20 February 2024

Schools choose “Safe Touches” program and protect children from sexual abuse

The “Safe Touches” program is an initiative of the ELIZA Association aimed at children aged 5 to 9 years old. It is implemented in schools through the initiative of teachers and teaches children how to protect themselves from sexual abuse.

The program equally educates and informs educators and parents so that they can recognize signs that lead to suspicion of abuse and understand the importance of recognition.

More than 4,000 children have already learned how to protect their bodies, and over 1,000 parents and educators have been informed about the need to recognize signs.

The “Safe Touches” program was initially developed in-person and was highly evaluated for its effectiveness in conveying knowledge to children, educators, and parents. To ensure the program’s sustainability and ease of dissemination throughout Greece, it was digitized, and since 2021, it has been included in the Skills Labs of the Institute of Educational Policy. The program was developed with the founding donation of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), as well as the contribution of the sponsor “COSMOTE” and supporters “NEA ODOS” and the “Bank of Greece.”

Child Sexual Abuse in Greece

The phenomenon of child sexual abuse is more common than we believe…

1 in 5 children (0-18 years old) will experience at least 1 incident of sexual violence in their lifetime.

This ratio represents the tip of the iceberg, as it concerns only cases that have been reported. Most cases are never reported. Furthermore, in 90% of cases, the perpetrator is someone the child knows and trusts from their family or social circle. These facts increase the need for awareness, recognition, and prevention of sexual abuse. Children need to be educated to learn how to protect their bodies and distinguish between safe and unsafe touches, while parents and educators must be able to recognize signs of abuse.

The “Safe Touches” Program

The “Safe Touches” program is a prevention program against sexual abuse for children aged 5-9 years old, which was included in the Skills Labs of the Institute of Educational Policy in 2021.

The goal of the “Safe Touches” program is to help children identify situations that could potentially harm them, distinguish between “safe” and “unsafe” touches, and “good” and “bad” secrets, teach them strategies to say “no” in situations that make them feel uncomfortable, and encourage them to disclose the event to trusted adults.

The program was designed in collaboration with “The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children” (NYSPCC), the world’s first organization to address the phenomenon of child abuse.

The method of the program “Safe Touches” is based on the education of children through puppet theater workshops, through which basic knowledge and basic questions regarding body protection are covered:

– What are the private parts of the body?
– What is the difference between a “Safe” and an “Unsafe” Touch?
– What should a young child do when an adult makes them feel uncomfortable or causes them distress or fear?
– How and from whom can a young child ask for help if they experience an incident of sexual abuse?

The program provides similar education on recognizing and addressing the phenomenon to parents and educators.

Stages & Evaluation of the Program

“Safe Touches” started in 2016 with the implementation of the program in person, in public and private schools in Greece. Through the initial training sessions, 2,150 children aged 5-9 were educated. According to the evaluation results, a significant increase in children’s knowledge regarding the protection of their bodies and the recognition of “unsafe” touches was observed. In order to ensure the sustainability of the program, the continuation of students’ education in primary schools over time, and the dissemination of the program throughout the country, the “Safe Touch” program was digitized and incorporated into the Skills Labs of the Institute of Educational Policy.

The evaluation of the digital format of the program was conducted on 500 students from schools in Attica, and the results showed a significant increase in knowledge among students regardless of the method of implementation (in person or digitally).

To date, 1,000 children have learned how to protect themselves from sexual abuse through the digital platform www.asfalesaggigma.gr.

Marina Karela, Founder and President of the Board of Directors of ELIZA, states: “At ELIZA, our priority is the protection of children from all forms of violence. “Safe Touches” is the result of many years of effort, of a large team of collaborators. We hope that the knowledge brought by the program will empower children against sexual abuse and contribute to creating a safer tomorrow for all children. We want to sincerely thank the Founding Donor of the program, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Sponsor “COSMOTE”, as well as the supporters “NEA ODOS S.A.” and the “Bank of Greece” for their trust and invaluable contribution. Additionally, we would like to thank the Ministry of Education and the Institute of Educational Policy for ‘opening the way’ for the program to reach every corner of Greece. Finally, we would like to thank the scientific team of the program and specifically:

– Tinia Apergi, Clinical Psychologist / Psychology Professor, American College of Greece (ACG), Scientific Coordinator of the Safe Touch Program
– Efti Varouch, Mental Health Counselor – Psychotherapist, MSc in Applied Psychology, Scientific Associate of ELIZA
– Elektra Koutsoukou, Dr. Children’s Rights, Lawyer, Scientific Associate of the University of Peloponnese, Scientific Associate of ELIZA
– Chrysanthi Negka, Research Psychologist and Responsible for Methodology Planning and Data Analysis, Scientific Associate of ELIZA
– Konstantinos Fyssas, Psychotherapist, Scientific Associate of ELIZA.”

Eleni Agouridi from the Donations Department of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), founding donor of the “Safe Touch” program, said: “The numbers that speak of child sexual abuse are shocking. We, on our part, at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), feel the duty and responsibility to do whatever is possible to contribute to the eradication of these numbers. Through our international philanthropic action and in close collaboration, both with ELIZA and with the organization The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC), whose contribution designed the “Safe Touch” program, we try to help, as we can, in prevention, education, information, and awareness, aiming to collectively eliminate this unthinkable phenomenon.”

“Safe Touches” is a pioneering program of ELIZA for the prevention of child abuse through the education of children and teachers. We are particularly pleased to support its transition to the new digital era, in order to reach all schools in the country, without exclusions. COSMOTE supports initiatives where digital technology contributes to addressing important social issues and to creating a better world for all,” said Anna Malti, Head of Corporate Responsibility & ESG Group of OTE Group.

“At Nea Odos, we have placed at the core, not just of our philosophy, but of our daily operation, the support of actions that demonstrably contribute to a better quality of life. Our participation, as a supporter of the pioneering program “Safe Touch” of the ELIZA Association, was for us not just a self-evident act of solidarity, but also a strong message against the painful phenomenon of child sexual abuse,” said Fotini Lambrou, PR & Marketing Manager of Nea Odos.

Awareness Campaign

7,500,000 citizens became the voice of children

STEFI Productions, in collaboration with ELIZA, created the spot “Speak to Me,” aiming to raise awareness among parents and educators about the need for their information in recognizing and managing incidents with suspected child abuse and the need to adopt the “Safe Touch” program by educators. With the ambassador of ELIZA, Peggy Stathakopoulou, as the protagonist, the spot was extensively broadcasted on social media and television. More than 7,500,000 citizens across the country saw the spot and were informed about the need to protect children from sexual abuse through the school environment.

Watch the spot:




  1. CoE, 2012, Lanzarote Convention, Ινστιτούτο Υγείας του Παιδιού, Becan Study 2012
  2. May-Chahal, C. and Herczog, M. (2003). Child sexual abuse in Europe. Strasbourg: Council of Europe PublishingFinkelhor, D. (1994). “The international epidemiology of child sexual abuse”. In Child Abuse & Neglect, 18, 5, 409-17. – Gallagher, B., Bradford, M. and Pease, K. (2008). “Attempted and completed incidents of stranger-perpetrated child sexual abuse and abduction”. In Child Abuse & Neglect, 32(5), 517-28. – Finkelhor, D. (1994). “The international epidemiology of child sexual abuse”. In Child Abuse & Neglect, 18, 5, 409-17 -Gallagher, B., Bradford, M. and Pease, K. (2008). “Attempted and completed incidents of stranger-perpetrated child sexual abuse and abduction”. In Child Abuse & Neglect, 32(5), 517-28