In the RTL show Potraga (Search) broadcasted on June 2, 2020, journalist Sanja Četipović presented the civic initiative Stop Pedofilija [Stop paedophilia], and about the stalking of minors on the Internet, the so-called grooming and sexting was spoken by the director of the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center, professor Gordana Buljan Flander, PhD. In the show was also spoke from the aspect of their professions, Goran Arbanas, PhD-MD, psychiatrist from the Vrapče Psychiatric Clinic and Assistant Minister of Justice for Criminal Law and Probation Vedrana Šimundža-Nikolić:
“Provided that we protect their identities, members of the Initiative agreed to speak for Potraga about reasons for organising about this issue.
Location internet. As soon as they open the fake profile of a minor, dozens of elderly people with dangerous intentions start calling them. When they are caught in their net – they make everything public, and leave the case to the police. That’s how the Stop Pedofilija Initiative works. Provided that we protect their identity, they agreed to speak for Potraga about why they organized themselves and how they discovered numerous paedophiles in Croatia.
“I’m sending you a photo for a nice day.”
“I’m 12 years old. Why this to me? ”
“So do you know what that is?”
“I do not understand why?”
This is a conversation of an underage girl with an adult man over the internet.
“Because I love you. You are young, but very attractive and that excites me. ”
“I’m going now. I have to go to school now. Bye.”
Other messages were more explicit. A few days later the little girl asked him what he wanted from her.
“You’re young, but you’re very sweet and you turn me on, sorry but I’m telling the truth.”
“Have you ever done that before – I mean send messages to girls my age?”
“And how old were they?”
“So did they send you something or just you to them?”
“They sent to me also.”
“Have you ever seen any of them?”
“Do you want to?”
The police know about this man who lives in the east of Croatia. The girl is not real. This is a fake profile. Behind her name is a group of people from Serbia who falsely present themselves in order to catch and expose predators. They agreed to talk, but only on the phone because of what they are doing they do not want anyone to see them.
“They are looking for information on where they are from, how old they are, who they live with, it is very important to them then they move on to talk about whether they have boyfriends, relationships, etc. It is with simple players. The more cunning players try to get closer to the child in 3 or 4 months, for months they will pretend to be wonderful, and then they will call the child and suggest that they come for the child by car”, told us from the Stop Pedofilija Initiative.
Members of the Stop Pedofilija group have been trying to expose them for five years. They have dozens of fake profiles open.
“On every new one, in a few days, about a hundred of those who have some affinities towards children respond,” the Initiative told us.
The group was formed spontaneously. Parents who found various inappropriate content on their children’s profiles reported that there were those parents who found it increasingly difficult to follow the development of technology. Which benefits predators. They don’t have to go out, they look for a victim from the living room.
“What is worrying about this is that it starts as ‘grooming’, meaning the process of seducing a child via the internet, the process of establishing trust and the process of establishing the child’s obedience in keeping a secret. After establishing trust, they ask children to send them explicit content, usually children know how to talk to adults because 50 percent of them say their age, but by then the children are already seduced “, says the director of the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center, professor Gordana Buljan Flander.
A new term among young people is the so-called “sexting”. They send, receive and forward provocative and explicit sexual content. According to a survey by the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center, 60 percent of young people admitted to doing so. In 2015, that made up 40 percent of them. Many of them admitted that they also send such content to strangers.
“Then there is often blackmail of the so-called sextorching, where the perpetrators blackmail the victim: if you don’t send something new, I’ll paint pictures of your school; I will send to the parents – and the children continue to send and then they enter the so-called a spiral of despair. They live in daily fear of what is next and it turned out that this type of blackmail is a very risky factor for a suicide attempt “, Gordana Buljan Flander told us.
“The perpetrator is rarely unknown to the child”
Some will try to reach the victim, some will not. From the experience of a group that hunts predators, 10 percent of them will try to find victims. U.S. research shows that 8 percent of sexual abuse occurs online, and that 85 percent of sexual abusers know their victim beforehand.
“Rarely is the perpetrator unknown to the child. They already have some relationship with child and then they introduce an element of coercion into it. They can threaten that the child will end up in the foster care, if they know that the child has hidden something, then: I will tell everyone. Or that it will harm the mother, that no one should find out about this secret. The child is always in a weaker position in relation to the adult. The child is afraid of adults, they does not know that they can go to the police, the child thinks that he/she should tell mother or someone close, and often it is someone close who hurt the child, and sometimes the child confides so the mother but she does not trust to child”, said psychiatrist of the Vrapče Psychiatric Clinic Goran Arbanas.
And so abuse can last for years.
