There are things that cannot be undone. Shame is the worst. The shame of one’s own fate. “You can’t treat that away,” says Guido Fluri (55). “But you can give victims of abuse back some of their dignity by acknowledging what happened to them.”
With the exhibition “Shame – European Stories” as part of the Venice Biennale, the entrepreneur is launching the Justice Initiative this weekend, his new initiative to deal with cases of abuse throughout Europe. More than 60 women and men bear witness with their picture and report.
The award-winning Italian photographer Simone Padovani traveled all over Europe for three months and documented their fates. “Your stories are amazing. So much suffering has been done. Right in the middle of our society,” says Fluri. With their courage to show themselves, they give a face to hundreds of thousands of abuse victims across Europe.
Different countries, similar fates
Even if those affected come from different countries in Europe, they have similar fates. It’s not just about the abuse from back then, but also about life afterwards. To this day, many suffer from injustice and shame, they are psychologically burdened and often live in poverty due to the experience of violence. “But above all they suffer from the great silence in society and politics. They were left alone as children and are now on their own in old age,” says Fluri.
In Switzerland, the businessman brought the reparations initiative to a successful conclusion: more than 10,000 victims who had suffered the most severe abuse received reparations. A role model for victim groups from Europe. Switzerland’s experiences should form the basis for political work at European level.
A motion was submitted to the Council of Europe in the autumn. The following is central for a complete investigation: the investigation of child abuse in the member states, an official recognition of the victims, compensation and prevention. With his foundation, Fluri is now financing 16 hubs in Europe, because it takes perseverance and sufficient financial resources to achieve the goals set.
From gas station attendant to millionaire
Fluri has more than enough of both. He made it from gas station attendant to millionaire entrepreneur. His starting capital was a tip of CHF 5,000. Today, with an estimated fortune of CHF 325 million, he ranks among the 300 richest in Switzerland. He is still amazed at his success story: “I was a bad student, never studied and often felt lost.”
He knows the shame about his own origins only too well: “I was born as an illegitimate child in a village of 1,000 people, the underage mother was in a psychiatric ward because of schizophrenia and the father was married. That stigma is second nature to you.”
In early childhood, Fluri was placed in a different place several times, including briefly in the Mümliswil SO children’s home, from which he made the first national memorial for children in foster homes and contract children in Switzerland in 2013. “I don’t see myself as a victim, but I can empathize with what’s going on in the people affected.”
Victims of abuse break the silence
Fluri’s method of dealing with his fate is confrontation, dealing with the issue consistently and becoming active. In Switzerland with his initiative and now also in the surrounding countries. “The values on which Europe is founded are respect for human dignity and human rights. That is why there is a need to deal with cases of abuse. Only if we protect the weakest in society will we live up to our European values.”
Fluri uses up to a third of the capital from his holding company for his foundation, which allows him to act quickly and make a long-term commitment. “There is no amount of money in the world that can make up for abuse, but by appreciating and acknowledging this injustice, you can ensure that those affected no longer have to justify or feel ashamed.”
Preventive against pedophile crime
This commitment is not only important for coming to terms with the past, but also for the future: It is assumed that every fifth child experiences physical, psychological and very often sexual abuse. Around every seventh child in Switzerland experiences sexual violence at least once, and the perpetrators are almost always from close circles.
In virtual space, the extent of the attacks is just as frightening. Every third child worldwide is asked at least once if they would like to engage in a sexual act. According to a Europol analysis, during the pandemic, the demand for material on child sexual abuse rose by up to 25 percent in some member states in the first few months of the Corona crisis. Europol estimates that around 750,000 potential pedophiles are permanently online worldwide.
That is why the EU Commission wants to combat online abuse and oblige companies to search the content of smartphones and laptops for abuse and child pornography. To this end, she presented a draft law last week.
A month ago, a new reporting office against child pornography on the Internet was therefore launched in Switzerland. Clickandstop.ch is a private offer from Child Protection Switzerland and the Guido Fluri Foundation. While other countries have long had national reporting offices, the contact point in Switzerland was orphaned. Fluri: “Prevention is important. Abuse and assault burn black spots on children’s souls that remain for a lifetime.”