Danish NGO: Break the Silence and Stop Child Abuse

Poor children selling their bodies. Men buying children for sex. Child pornography on the internet. Asia is one of the big problem areas: “We all know of the problem but to stop the abuse of children we have to break the silence,” says the head of the Danish organisation Stairway, Lars Jørgensen.

What started as a home for street kids from Manilla at a quiet beach close to Puerto Galera is now trying to reach out for the rest of the world and in particular Southeast Asia. As one of their slogans says: “We work with street kids and children’s rights in the Philippines and the rest of the world.”

Case: Growing up too fast
Her mother has to work overseas and send money home to the family. As the oldest daughter she becomes the lady in the house. Cleaning, cooking, and nursing her brothers and sisters is a hard job for a young teenage girl who should be in school.

Nevertheless the girl does a good job in maintaining the family and their house while her mother works abroad. But then one night the father calls her into his room and tells her to do things she has never done before. The first animation film from Stairway is about incest.

Stories from the streets of Manila
Animation films is a part of Stairway’s work to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation of children. The animations are a way to start talking about a hard issue, everyone can see what is going on but at a distance compared to watching real life persons in a movie.

Stairway has so far produced three animation films about sexual child abuse, they are all based on stories of real street kids. Stories which Lars Jørgensen and his wife Monica Ray have heard from children staying at Stairway’s children’s home.

Stairway works with an issue that is very tabooed, not least in Southeast Asia:
“There is a big need of training and educational work. A lot of people don’t want to acknowledge the problem,”  Lars Jørgensen says and continues: “Partly because it so hard to think of what happens when a adult abuses an child. Especially if you yourself are a parent.”

Case: A nice man with money
He has never met his father, he doesn’t go to school and he doesn’t have a home. He and his mother, and his baby sister live on the street. They beg to get food every single day. One day he meets a nice man who buys nice food for him and his family and gives them money as well so they can buy clothes or more food.

Some days later the nice man offers the boy to go with him on a trip. The man gives his mother a large sum of money and off they go. The young boy is amazed by the pool, bed, and hot showers, things that he have seen or tried before. But then in the end of a long and joyful day, the man lies in the bed next to the young boy and does things to him he never thought would happen. The second animation film from Stairway is about paedophilia.

Saving children in all Southeast Asia
The current project for Stairways is to get their materials out in all Southeast Asia. The materials consist of animations, workshops, textbooks, and training of professionals in several languages including Thai and Khmer. Currently Stairway’s materials are present in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and of course the Philippines but the aim is to cover the entirety of Southeast Asia and to do it comprehensively.

Today the materials are being used at different small and big organisations in Nepal, Thailand, India and Cambodia, but now Stairway wants to organize their regional activities better:
“We basically think our materials are the best and have proven to be very effective, so we try to cooperate with big international organisation’s like Unicef and German Kinder Not Hilfe, and get them to spread our knowledge,” says Lars Jørgensen.

According to Lars Jørgensen there is a big need for the world to acknowledge that sexual abuse of children is a huge problem in a global context. As he says children are being abused all over the world and child pornography is widely spread on the internet.
“We all have a task in opening our eyes to this issue – and to stop it. Because silence is acceptance,” he says.

Watching child abuse at home
The third animation film from Stairway is about child porn and sex trafficking. She lives in the countryside together with her mother and two smaller sisters, but the money is short so she needs to work for the family. And at the same time she has to go to school to get opportunities in life. But the money is to little and her mother decides that the young daughter has to drop out of school and work for a family in the city.

One day a friend of the family and a foreign man comes to the house and picks up both the young girl and her eight-year old younger sister. They are taken into the big city but not to work in a family’s house. They end up in a big room filled with young girls like themselves. Then one day a man orders the two girls into another room with a big pink bed, a video camera, and a big man.

Learn more about child abuse and how to stop it at Stairway’s website and the Break the Silence special website.

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