By Dr. Paul Zeitz, the Brave Movement's Interim Executive Coordinator
WASHINGTON, DC, April 25, 2022 – Societies around the globe are facing a silent scourge affecting millions of our children and adolescents around the globe.
But it’s not the COVID-19 pandemic that is posing this alarming threat but sexual violence. Children are facing child sexual abuse, intrafamilial sexual violence, child sexual exploitation, rape, child marriage, sexual violence in dating relationships and sexual violence among peers, both in person and online.
I, myself, am the survivor of childhood sexual violence perpetrated at the hands of my father. That’s why I’m honored to help lead the newly inaugurated Brave Movement made up of fifteen adult survivors of childhood sexual violence and out allies worldwide.
As a doctor trained in preventative medicine, I worked over the past two decades on the AIDS crisis, when the global community came together in solidarity to provide the technical expertise, political will and catalytic funds to tackle this deadly disease.
We at the Brave Movement believe that a similar global effort is needed to address this epidemic of violence against children and adolescents in every nation around the globe. We will not be silent anymore. We are raising our voices and coming together in a mass, worldwide movement to demand collective action from our global leaders to enact policies and laws that protect our children today and for generations to come.
And the statistics are terrifying. A recent survey by Together for Girls revealed that 120 million girls under the age of 20 have experienced sexual violence. One in 5 women and 1 in 10 men report having been sexually abused as children. And COVID has exposed children everywhere to an even greater risk of violence while reducing their ability to access any support.
Sexual violence against children and adolescents is unacceptable, criminal and preventable. Violence undermines every other investment in children from health to education to sustainable development.
Next week on Wednesday, April 27, we and our allies will host the Brave Movement Global Survivors Action Summit and invite you to join the movement and register to attend the summit, which takes place in a climate of even greater urgency given the dire situation in Ukraine where children and adolescents are at increased risk of sexual violence.
Survivor leaders from all over the world will launch our #BeBrave Call to Action and a G7 global petition, informed by national survivor movements in over 20 countries. We are calling on all G7 leaders to be brave and take bold action to end childhood sexual violence when they meet in June.
Survivors are calling on leaders at the G7 Summit in Germany to:
- Invest billions to scale up prevention, healing, and justice programs in lower income countries
- Commit to legislate on child-rights-driven approach to online end-to-end digital encryption
- Establish a G7 Survivors Council to advise the G7
- Develop and implement national action plans and strategies to end childhood sexual violence
As the world navigates out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the opportunity to reimagine how countries protect our children against sexual violence is more vital – and more possible – than ever. The global community must use this unique opportunity to make a dramatic and historic push to prioritize the safety of all children and adolescents against this public health crisis.
A lot of hard work has already begun to secure political commitments and mobilize in-country networks. The missing ingredient is sustained focus and reliable financing to enable committed national leaders and allies to finally stop this scourge of sexual violence.
We know what it takes to protect children and adolescents from sexual violence. The infrastructure and political will is already in place in many countries whose leaders are passionate about challenging the status quo. The Brave Movement and our allies are eager to collaborate and create a world in which all children can grow up in safe, secure and nurturing environments.
The time is now to act! Sexual violence is the greatest silent pandemic of our time. But survivors refuse to remain in the shadows anymore, and we and all our allies will raise our voices to demand real results. The Brave Movement is committed to mobilizing our collective energy to catalyze bold and transformational global action to protect future generations of children and adolescents everywhere.
Dr. Paul Zeitz is a physician, epidemiologist and award-winning advocate for global justice and human rights for 35 years. As a survivor of sexual violence at the hands of his father, he is honored to serve as a member of SAGE: Survivor Advocates Globally Empowered, and as the Brave Movement Executive Coordinator. He is a co-founder of Keep Kids Safe, a US-based movement. Previously, he founded and served as the Executive Director of the Global AIDS Alliance that helped generate the political will to launch and sustain PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria.