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Dear children and parents, Continuing with the earlier notice of the Zagreb Child and Youth…
In the show ZOOM Zagreb, edited and hosted by Hana Tabaković on Z1 television on the topic of psychological support for children in the “new normal” after isolation and earthquake, the director of the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center, the host were professor Gordana Buljan Flander, PhD. The show aired on June 29th, 2020:
Recently, psychologist Ella Selak Bagarić, was a guest on this show, when we were in the so-called lock down. When you finally opened up, what did it look like?
Buljan Flander: Well, we all could hardly wait to open up, even though we had to work differently, to adapt to the new measures. Some of our kids we communicated with online could hardly wait to see each other live after all. Of course we can accommodate less children than we could before given all these measures that we need to follow, but I must say that we ourselves are accustomed to this new way of functioning and providing assistance to children and parents, and that is online therapy, online support We use it at this time for some who can’t come, and it seems to me that there will be more and more of them now, so our online support is something that is a revelation to us.
I am very well acquainted with the work of your Center and I know that it is a refuge for many families and the most important refuge for children, where they somehow find their peace, escape from the problem, but also the solution to the problem. You had to go back a little bit, we all actually went backwards, the whole world stopped. How was it for the kids to come back again?
Buljan Flander: Some children could hardly wait to be able to tell what they couldn’t say over the phone, that couldn’t say over zoom, because online support is a great thing, a great discovery, but many children can’t say everything that bothers them, because they are not alone at home, parents listen to what is being talked about, if it is about abuse, or inappropriate behavior of parents towards children, of course they will not dare to tell us. Then it is better to be open at least for such children, although we are also open to children who have other, say school problems. We had a lot of kids who have fears after an earthquake, who have increased anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, eating disorders after an earthquake. Because unfortunately in Zagreb, not only did we have a corona situation, a lock down, but we also had really traumatic experiences for our Zagreb children.
You get great support from the City of Zagreb?
Buljan Flander: Yes, as usual, this time the City of Zagreb was ahead of other parts and cities of Croatia. Namely, I will never forget how a month and a half ago the mayor approached me after a press conference and asked if we would have problems with children after all this, do we have reason to worry? I told the mayor we have reason to worry because research shows that after quarantine children 30% of them after a few months have post-traumatic stress disorder, and we are in addition to whether there is an earthquake. Then the mayor decided to establish the Commission for the Protection of Mental Health of Children and Youth of the City of Zagreb on the spot. He put me at the head of the Commission. The Commission includes the head of the city health office, the head of the city social office, many experts, the colleague you mentioned, colleague Bagarić, and we have really done a lot in a very short period of time. Our goal is for every child who receives adequate help in the health care system, in the education system and in the social system, but also to have preventive activities available to them. So in the fall we have as little as possible post-traumatic stress disorder as we really expect 30% of children to have that disorder.
You mentioned dr.Jeleč and Galić and they are both our dear guests. There was a lot of talk about mental health. We know that the Zagreb Health Office, more precisely the City Health Office, has several mental health campaigns, and the emphasis is constantly on the mental health of young people. There you are, of course. Of course, the companies could not do it due to circumstances well known to all of us. But it is still being done.
