United Nations Declares November 18 as World Day Aimed at Ending Child Sexual Exploitation and Violence, Bringing Hope and Healing to Survivors 

NCOSE Press Statement logo

NEW YORK, NY (November 7, 2022) – 2022 marks the 20-year anniversary of the famed Spotlight Report published by the Boston Globe that revealed the systemic cover-up of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. Today, the United Nations has declared November 18 as the World Day for the Prevention of, and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence. 

Survivors of child sexual abuse (CSA), including several who experienced abuse by clergy, joined actor Neal Huff, who played Phil Saviano in the Oscar-winning film ‘Spotlight’, a child sex abuse survivor who helped the Boston Globe’s Spotlight investigative team blow open the hidden plague of pedophile priests in the Boston Archdiocese at United Nations for a critical vote on the establishment of a world day for the prevention of child sexual abuse. 

“Child sexual abuse is one of the greatest violations to human dignity, one can suffer,” said H.E. Ambassador Alhaji Fanday Turay. “The World Day for the Prevention of, and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence is a critical step in bringing institutional recognition to this horrific childhood trauma. Too many victims of child sexual abuse are suffering in shame and silence. Many live anguished lives. By adopting this Resolution, we can provide a platform for all nations and civil society to mobilize and take actions to protect children from this tragedy.” 

The survivors and leading child welfare advocates stood by H.E. Fatima Maada Bio, the First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone, a survivor of child marriage, as she addressed the General Assembly urging action. “Child sexual abuse is a global public health crisis. We must acknowledge this problem, and take every necessary action to protect our children, especially our girls from this tragic human condition.”   

The World Health Organization reports that millions of children experience child sexual violence each year. The Resolution facilitated by Sierra Leone and Nigeria aims to bring global visibility to the problem of child sexual abuse and promote the right for every child to grow up free from all forms of sexual abuse, both on-line and off-line.   

The prevalence of CSA, the serious consequences to the victim’s health and emotional wellbeing, and the fact that it is preventable has placed CSA among the 25 risk factors identified by the WHO as substantively contributing to the global burden of disease. “The toll child sexual abuse takes goes deep. It harms the victim, and their loved ones, and it has grave consequences to the health and wellbeing of our nations costing billions each year in increased health care costs and lost GDP,” said H.E. Bio.   

“We adopted November 18 as a World Day to increase awareness of the actions all governments can take to prevent abuse and bring healing to survivors,” said Dr. Jennifer Wortham, a researcher at Harvard who founded the Global Collaborative, the survivor led network that led the international advocacy campaign to launch the world day for child sexual abuse prevention, healing, and justice in 2021. Wortham’s brothers are clergy abuse survivors, and Wortham shared that they have struggled with the effects of their abuse for their entire lives. “We launched the Global Collaborative to bring hope and healing to the millions of children, and adult survivors like my brothers, who are suffering around the world.”  

In 2020, Wortham met Michael Hoffman, former President of Prevent Child Abuse Illinois and clergy abuse survivor working with the Chicago Archdiocese to develop programs for prevention and healing. They contacted Dr. Melissa Merrick, President and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America, to ask for support for the world day, and she agreed. “Greater awareness of child sexual abuse, alongside strong policies and programs are part of a successful public health approach to prevent child sexual abuse before it can occur,” said Dr. Merrick. “Prevent Child Abuse America is proud and humbled to serve as the Founding Partner of the Global Collaborative and to help bring prevention, awareness, and healing to our collective hearts and minds.” 

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month and Sexual Assault Prevention Month. “April 8th is also my brother Patrick’s birthday. I wanted him to know that the world cares, that his life mattered, that what he experienced was unjust, and that healing is possible,” said Wortham. 

On April 8, 2021, members of the Global Collaborative sent an open letter to world leaders requesting the establishment of a world day. “A few days later I received a call from Pellagia Gambiza, the Executive Director of Shine On Sierra Leone offering to help,” said Wortham, “after which Pellagia arranged a call for us with the First Lady of Sierra Leone. We spoke and she told me – I believe in what you are doing, and I’m going to help you. She stood by her word and here we are today. We are all so grateful for what she has done, she is our forever Hero.”  

