In 1974, Minnesotan brothers Dave and John Kunst walked around the earth. Many peo- ple wondered why they were doing it, and assumed they were on a fundraising mission. But the boys just wanted to see if it was possible and suggested people donate to Unicef, if they wanted, as they were not walking for any particular cause. Every town they passed came to know of them, and when they reached Monaco, they were invited to lunch with Princess Grace.
Their story always intrigued me. Imagine if they were walking today. With instant global communication, their progress would be watched, tracked, shared, and tweeted around the globe!
At Stop the Silence, our goal is to end child sexual abuse by ending the silence that shrouds it, while providing tested prevention and treatment services to address it. As the European Ambassador for Stop the Silence, and as a child sexual abuse survivor, I am embarking on the Road to Change: Walk to Stop the Silence. The purpose of the walk is to raise awareness about child sexual abuse, build solidarity between organisations and communities, support survivors and influence social and political change in 27 of the countries that make up the European Union (EU).
Unlike the Kunst brothers, however, I will rely on media, public, and political attention in every nation – along with today’s instant global communication – to make my mission a success.
So, how does one peacefully earn the attention of 27 countries? By walking 10,000 miles and visiting with them. I plan to connect with policymakers in each nation, engaging them and their public on two key policy issues that currently impact the ongoing cycle of child sexual abuse: 1) The ‘Age of Consent’ which ranges from 18 down to 13 years across the EU, and 2) the ‘Statute of limitations’ which also differs dramatically, preventing victims from finding justice and allowing offenders to continue offending, unchallenged.
I will also be speaking at universities in each nation to increase awareness and understanding about child sexual abuse, networking with non-governmental groups to assist any way I can to create connections, and advocating for the use or adoption of the revolutionary Child Advocacy Studies Training (CAST) training. CAST is designed to train future generations of lawyers, judges, medical personnel, teacher, and other services providers who have contact daily with victims of child maltreatment. It was developed by the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) in the United States in collaboration with other organisations with the hope that it will be adopted by nations around the globe.
Imagine… As the use of this type of training gains momentum, each nation will be encouraged to review its own policies surrounding child protection. As a result of the added light shone on this issue, survivors across the EU will be further empowered by this event. Communities will begin to speak out more and support their local related charities. And the most important results of all: children will be increasingly protected across the continent, and the world will become a safer place for millions of children now and in the future.
Ambitious? As W. Clement Stone once said: ‘Aim for the moon; even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars’. This project will definitely change some lives but it has the potential to change the lives of millions. To make sure it does, we need your contributions: moral, monetary, and in-kind support. See the ‘how you can help’ page to see how you can get involved. No one person can remove Child Sexual Abuse from the world by themselves, we all need to work together. You don’t need to walk 10’000 miles with me, but please give what you can!
Thank you for your time and for imagining with me. I know you can see the importance of this Road to Change – again, please lend whatever support you can!
The Road to Change