CoE project aims to cast off child abuse stigma

15/03/2012

Although the CoE says 20% of children in Europe face sexual abuse, Montenegro still has a patriarchal attitude to this problem.

By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Podgorica -- 15/03/12

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Montenegro is certainly not immune to this problem, Human Rights and Minority Deputy Minister Blanka Radosevic Marovic said. [Reuters]

In an effort to help wipe out child abuse in Montenegro, Prime Minister Igor Luksic appointed a team earlier this month to participate in the Council of Europe's (CoE) 1 in 5 campaign.

The project aims to reach all 47 CoE member states -- which includes all of the Southeast European countries -- and will run through 2014.

Experts say that sexual abuse of children is present in Montenegro and authorities promise it will be be addressed.

Human Rights and Minority Deputy Minister Blanka Radosevic Marovic said that the national team will conduct detailed research on the problem.

"We must investigate [to determine] the areas where sexual violence against children is more present. In Europe, every fifth child has experienced some form of sexual abuse. Montenegro is certainly not immune to this problem," Radosevic Marovic told SETimes.

The CoE's data points to the dramatic extent of sexual violence against children. According to the data, 20% of the children in Europe has been exposed to some form of sexual violence. In 70% to 85% of cases, the abuser was a person the child knew and trusted.

Croatia's Ministry of the Family, Veterans’ Affairs and Intergenerational Solidarity, and Serbia's Incest Trauma Centre in Belgrade, are also working with the campaign.

Elementary education professor Irene Jerina tells SETimes that Montenegro, as well as the entire Balkans, is still a patriarchal society where just the mention of this problem brings shame.

"We are a very patriarchal society, and I think that this problem is very present in Montenegro. But children simply don't [speak up] because [in our society] it is marked as a disgrace," Jerina said.

Yet there is no current data on the pervasiveness of the abuse.

Ljiljana Raicevic, director of the Safe Women's House -- the biggest women's shelter in Montenegro -- said that her institution has seen several cases.

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"In Montenegro, no one keep records about the number of sexually abused children. To my knowledge, four such cases was reported last year where the perpetrators and the abused children were close confidants. It all ended up [staying] inside the family," Raicevic told SETimes.

"Two boys in one [northern] town ... were sexually abused by neighbours who attracted them into the house with small gifts and money. When the father reported the case to the police, ugly stories [were spread] and the children suffered insults from their peers in school. Eventually, they needed to move. The institutions didn't react at all," Raicevic noted.

Dajana Svaljek, 34, the mother of two young children in the coastal town of Bar, said that until now she has had no knowledge that anyone near her had this problem, but now that she is informed, she is on alert.

"There are all kinds of people walking down the streets -- we should always keep an eye on our children. If something so horrible happens to my child, I wouldn't think, not even a moment: I would immediately report the perpetrators to the police," Svaljek told SETimes.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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