Buljan Flander: A lot is being done in terms of raising public awareness, where there are problems and giving information to young children where they can seek help. My deputy in that committee, Deputy Mayor Jelena Vukićević Pavičić, who is in constant contact with the faculties, also helped us a lot. So that the students of the faculty from the University of Zagreb also have access to help and some self-help measures. We send our materials to all coordinators, so that they are available to the profession, and to parents and children as well, so that they can know not only where to go, but also what symptoms to pay attention to and when to seek help. We also had a “Behind this door lives Mia” campaign at the time of the corona. I guess it went on your television too. Because we had a need to warn the neighbours, people who know that behind closed doors some domestic violence is possible not to be silent. Because as I always say, I will say about this situation – if we think that something behind closed doors is happening badly to children, badly to women, to any victim of violence we are obliged, obliged to react, because victims either do not know or must not talk about it. Our campaign has been taken over by many European countries. We also had a campaign aimed at young people to stay at home and I think we really showed in this crisis how the profession can gather heads and how we can get organized quickly. How can we provide support quickly. I am convinced that the experience we had in the war helped us in that. I really often had associations with the war situation when we in Zagreb in the nineties in the same way the profession gathered and we did everything we could, gave of ourselves, our knowledge, our energy, our time, wherever we could, as much as we could. I had such a sense of solidarity both now and what I saw among young people when we had a campaign aimed at young people to stay home that they are really in solidarity. We often say these young people today are different than we were, so they are not responsible, they do not respect, they only look at themselves, they do not look at others. I have to admit that my experience is such different. A lot of young people stayed at home and I really liked it when I saw the Norwegian Minister of Health address the young graduates and thank them for putting their lives on hold. Because we have to think that way. They will only have a prom once, they will have a prom only once. And they won’t have it, they didn’t have the kind of things they were supposed to have. And they lived in a situation where their development is life here and now. They live in the present. When you tell a young man aged 16-17 Oh, when you finish college, then when you work. He doesn’t hear you, because it’s far from him. They generally wonder what we who are more than 30-40 years old, what more do we know, what do we have to tell them. It’s all developmental. This does not mean that they are rude, nor that it is a disorder. It’s developmental. We were all like that, it’s just a question of how much we were allowed or not allowed to express it. And so they as such, who live the present, for whom according to their stage of development of the brain the present is a priority, they actually did not have that present as their peers had before the corona and before the lock down.
You mentioned stress. You mentioned children. A large number of psychiatrists came here and all agreed on this, but it was all psychiatrists. So we are talking about adults, that when one day we learn this new thing normally, more precisely when we can take off our masks and know that we are corona free, that only then will PTSD appear. And what about the children?
Buljan Flander: Same thing. PTSD very often occurs delayed and that is why the work of the Commission I talked about is very important so that as little PTSD as possible is in the fall as a delayed reaction. Now, will we only have a delayed reaction after lock down. What will happen now, no one knows. So we really need to look after children and young people and provide them with all possible sources of support. But in order to provide for children and young people, we must also provide for parents. Many parents called me and at the time of the lock down, they asked for advice for their children. I asked everyone “how are you”. Because depending on how you are, it will depend on how your children will be. So some parents told me I was horrified or stressed by the earthquake, when I feel a new earthquake I get completely lost. It is important to know that these are normal reactions to an abnormal situation in both children and adults. So both adults have a right to be afraid and adults have a right to have to feel anxious, depressed, hopeless. Because we don’t know what awaits us. They absolutely have a right to all these feelings and it is good that adults also take care and take care of themselves so that they can take better care of their children.
How to get used to this new normal. We thought at one point when the number was 0 that it was easy, but we were returning to that kind of normal and then suddenly a big increase in new cases. Today there are as many as 20 of them in Zagreb. It is not pleasant. We are fighting an invisible enemy. You don’t know where it can get infected anywhere. Here are many I spoke to who told me I have a terrible feeling that I might end up in a 14 day quarantine. Many of my acquaintances and friends ended up in quarantine because of Zadar. They just say it’s not good, especially if you’re single, if you’re locked up at home for 14 days at home and nice weather so you can’t go anywhere, and the penalties are huge. How to deal with it?
