Visit to Chile to speak at the Chilean Congress on Child Maltreatment and Sexual Abuse

23 February 2023

By Stuart Allardyce, director of Stop It Now! Scotland.

In January, I was honoured to attend and speak at the 2nd Chilean Congress on Child Maltreatment and Sexual Abuse.

Stuart Allardyce speaking at the Chilean Congress on Child Maltreatment and Sexual Abuse
Stuart Allardyce speaking at the Chilean Congress

Public Health approach to child sexual abuse

We believe that child sexual abuse is preventable, not inevitable. My keynote at the Congress was on public health approaches to child sexual abuse, demonstrating our primary and secondary prevention work.

What does prevention look like?

  • Primary prevention often refers to services or messages for the wider population. To prevent abuse from occurring, this could be, for example, parental education or personal safety work with all school children.
  • Secondary prevention involves more focused activity with groups and people who are at greater risk of child sexual abuse, for example, internet safety for children with learning difficulties or parenting programmes for struggling parents.
  • Tertiary prevention involves intervening after child sexual abuse has occurred to stop it from happening again, for example, incarceration and community risk management of known offenders and therapeutic work with child victims. 

I spoke about our Stop It Now UK and Ireland helpline, deterrence work and messaging to parents about the practical things that can contribute to better protection of children from harm.

The Congress and learning from other organisations

Housed in the formidable National Congress of Chile building in Valparaiso, the three-day event attracted around 400 delegates from Chile as well as colleagues from Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Uruguay, UK and Spain.

The NGO Paicabi organised the Congress with the support of Fundación para la Confianza, the School of Psychology of the University of Valparaíso, the University of Tarapacá and the School of Social Work of the PUCV.

Paicabi colleagues invited me, as well as Professor Ethel Quayle from Edinburgh University, to speak at the event. Professor Quayle provided an overview of current research and evidence on tackling online child sexual exploitation.

Both of us also provided input to workshops on adolescent harmful sexual abuse and helping children move on after experiences of online sexual exploitation.

I had been aware of Paicabi’s work for some time. Paicabi runs therapeutic services across Chile for children affected by child sexual abuse and children who display harmful sexual behaviour. Spending some time in Valparaiso, we had an opportunity to meet with practitioners at Paicabi, visit their local services, and learn from their work with children affected by harm.

Group photo at NGO Paicabi
Stuart, third from left, visited NGO Paicabi.

I learned a lot while I was there! There were 70 papers presented over the three days by practitioners and academics at the Congress, so there was much to absorb (particularly with my elementary Spanish). Discussed at the Congress were impressive and ambitious developments in Spanish-speaking child protection services; Jorge Barudy, a psychiatrist and national researcher based in Spain, for instance, outlined plans to build twelve Barnahus centres in Catalonia in the months ahead. I found this interesting as there is a Scottish Government project to introduce a ‘Bairn’s Hoose’ in Scotland, which will provide a child-centred approach to delivering justice, care and recovery for children who have experienced trauma.

And there is a desire to go upstream and prevent abuse before it happens. I heard about impressive work with teenagers in Mexican prisons focusing on consent, healthy relationships and emotional and sexual regulation, and plans to tackle harmful sexual behaviour in El Salvador.

Visit to University of Valparaiso

Stuart speaking at the University of Valparaiso event
Event at University of Valparaiso

During my time in Chile, I also spoke at a half-day event at the University of Valparaiso on working with adolescents who have displayed harmful sexual behaviour. I talked about our experience of this work in Scotland particularly what we learnt from our ROSA (Reducing Online Child Abuse) project while other speakers discussed developments in Chile, Spain and El Salvador.

Building relations to tackle the global problem of child sexual abuse

Stuart being greeted in Chile

Everyone we met on the trip greeted Ethel and I with extraordinary warmth. We hope that the Congress helps provide a bedrock upon which our organisations – The Lucy Faithfull Foundation and Paicabi – thousands of miles from each other can find ways of supporting each other, learn from each other and develop ever-improving methods for tackling the global problem of child sexual abuse.

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