Renewed efforts needed to help protect girls from violence

One in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence by an adult in their childhood, according to the results of FRA’s survey on violence against women published last March. This translates to roughly 61 million women in the EU. Such levels of abuse underline the need for the EU to renew their efforts to address the widespread and under-reported abuse that girls are exposed to.

Throughout the EU many girls have been physically or sexually abused,” said FRA Director Morten Kjaerum on V-Day, in support of the global movement to end violence against women and girls. “This is unacceptable. The EU and Member States need to make sure girls are protected and cycles of abuse are stopped. This means targeting polices, legislation and programmes to reach those girls most at risk to end their suffering.

FRA’s survey on violence against women revealed the extent and nature of abuse against women and girls across the EU. The results were based on face-to-face interviews with 42,000 women in the 28 EU Member States. They provide reliable and comparable data on childhood experiences of violence.

As with other areas of FRA research, the results point to widespread under-reporting as the scale of the abuse does not match the number of incidents reported to the authorities. To address this, specialist support systems, with adequate resources, are therefore crucial, as FRA’s recent report on victim support services across the EU also highlighted. Such measures will increase trust in the authorities and help young girls report instances of abuse. This in turn will help improve their access to justice.

The needs of girls who are child victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse should also be better addressed during judicial proceedings. In spring this year, FRA will publish a comparative report on child participation in judicial proceedings which draws on examples of cases of domestic violence and sexual abuse. The preliminary findings highlight the importance of ensuring the child’s right to be heard and to receive information. For this, specific measures and training are required to help professionals better understand and cater to the needs of child victims, in line with the EU’s Victims’ Directive and the Council of Europe’s guidelines on child-friendly justice. For example, training lawyers or court workers to adequately inform and interview girls who have suffered abuse, or ensuring that girl victims of sexual violence are interviewed, whenever possible, by female professionals.

From the scale of abuse revealed by FRA’s survey, it is clear that girls and young women need better protection. To help, FRA’s research points to some ways that should significantly alleviate the suffering of the many abused girls across Europe. These include dedicated support services and trained professionals, such as police, social workers, lawyers, prosecutors and judges, who can help girls seek justice.