Buljan Flander: Well, it’s certainly not easy, but I think we all have to adapt now to protect ourselves, but also to protect others. Since I deal with children and young people, I must say again that we are their role models. We are their models for identification and the way we want them to behave, we must behave the same way. It’s hard for someone to tell a young man ‘don’t smoke her, smoking is very unhealthy’ while holding a cigarette in your mouth. So we will not be able to stop our children and young people if we do not respect the measures. I think that the situation is really such that we all have to understand that the enemy is invisible, that we don’t know much about him. To me personally and to all the adults I talk to, everyone says that if they have a certain structure and certain instructions, it is much easier for them. Because then they know how to behave. And I think it’s just as important for children to explain to children what a virus is, how a virus spreads, how to wash hands, why to wash hands, why it shouldn’t come close to grandparents who are at risk. When you give this information to children, then the children have a sense of control over life, and the worst thing for us is that we have lost our sense of control over life. And once some people asked me ‘why do people who are in self-isolation violate measures, why do they go out’. I can understand that it is difficult to be closed, but it seems to me that even more people will go out who are afraid, so they will come to a paradoxical reaction. Precisely so that they don’t encounter their sense of helplessness, they will go out, so as not to think of themselves ‘I am helpless because I can’t deal with it’. They will find it easier to deal with ‘no one can do anything to me’ situations, and in fact they are basically afraid that something will happen to them. So there are various reasons why people will violate self-isolation, but I think it’s really important that we have clear instructions on how to behave, because then it’s easier for us to organize our lives as well.
For a while we listened to the second wave coming, in fact in the fall that we could expect it, that it would most likely come. But here it happened to us that in the month of June, in two days is the beginning of 7 months, we wear masks, the number of new patients is growing. We have a hotspot in Đakovo. They said that there was a hot spot in Zagreb as well. It seems that we will not have to wait, we have opened the borders, our guests are coming. How can we even imagine this summer?
Buljan Flander: I have to admit that I personally can’t even imagine what it will look like this summer considering that tourists are coming to us, since our borders are open, since we have a lot of asymptomatic ones that won’t show any symptoms, we won’t know if we transmit or not transmit to us. Again, it seems to me that it is really important, if there are measures, if there are instructions, to follow the instructions as much as possible, so that we at least know that we did everything we could. I know in our Center, when we relaxed a little over 15 days ago, I felt more insecure than now. Because we now have all the measures, we respect everything that epidemiologists have said, especially for health facilities. Let’s say fifteen days ago I was just thinking if a man doesn’t have a mask, so maybe we should let him in, even though we had rules that he has to be with a mask, I was thinking so maybe we should let him in without a mask. Today, it does not occur to anyone and it gives us a sense of, as I said, control over life. And what will be, I really think that no one alive can predict what will happen with all this opening of borders, nor am I competent to judge it.
But I have to ask you – how do you deal with all this. You are actually the director of the most important Center in Croatia because it is the Center where our youngest come. You have wonderful colleagues. It is a responsibility for colleagues, for doctors, for children and for parents. How do you deal with all this?
Buljan Flander: Well, thank you very much for this question, because this is an opportunity to really tell you that when we were, when the crown started and when the lock went down, we left the shifts and of course we decided to work from home. The way my colleagues from the Center got involved and activated, gave me and somehow further strengthened my faith in people and believe in the profession and believe in my colleagues. Everyone has a need to do something. We have produced over 50-60 professional texts that we have published both on our pages and in the media. We organized several campaigns that broke through the borders of Croatia. We have also published scientific papers. We immediately started with scientific research that will serve us to obtain data that will help us better to help children and parents later. So people got very active, engaged and I think that kept us going. On the other hand, I was really available to all my employees at noon and midnight and we were all to each other. So many creative ideas came out that I was just sorry that we ended that third and fourth month with big losses because we didn’t have patients. So people can’t be paid for it and they knew they wouldn’t be paid because we knew there would be losses, but we still have a need and this part that we can’t charge, to help the children. Because with us it’s not a job, it’s a call, it’s really a drive from the inside. With that you go to sleep, with that you wake up. We carry each of our children with us and with them, I have to really admit, and we fall asleep, we think a lot, a lot of times it happened to me a hundred times ‘did I do everything for this child, in the evening to think, then I get up, then I go to look at finding in the computer, maybe I should have written something else, to better protect it ‘.