In 2015, the Council declared November 18 as the Europe Day for the Protection of Children Against Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. The Council of Europe Convention on Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, also known as “the Lanzarote Convention,” requires criminalization of all kinds of sexual offences against children. It sets out that states in Europe and beyond shall adopt specific legislation and take measures to prevent sexual violence, to protect child victims and to prosecute perpetrators.   

“When we learned of the Europe Day, I met with our survivor team, and we knew the best chances for establishing a World Day at the United Nations would be to adopt the November 18 day,” said Wortham. “We knew we needed the support of the European countries to make the world day happen; I believed that this was the best choice for all.”  

Members of the Global Collaborative believe child sexual abuse is a multi-factorial problem that requires a multi-factor approach. “At EndCAN, we believe that uniting voices, working collectively, and standing together not only supports those impacted by abuse, but creates a community of those who stand to end abuse,” said Lori Poland, President, EndCAN.  

“There is no issue more critical than the protection of children from child predation and exploitation,” said Lynn Shaw, Founder of Lynn’s Warriors.   

Professor Marci Hamilton, Founder and CEO of ChildUSA, a leading policy thinktank believes a key lever for addressing the crisis is to eliminate or extend existing statutes of limitations that currently prevent many victims from seeking justice. “We joined the Global Collaborative because we believe a world day will help accelerate adoption of policies government leaders can implement to protect children and bring justice to individuals who experienced these crimes,” said Hamilton. 

“UN World Days have been established to shed light on countless topics, yet for too long survivors of child sexual abuse, exploitation, and violence remained in the shadows—until now. This day is a historic step forward and will catalyze meaningful progress for years to come,” said Haley McNamara, Vice President of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and Director of the International Centre on Sexual Exploitation.

The WeProtect Global Alliance welcomes the adoption of the resolution at the 77th UN General Assembly, establishing the World Day for the Prevention of, and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence. This resolution sends an important signal that child sexual exploitation and abuse is now firmly on the global agenda and underlines the need for coordinated global responses to support the prevention of and healing from child sexual abuse, both online and offline. We thank Jennifer Wortham and the Global Collaborative and the governments of Sierra Leone and Nigeria for their tireless work,” said Iain Drennan, Executive Director, WeProtect Global Alliance. 

—————————————- 

Contacts:  

Jennifer Wortham, Global Collaborative 

[email protected] 

+1 626 633 2651 

Nicole Teresa Juneja, Global Collaborative, Media Relations 

[email protected]

+91 8800 603 011 

Maureen Jasculca, on behalf of Prevent Child Abuse America

[email protected]

+1 763 442 0165 

About the Global Collaborative 

The Global Collaborative is an all-volunteer, survivor-led network of child advocacy organizations, academic institutions, survivor networks, NGOs, and faith actors mobilizing to bring an end to child sexual exploitation and abuse. Our mission is to support governments, and institutions in their efforts to protect children from CSEA and promote healing for survivors of childhood trauma.  

For more information, please visit: https://www.globalcollaborative.org/

The following organizations are co-founders and Partners of the World Day:

A Breeze of Hope Foundation
American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children
Arigatou International
Army of Survivors
Australia eSafety Commission
Awake
Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs
Bellweather International
Candle in a Dark Room
Child Abuse Council
Christian Cultural Center
Darkness to Light
Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children
General Federation of Women’s Clubs
End FGM/C U.S./Network
Enough Abuse Campaign
Human Flourishing Program, Harvard University
Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities
International Board of Rabbi’s
ISPCAN
Keep Kids Safe Coalition
International Centre on Sexual Exploitation
Islamic Relief
Lynns Warrior’s
Male Survivors
Maria Goretti Network
Monique Burr Foundation
National Center on Sexual Exploitation
New York Board of Rabbi’s PACE
Prevent Child Abuse America
RHAMA
Roads of Success
Sacred Spaces
Shine on Sierra Leone
Survivor Network for Those Abused by Priests
The Catholic Project
The New York Foundling
Their Story is our Story
WeProtect Global Alliance
World Childhood Foundation USA
World Council of Churches
World Vision
YMCA USA

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The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.

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