At the International Conference “Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children – From Reporting to Final Verdict”

As part of the project “Verbum Sat” implemented by NGO “Brave Phone” (conference organizer) in partnership with the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Slovenia (head of project), the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Serbia, the European Agency for Forensics (Serbia) and the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center, international conference “Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children – from Reporting to Final Verdict” was held in Zagreb (Croatia) on February 17 and 18, 2020. Director of the our Center, Prof. Gordana Buljan Flander, PhD, held the invited lecture about a forensic interview with children as a meeting between rights and mental health. The lecture problematized whether the pathways diverge of the legal system that is seeking to discover what had happened and to adequately complete the judicial proceedings, and mental health professions that seek to protect the child from retraumatization and help him or her to work through trauma. Center’s Deputy Director prim. Domagoj Štimac, MD, Psychiatris participated in panel II: “Child – victims of sexual abuse and exploitation trauma – influence on whitnessing”. Center’s Psychologist Mia Roje Đapić moderated the Conference. 

At the Conference NGO “Brave Phone” succeeded to brought together relevant experts from Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia. The conference was attended by representatives of the Ministry of the Interior from all three countries, social welfare centers, courts (municipal, misdemeanor, county), the Office of the Ombudsperson for Children, Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center, and representatives of relevant civil society organizations (children’s lines from Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia) with the aim of exchanging experience and identifying forthcoming steps in reducing secondary traumatization of children victims of sexual abuse.

In addition to the our director, the invited speeches were held by Giulliana Mazzoni, PhD, as well as Lana Petö Kujunđić, PhD.

Giulliana Mazzoni, PhD, dedicated her lecture to the possible errors by experts in investigative procedures conducted in the case of child sexual abuse, highlighting the key challenges that Italy faces in prosecuting child sexual abuse and exploitation.

Lana Petö Kujundžić, PhD, stated that the child victim or witness should be protected for the prevention of secondary victimization, in order to enable them to recover and integrate, that is, to be able to participate in criminal and alternative proceedings. She reminded the conference participants of both the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Union Directive 2012/29/EU, which speak of the right of a child not to be re-victimized in court or in any other alternative procedure.

According to the Council of Europe, 1 in 5 children in Europe are victims of some form of sexual violence. The figure is the result of a number of studies and meta-analyzes collected by the Council of Europe, which has carried out a five-year campaign under the title aimed at drawing attention to the ubiquity of child sexual abuse in Europe. We also know from empirical research that only 10% of child sexual abuse cases are detected. In addition, even when victims talk about their traumatic experiences, the average time that elapses from the time when the abuse occurred to the time of confiding according to world-wide surveys is 10 to 16 years (Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center).

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