How do you cope when unfortunately not all cases can have a beautiful ending and a happy ending. In a smaller percentage is that number that do not have a happy ending. How do you deal with that? I asked your doctor Bagarić that, it was not easy for her to answer that question.
Buljan Flander: Yes, I have a little more experience than her and maybe I found some way after all these years. What is difficult for me is to fight the system. When I see that I have, say, a sexually abused child and I know his soul, I know all his torment and suffering, so when I see that the trial lasts three, four, five years. And during that time, that child has to prove to everyone and the environment that he is not lying or that during that time the child has been separated from the family, so he is in the home, and the parents have stayed together. It’s hard for me, hard for me to fight the system, with a lack of understanding of the system for children who are victims of parenting and anyone’s actions. Working with children who go through these sufferings, I have been working with them for over 35 years, I love and know how to do it and sometimes we will be the experts who are the only people who actually show that child that they accept him. And these children know how to give back with their gratitude and I never like when these children are seen only as victims, there is a nice English expression that they are survivors. It sounds ugly to us, but in fact to me they survived despite everything that happened to them in life. I admire them, I bow to them to the floor, they have tremendous strength that they have survived it all and kept silent and carried it within themselves. They met the abuser every day, survived, were good students, enrolled in some high schools, finished college. Research shows that the delay in disclosure in sexual abuse, i.e. from the time it happened to the time it is said, is 10 to 16 years. Imagine what those children in those 10 to 16 years live in. Well, aren’t they really brave, aren’t they heroes who live and survive with that. And what I see when I start working with those kids, I see that end you mention, I see the moment when I know we’re going to get to the end of therapy and when I know they’re going to leave me, that they’re not going to look in my face anymore that they’re not guilty , that they are not responsible, but will be able to leave, and I will be calm because I will know that they are leaving with their carelessness, without a sense of guilt, without a sense of being marked. It’s very similar to me like when they asked me, I have two daughters, when they asked me how you felt when she moved out both. I’m great. I raised them to be able to live alone, and now they have come to a situation where they can live alone. Eh, so it is with patients. That moment when you see in their eyes that they don’t need you anymore, that you can let them go. It’s something that absolutely can’t be paid for and can’t be described by someone who hasn’t experienced it.
I have to touch on the book a bit too since you haven’t been our guest. Did you publish a book?
Buljan Flander: Do you mean a book about upbringing, about divorce or the latter. About divorce. We’ve had three books now lately. Yes, we released it just two days ago, three before the lock down was a promotion. We published a book that does not exist such a book, with that mathematics on our market, which seemed to me very very important especially for the profession. The book is called “The Child at the Center of Conflict” because we increasingly have parents who are in highly conflicted divorces and the child is at the center not of their love, but of their conflict. A child is a weapon with which they shoot at each other and the child is invisible there. These are very often invisible children who have the task only to calm their parents so that the conflict does not escalate. It is certainly a group of emotional abuse of children that is not recognized in the system as abused children and they often say ‘So let’s give the parents some time to calm down’, ‘The child wants to live with that parent, so let’s leave him with that parent’. I wanted to ask questions through that book so that it would be expert for you that sexual abuse was involved, so that you would say ‘Well, the child wants to live with that parent, why not leave him’, ‘Or let’s just let the child get used to it’ you would leave such a child. And abuse is abuse, before the profession, before the law, morally, however, you want. People who work with this issue really do not have enough education, do not have enough knowledge, because the issue is new and very often bring conclusions, recommendations, opinions based on their worldview ‘I grew up without parents, so I know what it’s like and then I’ll bring some such a decision or recommendation “or ‘mom is a mom’, ‘always a better mom’, ‘dad like a stake’ or ‘no mom is good, yet men are now fathers are getting better, so maybe they need them’. So, absolutely if we have no knowledge, if we do not have evidence-based knowledge then we can really make a big mistake, we can go from extreme to extreme and make decisions that are very harmful to the child. And recommendations and decisions that are very harmful to the child, it is literally about life and death We can emotionally kill that child I have worked with a lot of children from high conflict divorces Very often they are emotionally dead children because they take so much of the emotions of the parents whose love they want to get that their emotions are gone, they are gone watch these children closely, and you will often hear both in the media and on social media say ‘so the child is fused with that parent, which we experts think is not good, what is missing is that mom and child or dad and child are so connected’. When we say that then I know what is missing. Then we know that it is not good for a child to take over the feelings, behaviors, desires of that parent because then he no longer has his desires, his needs, and what will happen when he is 13-14 years old, when some others say ‘let’s take drugs, let’s drink’, and it has no attitude, no desires, no needs, it will be very risky.
