Child sex abuse campaign launched by Council of Europe

Girl sitting alone, looking out through a bedroom window The Council of Europe says one in five children in Europe is a victim of sex abuse

The Council of Europe has launched a new campaign to fight sexual violence against children.

The One in Five campaign, so named because one child in five in Europe is a victim of sexual abuse, is also aimed at improving international co-operation on persecuting offenders.

It aims to teach children aged four to seven about their rights to set limits and speak out against abuse.

The campaign is being promoted through a TV advert, a book and a website.

It centres around the Underwear Rule - a simple guide to help parents explain to children where others should not try to touch them, how to react and where to seek help.

"Children are abused every day, often by those they trust: parents, teachers or authority figures," said Maud de Boer Buquicchio, deputy secretary-general of the Council of Europe, at the opening ceremony in Rome of the campaign.

"We need to help them break out of the four walls of the home and tell someone what's happening."

The TV advert features a green cartoon child who gives permission to a large, brightly-coloured hand to pat him on the head and tickle him, but reacts angrily when the hand asks if it can touch parts of his body covered by his underwear.

The campaign comes in the wake of the sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church which came to light last year.

"We don't want to stigmatise the Catholic Church in particular... but it's true that children in institutions outside the normal social circuit are particularly vulnerable," Ms de Boer Buquicchio told the AFP news agency.

"We need appropriate elements in place in religious and state-run institutions before it's too late," she added.

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