24 sata: “No child has become violent for no reason at all. They lack love, they could be victims of violence”

On the occasion of the case of abuse of brutal beating and physical abuse of a boy in Kaštel Štafilić, 24sata journalist Tina Jokić talked to the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center director professor Gordana Buljan Flander, PhD. The interview was published on August 31, 2020 under the title: “No child has become violent for no reason at all. They lack love, they can be victims of violence. ”

“Professor Gordana Buljan Flander, PhD, psychologist and psychotherapist, following the case of violence in Kaštel Štafilić, tells us that children have always been in some kind of a conflict, but that we must distinguish conflict from violence!

– While in the usual conflict both sides have approximately equal power, physical, status…, in violence one side is noticeably more powerful. The difference is also in the consequences. While it is common for peer conflicts to resolve, for children to play and socialize normally tomorrow, and their emotions of sadness and anger are short and fleeting, in violence one side systematically feels ashamed, frightened and lonely, which significantly affects functioning – explains professor Buljan Flander, emphasizing that child perpetrators are not just bullies, they are still children.

– The key role is prevention and early intervention. No child whose emotional needs have been met has decided to become violent for no reason at all. Most often, the signs existed for years before. A child perpetrator of violence may lack love, attention, may be only a victim or witness of domestic violence or elsewhere, may have poorly developed social skills and so on. So, apart from the sanction for violent behavior, we must always and without exception ask ourselves what is behind violent behavior, what is the need of a child who remains unsatisfied and he tries to satisfy it with violence and in what other ways we can satisfy it. No child likes to be labeled as a ‘bad’ child and if they can gain love, attention and approval in other ways, they will choose other ways – says professor Buljan Flander, adding that research shows that the most impaired mental health of children who are at the same time victims and perpetrators, and as many as eight percent of them.

– It is a great responsibility on the media and the way of reporting, on the whole society, not to call for lynching and new violence in response to violence, but to protect children, to learn lessons and sensitize the public. It is important to condemn the act of violence, not the child perpetrators, and not to use their violent act as the first wheel of a new round of violence – emphasizes professor Buljan Flander.

As for the victims, she tells us that they should have a relationship of trust with at least one adult they will turn to for help.

– Many children hide victimization. Our research says that less than 20 percent of children ever turn to teachers for support. Child victims need to hear that they are trusted, that they are not guilty, that they will be helped, and then really do it, from the family, the school, the health care system, social welfare, sometimes the police and the judiciary. The worst thing we can do is ignore violence or embarrass victims in some way, expose them further and thus make recovery more difficult – explains professor Buljan Flander, adding that children who are different in some ways (eg have developmental difficulties, grow up in the system) at greater risk of becoming victims of violence. ”

Disclaimer: This is unofficial translation provided for information purposes. Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center cannot be held legally responsible for any translation inaccuracy.   


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