In this lock down, a lot of them have developed, a lot is about to divorce. But some of them somehow got closer, started from the beginning and met their family again, most beautifully. Because in the time we lived before this corona virus, we ran for work, for obligations, to satisfy others, to satisfy ourselves, in fact the least of ourselves, to meet those certain social norms. When it suddenly closed, we had to turn to ourselves and our family. This is perhaps the only plus of this whole story, which is still the number one topic, not only in Croatia but in the whole world.
Buljan Flander: Yes, because this was a situation that brings risks, but it also brings opportunities. Exactly what you said. Parents had the opportunity to dedicate to their children, children had the opportunity to spend more time with their parents, partners to get closer again. I think these partnerships depended heavily on what they were like before. If they were loaded before, if the dynamics were disturbed before this could have contributed even more to the disturbed dynamics. But if they have been close before or have not actually had too many conflicts, then this is an opportunity to get even closer not only to each other but also to their children. And that’s what many kids told me ‘it was nice to me while I was or was with both mom and dad’, but also a lot of kids told me ‘before I was only beaten by dad or just mom, and now they beat me both’. Because if they are in conflict with each other, if they are dissatisfied, and this is all a situation that increases dissatisfaction. So, financial problems, uncertainty, employment problems, we are afraid of what will happen to us with health, job loss, all these are factors that are actually risky for the occurrence of domestic violence. And we will only now see how much increased and intensified domestic violence. But another thing that is less talked about, and that is, I am sure, that sexual abuse will also increase. Children were mostly in front of computers online, abusers know that children are online, sexual abusers and they actually have a lot more chances to reach those children.
Is it a disorder. In sexual abusers, stalking minor children. Can we call it a disorder?
Buljan Flander: Well, it doesn’t have to meet the criteria for a certain disorder of the pedophilia type, but in any case it’s something, I would call you a disorder because no one is stalking minors just to tease them as they say. Their ultimate goal is to meet live and have sex, or some kind of sexualized behavior.
These are some things until you started coming to us and until we created a wonderful relationship with your clinic, many viewers after each show come up and ask ‘so is it possible that this is happening in Croatia, is it possible that there are so many abused children, so I thought it was only on film and that it doesn’t really happen anywhere else but on film, so how is that possible, where we live it ‘.
Buljan Flander: I am very grateful to you for telling me about it in the shows, because when I specialized in this issue – I specialized in the topic of protection of sexually, physically, emotionally abused children for seven years, my teachers Americans, really the biggest names in science in in this area, the first thing they taught me is that if you want to have the protection of sexually abused, physically abused children in Croatia you have to raise public awareness that this problem exists in you. I remember when I, I was in that education from 1995 to 2002, and when I founded Brave Phone in 1997, one plain poster was ‘if they beat you, if they tell you something that makes you uncomfortable, call that that number ‘. No school in Croatia wanted to have that poster in their school because it was too strong a text for them. So it should have really pointed out to people that it exists in our country, not in Oprah Winfrey shows and in American movies, as you say. So in 2002 I started a research on students in Zagreb, so there are students from all over Croatia, and we found that every sixth young man under 14 and every fourth girl under 14 was sexually abused. And when I say sexually abused, I don’t just mean sexual intercourse, someone’s any sexualized, adult sexual behavior toward children. So, it can be non-contact, you can show a child porn movies, you can make a child watch some sexual, sexualized behavior, so when I started talking about it happening in Croatia, I was literally the enemy, because it is does not happen in Croatia. So we did another survey on 4,500 high school seniors. Get the same results – every fifth child in Croatia has experienced some form of sexual abuse. So in 2010, the Council of Europe launched a campaign called ‘one in five’ to stop sexual abuse in Europe. Thus, European countries have shown that every fifth child, as in Croatia, is sexually abused. Experts are often surprised, so it is not strange that citizens who are not professionals are surprised by how much there is. Because kids don’t talk about it, because they’re ashamed. Only 10% of sexual abuse is known. 90% remain undetected.
