Congress approved this Thursday the organic law for the comprehensive protection of children against violence, baptized as the ‘Rhodes law’, with an amendment that allows reporting abuse in children up to 50 years of age.
The opinion of the Law of Protection of Children against violence is debated this Thursday, April 15, 2021 in the plenary session of Congress.
The new law, known as the Rhodes Law for the pianist with this surname who suffered abuse in childhood, places Spain at the forefront of child protection. How does the new law achieve this protection? Contemplating violence against children from all areas (family, health, educational, etc.) and addressing prevention, detection, action and restoration against violence against children.
Predictably, the government today will give the green light to an amendment to the law for the protection of children against violence to increase to 35 years of age the limit at which they begin to prescribe sexual crimes in childhood. This will allow victims of childhood abuse to report until they turn 50.
WHAT IS THE CHILD PROTECTION LAW?
Some of the most important novelties of this new Law are:
- Serious crimes will prescribe when the victim reaches 35 years of age. When a child is abused, they often feel guilty, ashamed or very afraid to explain what is happening to them. That is why it can take years to speak, when the crime may have prescribed. That is why this new law establishes that the crime will not prescribe until the victim reaches 35 years of age (before it was 30 but now it has been extended to 35). In addition, the forgiveness of the minor victim will cease to exist as a cause for termination of criminal responsibility.
- It will be mandatory to report cases of violence by all citizens. Anyone, especially professionals who work with children, must report to the authorities the suspicion that a child is suffering. “The law is the opportunity to raise awareness and prevent violence, facilitate reporting and break the silence that makes violence invisible. The protection of children and adolescents against violence is the responsibility of the whole of society,” recalls Cristina Sanjuan.
- More guarantees will be required to work with minors. Both in the public and private sectors, both hired persons and employees, including volunteers, must prove the requirements of not having committed crimes against sexual freedom before agreeing to work with minors.
- A new figure: the delegate of protection. The centers for minors must implement plans to detect cases of abuse and violence against minors. And in sports or leisure activity centers aimed at minors, a protection delegate will be in charge of detecting cases of violence against children.
- More facilities in case of going to trial. Judges and prosecutors from a specialized unit will receive specific training to protect children from violence. In addition, minors may have free legal assistance regardless of the economic situation of the family and it will be guaranteed that they only have to report the facts once before the investigating court.
WHY IS IT ALSO KNOWN AS THE JAMES RHODES ACT?
The British pianist James Rhodes (1975), who lives in Madrid, was attacked by his gymnastics teacher at the private men’s school since he was 5 years old. For four years she subjected him to continuous rapes. This suffering, due to the non-existence in his country of a law such as the one envisaged and which will be pioneering, cost Rhodes serious moral damages, self-harm and “up to three back operations” to repair the damage that his torturer inflicted on him. Rhodes wanted to save that suffering for other minors who in Spain (1 in 5) suffer the scourge of “sexual abuse.”
“Many do not want to talk about this, or we are ashamed, or we feel guilt or hatred, or we commit suicide,” says Rhodes in his autobiographical book alluding to the various attempts to end his life.
For this reason, together with children’s organizations such as Save the Children and the Vicki Bernadet Foundation, the name of another child victim like him, he promoted the approval of the Comprehensive Protection Law against violence against children. Hence this new law is also known as the “James Rhodes Act.”
WHY WAS THIS LAW SO NECESSARY?
According to a survey released by Save the Children, 1 in 4 parents have lost their nerve with their children during confinement, screaming, insulting or even slapping the child.
“It is estimated that only 15% of cases are reported and the confinement has made that children who suffer violence in their homes have to live 24 hours a day with whoever attacks them and that we do not have eyes and ears to be able to detect these situations, “explains Cristina Sanjuan, a Political Advocacy technician expert in violence against children at Save the Children.
“If this health crisis and its consequent confinement have taught us anything, it is that violence against children continues to be an invisible reality in Spain and that children cannot wait any longer. It is now that this political and legislative change must take place. And social, for a law that protects children against violence, “Sanjuan tells us in reference to the new Organic Law for the comprehensive Protection of Children and Adolescents against violence that the Government has just approved in the Council of Ministers.
“In 2018, almost 38,000 complaints were filed for crimes that had a minor as a victim, and these data are only the tip of the iceberg,” explains Sanjuan.
There are no real data, since the terrifying social environment where a type of violence against minors takes place, pedophilia (1 in 2 sexual assaults in Spain is against children and adolescents), occurs in the family and school environment and these cases are almost never reported. Because of data like these, Save the Children has been fighting for the approval of this law for a long time.