Child Abuse in Romania – statistics, methods of reporting and solutions
Child abuse and neglect represent complex social phenomena, which do not only affect the individual, but society as a whole as well. An abused child is a child whose future is questionable, a child who loses their self-esteem and who cannot fully enjoy the right to a normal, healthy, and harmonious development. All these abuses have a cost that is not only emotional, but also financial as they stop too many children from reaching their true potential. The abuses cannot be treated only at an individual level, because it represents a problem of the entire community and the consequences of this phenomenon leave marks for life.
The abuses, irrespective of their form, can be committed by the parents, people known by the child or foreign from the child, as well as by other children and they can appear both in families and in public or private institutions, addressed to the child and/or family, as well as outside of them. In 2017, 17,000 abuses have been registered, among which almost 9,000 were confirmed. The gravity of the situation must be admitted at a national level and the necessary efforts must be put in for the identification, settlement and prevention of these child abuses.
Therefore, following the interpellation from the Labor and Social Justice Ministry, we send addresses to all the 47 DGASPCs in the country in order to obtain more information about the types of abuses committed, authors, measures taken, etc.
By analyzing the data requested and received from all the DGASPCs in the country regarding child abuse in the respective area (except DGASPC Ilfov), we were able to form a holistic image of the current situation of the irregularities reported, as well as of the areas that need improvement. The data covers the period January 2017 – February 2019 and details the types of abuses, age and gender distribution, authors of abuses, measures taken, and professionals’ implication in reporting the abuse cases.
Analysis per County
The county with the most reported child abuse is Galați (3 229), having over 85 times more abuses reported than Olt (37), where the lowest number was registered. The large discrepancies between counties can draw the attention and be an alarm sign. At first glance, these can be accounted for social, educational or economic differences between the regions. Digging deeper, however, it can be noticed that there are also differences between neighboring counties, such as Timiș and Arad or Dâmbovița and Teleorman.
Nonetheless, the number of abuses registered at DGASPC represents only the number of reported abuses and not the number of committed abuses. A large number of the reported abuses indicates, in some cases, a larger implication from the side of the authorities, but also from the side of the people involved.
It is essential that the number of cases reported to be as close as possible to the existing cases, to make sure that the problem is solved and the children in danger are being protected. In order to combat these abuses, it is important to fully understand this phenomenon, to have the real situation and measures proposed at a local, county and national level.
The graph below presents the main types of child abuse – exploitation, neglect, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and physical abuse. Compared to 2017, there has been a rise in the number of abuses confirmed in 2018. Although the number is in ascension, the fact that these cases were identified and measures were taken for the abused children to receive the help they need, it is a sign that things are starting to move and that the situation of children in Romania can significantly change. An abuse, irrespective of its nature, affects the healthy development of a child, and in consequence, their future, it steals part of their childhood, from their self-confidence and trust in others.
The most common type of child abuse in Romania is neglect. This can be attributed to the lack of responsibility or preparation of the parents, but especially on a difficult economic situation. The parents could not ensure the needs of the growth and development of the children. In that way, the parents find themselves in the situation to neglect their children so that they could work and ensure them with the day-to-day necessities. These cases are easier to fix and do not require a separation of the child from the family – measure which specialists recommend as a last resort because it can be extremely baffling and hurtful for the child.
Solutions, therefore, can include measures at a regional level such as schools and kindergartens with overtime scheduling that would allow children to work on a fixed schedule. Keeping a close relationship between social workers and the family is another example of measure that could help. In addition, the authorities can develop informational campaigns related to the importance of the parent-child relationship for the harmonious development of the child, but also, in some cases, financial support.
Regarding the measures taken by authorities, in most cases they opt for psychological counseling and/or maintaining the children in families with provision of services which confirms the fact that, often times, neglect is manageable and does not require adopting drastic measures such as emergency placement.
At the same time, to understand the situation of abuse in Romania, the context of the abuse must also be known. Over 90% of the cases take place within the family, which means that, often times, the abuse is continuous, for a long time and not an isolated incident. Moreover, the author of the abuse is a person close to the child who should inspire trust and safety. These factors increase the negative impact of the abuse over the child who becomes unable to feel protected in their own family. For that child, but also for their family, the abuse is harder to report as the notification of the authorities can be in the disadvantage of a person to which the child or the members of the family are close in relationship, from an emotional, but also from a financial point of view. Because of these reasons, a restructure of the system surrounding the victim, rather than the abuser, is important.
The people involved in the child’s life (teachers, doctors, family members, etc.) must follow the evolution of the child and any sign that can indicate an abuse must be reported, because their role is to make the child’s safety a priority. Everybody has to understand that reporting an abuse does not suggest its confirmation, but its identification and, then, the analysis of a suspicion.
Professional Involvement and reporting abuses
Professionals are understood as doctors, social workers, teachers, as well as other professional categories whose activity assumes their interaction with minors. It must be underlined that their implication is extremely important as they are capable of identifying the first signs of an abuse and therefore they can assure the quick solution of the situation – a child who has more trust in professionals and opens up more easily to people who are familiar to him, such as teachers. The relatively small number of reported cases by professionals compared to the total number of reported cases suggests the need of encouragement of a bigger implication coming from doctors, social workers and most especially, teachers. Everyone’s implication is required to decrease the difference between the number of reported and confirmed abuses and the total number of abuses.
Types of Abuse
Any type of child abuse is unforgivable. Depending on the age or gender, children can be affected in different ways. According to data provided, girls are the main victims of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is probably the hardest to notice and report, and children affected need professional psychological counseling. Often times, society tends to accuse the victim and find excuses for the offender. There is much work to do to change that mindset, but I have faith that we can do that, if we work together.
Any type of abuse, be it physical, emotional, neglect, etc., affects the healthy maturing of a child and must be treated as such. Thus, not only a solution to actual cases of such abuse is important, but also the prevention of similar situations in the future, which requires a perspective change. Parents, and not only, must be educated and informed of the negative effects of abuse on children’s development. We all must adopt an attitude of #0ToleranceForViolence. At the same time, all those people who are present in a child’s life, including teachers, doctors, social workers, must make sure that the child would feel comfortable to communicate that they are being abused and to be ready to identify signs of abuse.
Romania has much to improve and the way to go is difficult. The well-being of a child must be prioritized – by parents, their family, their school, DGASPC, but especially by some of us, people with power of decision. We must all understand that one child abuse is already over the acceptable number of child abuse, this must not be treated at an individual level, because the consequences of such a phenomenon negatively affect the entire society.