Is it a long process for a child to open up and say ‘this and that happened to me’
Buljan Flander: Sometimes it’s long, sometimes the child just confides. Let’s say I had a lot of children who confided when they saw a show like this and I always insisted in shows like this before it was the Brave Phone number, so that the children knew who to turn to. However, today, in principle, almost all children know the Brave Phone number and can call. We at the Center, that is, in these 17 years, have had over 1,700 sexually abused children, and I myself have certainly worked at least 1,600 1,700 sexually abused children. And I know their souls, I know their hearts and let them just not suffer anymore, so I would say on some occasion that seemed insignificant. What bothers people the most, even in the judiciary, is how it is possible that she was so silent (I speak in the feminine because girls are more often sexually abused). It’s very possible that she was silent, out of shame, out of guilt, mostly out of a sense that she would be guilty of breaking up the family, because she knew there was going to be a lawsuit, and she actually was if it was Dad, if it was Grandpa, if it’s an uncle, she loves him, she doesn’t want to end up in jail. Sometimes it is the only expression of love a child has received. I’m talking about a lot of reasons why kids are silent, and then lawyers are caught by the perpetrator and then they try to show if the child has been silent for a long time means he is lying. If a child has been silent for a long time, it means that he suffers, it means that he did not dare to speak and all these fears that make children silent, I claim this responsibly because I say I worked with over 1600, all these fears often come true.
How long does it take, years, I believe that years are at stake, that one victim of sexual abuse, be it a girl or a boy, somehow came back to life, that this soul you are talking about wakes up again and that there are no such fears, that she can think of some physical contact with the person she chooses, loves, and that she can think of perhaps creating her own family.
Buljan Flander: It depends on a lot of factors. It depends on how close she is to the abuser, it depends on how long the abuse lasted, whether there was penetration or no penetration, but one very important factor is whether she has the support of a non-abusive parent. It’s one big, big recovery factor. Unfortunately, I have experienced in my practice that mothers often take the side of the abuser – husband, brother, grandfather, and not on the side of the child. In that case, it is a very, very risky factor for recovery and that is what both scientific research and my clinical practice say. That is why when we do treatment, we work with both the child and the non-abusive parent. As much as experts may be angry at a non-abusive parent for not trusting the child, it is very important that they work with those parents to get the non-abuser to be supportive. Because I am a child one hour a week, and that mother 24 hours a day and her support is very important. I recently had one case where a child described everything, said everything, a lawsuit started, but it took a long time. Unfortunately, it lasted a really long time and during that period the child was exposed to pressure from both the father who is a sexual abuser and the mother who sided with him and all the relatives. And that child was actually left alone in the world, because everyone blamed the child that she ruined the family, not him. And the child withdrew after two and a half years of testimony. Of course, the court now has to decide whether the child was telling the truth two and a half years ago when he testified about the abuse or now when he withdrew his testimony. But that is why it is important that all of us who work with these children know what the judiciary is. Precisely that – the length of the trial, inadequate or ambivalent support from the close environment, especially the non-abusive parent, and the pressure of everyone around to withdraw the statement. One child wrote to me when she withdrew her statement. Likewise, after two years, the girl withdrew her testimony. She was in the home and now I need to re-examine her when she was telling the truth then or now, when she had the capacity for credibility. No sense in telling you now – I don’t wanna ruin the suprise. I tell her if she want to tell me what happened, so that she withdrew. She was silent. I asked if she wanted to write to me what’s in her head and then she wrote ‘it all happened, but no one believed me. No mom, no classmate, no aunt, and that’s why I withdrew my statement. Mom accuses me of being to blame for him, he is a stepfather, he was ‘bad’ to her. Now he will be better to her, so then mom will love me again.” That is too sad!
