GEK TERNA Group and ELIZA: Together at the side of the abused children


We joined forces with the Society against Child Abuse – ELISA to realise - for the first time in Greece - a Training Programme for Police Officers to identify and handle child abuse cases.

When UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed families and leaders of all nations and organisations amid the first general lockdown with the call "Protect our children", almost no one realised the scale of the problem children are confronting. Child abuse and infant neglect are ongoing and deep-rooted problems but are still perceived as taboo.

Research data* is revealing. Nine out of ten severe abuse cases remain without identification, protection and reaction. One in two children has been the victim of some form of physical violence at least once. One in five children has been sexually abused; children under four are at greater risk of death from abuse.

The home confinement inflicted by the Covid-19 pandemic brought this severe problem to the fore, as stress, pressure and challenging conditions that come with it intensify or increase the frequency of violent domestic outbursts, abusive behaviours and neglect. In other words, the coronavirus pandemic highlighted a different pandemic, which however pre-existed: the one of abuse. That is why awareness of citizens and professionals is today more urgent than ever before so that they know what to do when they realise a child is in danger.

The 1st ever national programme for police officers in the proper handling of child abuse cases

Acknowledging that the police are the people who are next to children and vulnerable families every day, as early as 2018 our Group joined forces with the Society Against Child Abuse – ELISA and the Greek Police and together designed and implemented the first National Police Officers’ Training Programme in the identification and handling of child abuse cases. Our goal was to deploy every means, technological or not, to reach as many parts of the country as possible and create a nationwide network of well aware and informed officers, who will be capable of using their knowledge and determination to protect children at risk, wherever they are.

In this context, 1,486 police officers from 50 prefectures of our country have been trained to date, in 15 workshops realised either in person (for Athens, Agrinio, Chalkida, Heraklion, Tripoli, Larissa, Kozani, Thessaloniki and Kavala) or remotely (for island Greece and Igoumenitsa). At the same time, the programme’s communication activities contributed to raising awareness and informing local communities, as child abuse pertains to everyone, whether related professionals or common citizens.

This National Programme consists of a one-day crash-course aimed at police officers of all ranks. It features an interdisciplinary team of instructors comprising scientists with considerable child protection experience (police officers, local authorities’ officers, physicians, district attorneys, etc.). Police officers are trained on all manifestations of child abuse and equipped with tools (e.g. legislation handbook) and practical solutions, through thematic speeches on the psychological, social and physical effect, legal issues while handling such cases, and forensic examination of underage victims.

Police officers are trained on the following topics:

  • Defining child abuse & neglect/types of abuse: the cycle of violence – psycho-social aspects
  • Risk factors/epidemiology, medical aspects
  • Legal issues
  • The process of selecting underage victims, understanding the concealment of sexual abuse and the disclosure process
  • Basic principles of forensic examination for minors
  • From theory to practice: "A district attorney’s point-of-view: how to handle a case of child abuse." 

The Programme’s Objectives

  • To raise awareness among regional Police Directorates and awaken local communities
  • To select frontline officers handling child abuse cases
  • To develop police officers’ capacity providing expertise and tools
  • To further interdisciplinary cooperation among all involved in the child protection chain parties, namely police officers, local authorities’ officials, physicians, district attorneys, etc.
  • To introduce a Protocol with guidelines on handling child abuse cases, including initial response actions undertaken by the Initial Responding Officer in a child abuse or neglect case.
"From the very first moment of our cooperation, we felt we had encountered true allies and companions" notes Mrs Aphrodite Stathis, ELISA’s Executive Director; and adds: "We felt that together, GEK TERNA Group’s people and we, can realise ELISA’s vision, namely that there will be a day when our society, both state and citizens in concert, will turn against child abuse with all their might".

The programme, of course, is not limited to the workshops that took place. Having gathered invaluable insight and information from the participants themselves, from all discussions and speeches delivered, and from concerns risen, a Protocol for child abuse handling is currently mapped. It comprises a handbook describing all initial response actions the Initial Responding Officer will take when handling a child abuse or neglect case. Its adoption by the Hellenic Police departments throughout the country will make a decisive contribution to changing the mechanism for child protection at a national level. At the same time, it may limit the likelihood of mishandling and increase the number of child abuse cases surfacing.

For us at GEK TERNA Group, protecting vulnerable groups through a well-thought CSR programme is a priority. This programme lays the foundations for taking similar initiatives exerting a long-term impact, which could set an example for companies and entities throughout the country. Our CSR actions constitute tangible proof that healthy entrepreneurship can and should be combined with initiatives to support society.
Info: Under the slogan "Today, Not Tomorrow" for ten years, the ELISA association has been realising a broad range of preventive and educational activities to protect vulnerable children and families throughout Greece. Among other initiatives, in 2016 ELISA launched the first nationwide campaign against child abuse, focusing on training professionals who look after infants and children. More than 1,500 doctors and nurses, 2,500 parents and 1,000 teachers have been trained all over Greece to date.

The 1st National Training Programme for Police Officers to identify and handle child abuse cases was realised with the support of GEK TERNA Group companies (TERNA, TERNA ENERGY, NEA ODOS, KENTRIKI ODOS).

(*) Research References: BECAN Study/ Institute of Child Health (2013), Children's Hospital "P. & A. Kyriakou" (2012, 2016), Tsirigoti, A., Petroulakis, K., Nikolaidis, G. (2010) Current Situation Concerning Child Abuse and Needle (CAN) in Greece. AthensInstitute of Child Health []. Missed Opportunities for the Detection of Physical Abuse and Neglect Among Patients Hospitalised with Burns with a Tertiary Children's Hospital in Greece, European Journal of Pediatrics (Nov 2017).