Half of girls, fifth of boys face sexual violence; Netherlands failing these kids

Half of girls and a fifth of boys in the Netherlands face some form of punishable physical sexual violence in their youth, according to estimates by Herman Bolhaar, the National Rapporteur on Human Trafficking and Sexual Violence Against Children. The Netherlands' approach to tackling this crime is too fragmented, resulting in children falling through the cracks. This must be improved, he said in the biennial victim monitor, NOS and RTL Nieuws report.

There are all kinds of initiatives and programs to tackle sexual violence against children, but here is no coherence and coordination, Bolhaar said. This results in sexual violence not getting attention, especially when it happens online. Another problem is that the government does not always view sexual violence between children as child abuse. 

"If we want to do something about it, we have to make a list of what is already happening and what is still missing. We must not overlook children", Bolhaar said, stressing that in al cases of all forms of sexual violence "children's right to safety and healthy development is being violated."

The current approach mainly lies with the Dutch municipalities, but not enough is happening there, Bolhaar said. He is particularly worried about sexual violence victims who are already on the radar of the Child Protection Board, due to other problems in their families like addiction or mental illness. 15 percent of these children are still waiting for youth care after six months, even if a judge ruled that the victim's safety is at risk, Bolhaar said. "Then good help must be provided quickly, because especially with sexual violence there is a high risk that they will become victims again."

Much sexual violence against children remains hidden, because of a lack of communication on this topic. Especially children under the age of 12 years find it difficult to talk about, making it less likely that the violence against them will be noticed. Bolhaar therefore calls for more discussion about sexual border-crossing behavior. "A home, at school, among young people themselves. Everyone must feel safe to talk about it."