also a board member of the Turkish Education Foundation (TEV). “Children firstly need to learn about protection against sexual abuse. And we can accomplish this only through education,” he said.
The professor noted that parents, teachers, and all officials working with children need to also be trained regarding the sexual abuse issue.
“[Legal] punishments are already severe, but they are not being executed. Rather than increasing the penalties, we need to concentrate on children’s learning to defend themselves,” he said.
For example, in India, where child sexual abuse cases are widespread, there are wonderful cartoon films educating children regarding this issue. Also, Bollywood makes lots of films drawing attention to the issue of child sexual abuse.
If we go back to Turkey, Erdem said the Children Rights Platform, as well as nine associations, including the Turkish Foundation for Children in Need of Protection (Koruncuk) and Turkish Association for Infant Mental Health, have called out for a social movement against children’s sexual abuse, adding that they have called this movement the “Protective Ribbon Campaign.”
“We plan for school counselors and classroom teachers to provide training on self-defense and how to stand up to sexual abuse for first graders in the first four weeks of their schooling. Children who receive this training will be given ‘Protective Ribbons’ in a ceremony, just like when teachers in the past put on red ribbons to students who learn how to read,” said Erdem, when asked about this campaign.
“The ‘Protective Ribbon’ will symbolize the child has received a training of self-protection against sexual abuse and that they have learned how to protect themselves,” Erdem said.
This campaign needs to be embraced as a state policy, Erdem said, adding that the nine associations along with the Children Rights Platform, which have made the call, are ready to offer the relevant training.
The New Beginnings Foundation has been established to support girls who have been put under protection after being exposed to sexual abuse. The foundation was founded by 300 graduates of Istanbul University’s Faculty of Medicine. Among its founders, only three people are alive today: Dr. Berna Hocaoğlu, Dr. Feriha Arıoğlu, and Dr. Menekşe Alpay.
I have recently had a chance to meet with Dr. Berna Hocaoğlu at a meeting held by the Arya Women Investment Platform in the Turkish resort town of Bodrum.
Dr. Hocaoğlu said the foundation was established to offer psychiatric support to girls who have been exposed to sexual abuse. The New Beginnings Foundation is working closely with Children Support Centers, under the Family and Social Policies Ministry, which accommodate children in need of protection. Despite the widespread cases of child abuse, the number of “child psychiatrists” to help these children overcome their traumas is only 1,000.
Another problem is there are not enough beds for children who need to receive in-patient psychiatric treatment in hospitals. There are only 14 beds at Istanbul’s Bakırköy Psychiatric Hospital.
Dr. Hocaoğlu said the system of children’s services has been well planned, but as it can be understood from the aforementioned examples, the opportunities are quite limited.
The issue of child abuse in Turkey is unfortunately a bottomless pit.