Those are scary sentences.
Buljan Flander: Yes, and if it all went faster and if that child received adequate support, it would be all different, because he still lives in such a painful situation, that he is alone in the world.
You talked about women several times, you talked about women, you talked to girls – what about boys, what are the statistics?
Buljan Flander: Boys report sexual abuse much less often. Women are much less likely to be abused. But I would also have one caveat here. We have a lot more eye on girls, because we expect them to be abused. In addition, boys will not report so easily because they are afraid, especially if they are abused by a male abuser, then they are afraid that they will start talking about their sexual orientation, so I think they report less, and we have less eye on them. . But research really shows that they are much less abused, that far fewer women are abusers. I’ve had a lot of boys being abused by my father, but by male abusers mostly, by my father, by my coach, by my uncle, by my stepfather. What I didn’t have a lot of in my career, I didn’t have a lot of female abusers. And then when I give trainings around Europe, I ask the experts, did you have any. But people say, someone had a dozen, 15, 5, I didn’t really hear that someone worked with 100 abusers. When I was in America on specialization, I worked in a prison with abusers. Well there they were all, there were 200 male abusers. And what was interesting to me as a young psychologist, out of all those 200 maybe …
Have they ever answered your question about why they did it?
Buljan Flander: They have a lot, a lot of explanation. They have tremendous rationalizations. I really spent a month and a half working with them. First, they explained to me that if there was no penetration then it was not abused, so they explained to me that they actually wanted to introduce their girl to the world of sex, so it was better that they than some drool, so she wanted it even though she had 9 years or 10 say. So, they have strong, strong rationalizations and that is why treatment is needed.
And remorse not?
Buljan Flander: No, no, that’s the problem. What they don’t really have is that developed superego. They do not have a developed conscience, but they have great rationalizations and the administration is in that area, treatment is being done in that part. I was in jail, working in a prison in Oklahoma City. Every state in America has one prison that offers both punishment and treatment, but the fact that they choose that prison does not reduce their punishment. Because most would then choose that prison, they choose that prison because they want treatment, but it doesn’t reduce their sentence. Although many told me that they just wanted that prison because they still hoped it would reduce their sentence and they are undergoing three years of treatment. Pure cognitive-behavioral. So, not some psychoanalytic one, my mom did it or my dad did it, so now I’m like that, because it offers them an excuse. So pure cognitive-behavioral, that when they simply start fantasizing about how to attack that child, they stop there. Because it’s a circle where they fantasize about a child, think, collect child pornography …
Does that turning point ever come when he realizes that apologies are really just some kind of justification for himself, but that they are not realistic.