“Under paedophilia, we in psychiatry consider those people to whom sexual arousal is represented by children, namely children who do not have secondary sexual characteristics, that is, before puberty 5, 8, 10 years. Most likely today we think that these people are biologically determined – we know that there are certain changes in the brain and that it reacts differently than the brain of a non-paedophile person, so this means that it is organic, not educational. We must not equate the crime of sexual intercourse with children and paedophilia, because often those who commit such a crime are not paedophiles” Goran Arbanas explained.
“The motive is not the same,” claims the psychiatrist. There are, he explains, those who do not understand that these are children, there are also those who want to punish the child or harm them. In the Croatian sample, among all sexual abusers, those with a diagnosis of paedophilia are approximately 15 percent, which is the European average.
“There are a lot more motives for abuse that can be the cause. Some will have mental disorders, but the vast majority of abusers are people without real mental disorders. They have a personality disorder – these are overemphasized personality traits that cause a person or environment to suffer. They occur until a young adult and last a lifetime and most of them should be held accountable because they know what they are doing” says Goran Arbanas.
The so-called Register of Paedophiles, and in fact sexual abusers, contains the names of 1,558 people. Among them are 27 women. The oldest is 91 years old. It was established in 2013 and employers can access the Register. According to special regulations, schools, kindergartens and sports facilities must check the workers they employ, and social centres must check the families which apply for adaptation. Last year, about 13,070 requests were sent to the Ministry of Justice. The inspection established that three were in the Register of convicts for sexual offenses against children. Other employers can also check the workers they plan to hire, but only if they get the consent of the other party. The abuser remains in the Registry until the rehabilitation period expires.
“It takes ten years to erase him, he must not be convicted again, and with acts like this it takes twice as long. So twenty years”, said the Assistant Minister of Justice in charge of the Criminal Law Administration, Vedrana Šimundža-Nikolić.
But all that, says psychologist Buljan Flander, is just the tip of the iceberg. On average, there are many more dark numbers. Only 10 percent of cases of sexual abuse are detected.
“Everything we know about sexual abuse is based on that 10 percent, and scientific research shows that every fifth child in Croatia is abused. The average delay in disclosure is 10 to 16 years… I have worked with 1600 sexually abused children – they are left alone in the world – no one believes them, and I can count on the fingers of one hand how much physical evidence there was, it all depends on the child’s testimony and therefore we offer the judges that we talk to the children. There are children who had to tell 10 times what happened to them”, says Gordana Buljan Flander.
Their trauma requires serious psychological treatment because sexual abuse leaves profound consequences.
“There are many consequences, both physical and psychological: the development of depression, PTSD, childhood eating disorder, borderline personality disorder, a number of mental disorders, later sexual, from reduced sexual desire, orgasm problems, delayed ejaculation in men, etc.” , Goran Arbanas told us.
And paedophilia as a disease can be brought under control if the person has a motive for it and cooperates.
Prevention is always better
“As with healthy sexuality, just because someone is a paedophile doesn’t mean they can’t be controlled – because then someone with heterosexual tendencies would jump on the first woman on the street, but they won’t. That is how we can teach paedophiles to control themselves”, says Goran Arbanas.
A study conducted in America, says Buljan Flander, showed that if they go through prison and treatment, seven percent of perpetrators repeat the offense, and if they only go through prison, then they repeat up to 70 percent.
“It should be explained to the children that it is about abuse, then what is the difference between good and bad touches, what is a good and a bad secret – at the age of five or six. And in school, that should be explained – what is a touch of intimacy, what is a normal touch, and what is a sexual touch “, said Gordana Buljan Flander.
Because prevention is always better than remedying the consequences. The founders of the Stop Pedofilija group are convinced that they are doing a good job and do not intend to give up.
“Our goal is to publicly reveal a person who wants to harm a child: to take away their computer because they will find real victims in them. He does not have to answer for the profile of a fake girl, but on his computer surly can be find anything and everything” the Stop Pedofilija Initiative told us.
However, the Croatian police would be happier to send a report of paedophiles to them before they make everything public. Because often when they open an investigation, as in the case of the man from the beginning of the story – everything falls into the water because they do not find any evidence. Predators already had enough time to erase everything. And there is no real victim behind the false profile. ”
Source (on Croatian): https://www.rtl.hr/vijesti-hr/potraga/3827372/stop-pedofiliji-potraga-istrazuje-kako-pedofili-vrebaju-djecu-i-tko-su-ljudi-koji-ih-razotkrivaju/?fbclid=IwAR1HiMl17RlPPFUXIwAN17uwAEsn6NQdIDeiK22pT1yS-KyN4Oxb4_gNn0s
Disclaimer: This is unofficial translation provided for information purposes. Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center can not be held legally responsible for any translation inaccuracy.