Netherlands is failing to protect children against sexual violence: National Rapporteur

AMSTERDAM - The Netherlands is failing to protect its children against sexual violence. Almost half of all girls and one in five boys experience sexual violence before their 18th birthday. Over 20 thousand children are victims every year. "That means a victim of rape, sexual assault or sextortion," Herman Bolhaar, the National Rapporteur on Human Trafficking and Sexual Violence Against Children, said to Nieuwsuur.

Schools, governments and agencies need to do much more, and much sooner, to prevent sexual violence, Bolhaar said. According to him, many perpetrators are young, more than a quarter are minors. "Many young people do not know what the boundaries are, for themselves, let alone for others. Just as we give children swimming lessons, structural programs must be set up around this theme, for example at school. It must become a fixed value in education," he said to the program.

A quarter of minor sex offenses commit a new offense within two years. According to Bolhaar, offenders are not monitored by the authorities for long enough after their sentence. Their trial and sentencing must also happen faster. "On average, there are 417 days between the day the case is presented to the Public Prosecution Service and a ruling is made by the court."

Many perpetrators were also victims of sexual violence themselves. These often involve vulnerable young people who already have problems at home or at school. Identifying these problems early is very important and must be done better," the rapporteur said. "Police, Public Prosecution Service, and municipalities must take steps in this regard."

Bolhaar also wants youth workers to be trained more in making sexual violence a topic that can be safely discussed. More than half of victims never report being attacked, often because they are afraid. This needs to change, Bolhaar said.

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