Buljan Flander: After the treatment, some come. And if the judge sees that they did not come, then he repeats again the measure of treatment that lasts for three years. So some have gone through three times in three years with the ones I worked with. The minimum sentence was 15 years, and half was life. What amazed me then as a younger psychologist was that all those who were married, all but one, all the women were waiting for them to get out of prison and those who were for life. It stunned me so much, so I set out to study a bit to see if it was happening elsewhere. And really, very, very often wives take the side of the husband and now you can imagine what it’s like for that child who really, like I said just now, is left alone in the world and that’s why it’s important to work with that mom the same, not just work with the child but also with my mother, so that my mother could still be somewhere in her trouble that it all comes together …
But it is almost unbelievable that the mother does not have that instinct to protect her own child and to say ‘that he is a monster, he did this to me and that to the child, he was not allowed’, but that he actually takes the side of the abuser right from the start
Buljan Flander: I spent a lot of my supervision in this seven-year specialization on anger towards those mothers who do not take the child’s side, towards grandmothers, ultimately towards male family members, but what bothered me the most was that the child really needed a child if his father stopped him. mom. And then one day one of my supervisors, Dr. Barbara Boner, said to me, ‘Let’s try to imagine the police ringing your doorbell and telling you to hear your husband sexually abuse your child,’ would you say, ‘Come in, tell me about it, just great, let’s drink coffee and talk about it ‘, try to understand what a shock that woman is in, How hard it is for her to accept that her choice did it, so someone she chose did it, then she is co-responsible. And then it’s easier to think the impossible on the first ball, because I know him, he’s not like that. And that’s why it’s important to get those parents to cooperate. And here I really have a lot of experience. I didn’t get some, I have to admit I didn’t get some. In this part, the child should be protected and work with the child on strengthening. And for many moms, from the initial shock, disbelief and rejection of the possibility that this could happen, I have led them to be supportive. So I have various experiences, but the most beautiful experiences for me are when after a year, two, three, five, ten and my girls bring me their children, for example, to see their children. When they bring me wedding cakes when they get married. Although I also had some girls where moms of boys didn’t want a boyfriend to be with her, because she’s the one who had a relationship with her father. So sometimes they needed support after they were treated with us, they needed support later, after a year, two, three, five, but they always know that they can come, no matter how old we are, they they can come even when they are 25 and they know it. So these young women call us and bring us to see their children. I recently met one that really moved me. She came out of an unfinished treatment 10 years ago and never showed up again. But she told me ‘I didn’t go all the way and she gave me a reason why she didn’t, but I now have three children and a wonderful husband and what you taught me is not to hide from my husband what happened to me, but to tell him and ask and I expect support and everything I did with you, even though I did not finish the treatment, it helped me to raise my children ‘. So there is a lot, this job, no matter how hard it is, has great gratification.
Yes that’s the most beautiful thing, actually a big thank you for someone’s lives that have moved on. How will the Center work this summer? We are aware of the fact that a large number of our fellow citizens, both for fear of the coronavirus, fear of infection, job loss, and everything else, will most likely spend this summer in Zagreb. Because no one is rushing to the Croatian coast to rest, because somehow we are all in tension. Will the back be open all the time?
Buljan Flander: Absolutely, we are fully working now. There is no waiting in the hallway, no crowds. We can’t stop the child from running from me to you in the hallway. And we can’t allow that. We order on a full hour so people don’t wait. We have a space outside where I can, if someone comes a little earlier, a little later. After each child and parent, the whole room is disinfected, ie the chair where they are sitting, the table, the toys if the child is something to play with, because the toys do not exist in the hallway. So, we really make sure that all the measures of the health institution are respected. We ask that only one parent accompany us. So the Center will continue to work normally, but we will also work online, so I think we will provide all our services. Parents can always call.
What message would you send to children who watch this in a rerun in the morning, not at this time when we go in the evening who are unfortunately victims and don’t know how to open up. I believe this show gave them insights that this is really happening. Probably in their neighborhood as well, not just them and it’s no shame to seek help.
Buljan Flander: Well, this is exactly what you said. I would actually repeat what you said. Children need to be safe. No one has the right to abuse or treat them badly. They are never to blame for the behavior of adults and never deserve any form of violence, neither physical, nor emotional, nor sexual. They can always seek the help of the nearest adult or call either the Center or the Brave Phone. Now there is no school, but they may have an aunt, uncle, neighbor, so let them eat the nearest adult and let them definitely seek help because they do not need to live in any form of violence.
You can watch the entire show on our Youtube channel (on Croatian language): https://youtu.be/aPBZXfFThkY
Disclaimer: This is unofficial translation provided for information purposes. Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center cannot be held legally responsible for any translation inaccuracy.