Writing It Out Loud

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A new campaign in France is allowing children to report abuse by dropping letters in easily accessible mailboxes, an initiative that has allowed authorities to launch investigations into cases that would otherwise go unreported and also better determine the scale of child abuse in the country, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Laurent Boyet, a police officer and founder of the child protection group “Les Papillons,” started the campaign two years ago under the motto “If you can’t say it, write it.”

The group has set up 200 boxes in primary schools, sports clubs and other venues accessible to around 61,000 children. Over the past year, most of the deposited messages refer to insults, mockery and psychological aggression.

But about 21 percent of these messages mention physical abuse while those referring to sexual abuse make up seven percent. The organization found that about 30 percent of these messages concerned sexual abuse occurring within the family.

Approximately half of the complaints are from eight and nine-year-olds, while more than 15 percent are from children between six and seven.

So far, about five percent of these messages have been reported to local authorities who investigate abuse cases. Less than two percent of the messages have been referred to prosecutors, and have led to a police investigation.

Boyet explained that most of the children take the mailboxes seriously, noting that the campaign has helped get a better insight into an issue that is difficult to detect in official statistics.

Projections by Les Papillons show that out of the country’s 12 million students, there could be as many as 840,000 victims of sexual abuse, including 240,000 cases of incest.

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