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Eliza Society for Prevention of Child Neglect and Abuse Event at Greek Consulate NYC

NEW YORK – The Consulate General of Greece in New York hosted a presentation at the Consular residence on May 30 highlighting the efforts of the Eliza Society for the Prevention of Child Neglect and Abuse in Greece.

Consul General of Greece in New York Dinos Konstantinou gave the welcoming remarks, noting that Eliza “is a great organization that has really been pivotal in combatting child abuse both in the U.S. and in Greece.” He also mentioned participating in the Nashville Half-Marathon in April with the members of the organization, some of whom were present and wearing their participation medals, to raise awareness and funds to prevent child neglect and abuse in all its forms.

Olga Geroulanos Votis and Consul General of Greece in New York Dinos Konstantinou during the presentation on May 30 about the Eliza Society for the Prevention of Child Neglect and Abuse in Greece. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

Olga Geroulanos Votis, the treasurer of the organization, thanked everyone for attending, noting that “this is a very unique opportunity and and example of Greek-American collaboration not in the traditional way but in the exchange of know-how and in building public-private partnerships, this is something relatively new in Greece… it’s not just about preventing child abuse, its the example, how to do things… we would be very happy to share our know-how… it’s not about competition on fundraising, it is really about model systems that can work in Greece.”

“The issue really is that neglect is a very, very big piece of child abuse, so is physical abuse, so is bullying amongst kids,” Votis noted, pointing out some of the statistics relating to abuse in Greece, including that “nine out of 10 cases of serious abuse are unidentified.”

“One in two children have suffered some form of physical violence at least once in their lifetime, this is a huge number, it doesn’t mean they’ve been raped, or one out of two was raped, what it does mean is that someone very casually decided to hit a kid at some point… One in five children have suffered sexual violence… that is a big deal, that is not all rape, it can be inappropriate behavior, it can be pornography… what interests us is who are the children and why does it go on. What these numbers teach us is that yes, we could do therapy, yes, we can go and take every child off the street… but the real reason is that people don’t know what they’re doing, so prevention is where Eliza Society decided to put its weight to identify, diagnose, and prevent behavior that we do believe can happen and we do believe the meta data shows about 80 percent of child abuse is preventable.”

The presentation on the Eliza Society for the Prevention of Child Neglect and Abuse in Greece was held on May 30 at the Consular Residence in New York City. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

Votis spoke about efforts in Greece to identify abuse and prevent it. “This prevention system works primarily with medical staff,” she said. “We have… five medical units at the pediatric university hospitals in Greece, two of which are in Athens, one in Thessaloniki, one in Alexandroupoli because the refugee issue is a huge one, and in Patras, and we wish to add Crete, there are 12 university hospitals with pediatric units, we’d like to be in all of them.”

“Once you have the diagnosis, and you have the medical attention, then how do you make it, and this is the hard part, how do make it to law enforcement? How do you make it to the judiciary? That is something that Greece, and not just Greece, every society is very hesitant to do because it goes up against privacy laws, real systemic rights of the individual, etc… I think we’re getting there, this is the next big challenge for Eliza, we are educating now medical staff, law enforcement, the entire national police has been trained, this generation, because there are more coming and there is still work to be done,” Votis said.

Myrsini Feliou and Olga Geroulanos Votis at the Eliza Society presentation on May 30. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

Alexandra Mirzayantz, daughter of Eliza founders, Marina Karella and Prince Michael of Greece, then shared her remarks, thanking everyone attending and for the warm welcome. She spoke about the origins of the organization, noting that “when I was growing up in New York, my parents supported a little girl named Eliza, and when she was six she died. With this tragedy, my parents were personally hurt and upset, and they held onto this tragedy inside themselves and when they got to Greece, they thought to start the organization in her name to help other children not have the same fate.”

Mirzayantz also spoke about the Safe Touches program that was geared towards young children implemented in the schools and utilizing puppets to help children “voice anything that needed voicing, to use their words and it was clearly defined what was ok and what was not ok and sometimes, unfortunately, the lines get blurred.”

Following the presentation, Votis answered questions from the audience and encouraged everyone to participate and share their ideas for upcoming events to help raise awareness and funds for this worthy cause.

More information is available online: https://eliza.org.gr/en/.

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