STA, 6 October 2020 - Every fifth Slovenian was a victim of sexual abuse as a child, shows a recent survey commissioned by the Justice Ministry. Minister Lilijana Kozlovič announced on Tuesday that a bill enabling the country's first Barnahus for child victims of sexual abuse would be likely passed in 2021.
Slovenia has been striving to ensure a way for children involved in criminal procedures to avoid any potential victimisation in the future, said Kozlovič at today's press conference.
A step closer to this objective is setting up Children's House, a special institute where children who have been victims of sexual abuse or other criminal offences or have witnessed them would be treated holistically in line with the internationally established Barnahus model.
The project encompasses more than simply opening a few special facilities for child victims of sexual abuse; it also aims to amend relevant procedures and change attitudes of all who come in contact with abused children, the minister said.
As part of the project, which is held under the auspices of the European Commissions and the Council of Europe, the ministry also commissioned the survey, which aimed to assess the understanding of the issue among children themselves as well as adults and their response mechanisms to sexual abuse.
The results will serve as a way to provide services at Children's House which would be tailor-made for children and their parents.
The survey, conducted by the Ipsos social research institute, shows that the majority of Slovenians (almost 70%) think that child sexual abuse is a grave issue, however half of the respondents do not believe they would recognise the signs of such offences.
What is even more concerning is that many apply a very narrow definition to child sexual abuse. A third believe that it always involves a level of physical force and do not deem other types of sexual abuse what they actually are - sexual abuse.
A quarter of Slovenians also believe that exposing children to sex and pornography is not abuse, warned Nataša Mohorč Kejžar, the head of Ipsos.
Moreover, sexual abuse is a topic that Slovenians prefer to avoid - more than third of adults have not discussed it with their children, with most of them expecting schools to address the subject.
Another cause for concern is that 15% of the respondents think that victims are responsible for their actions. They perpetuate the harmful stereotype of a girl who is to be blamed for being abused due to the clothes she wears or her conduct.
One in five Slovenians experienced at least one type of sexual abuse in childhood, whereas one in seven experienced two or more.
In most cases, the respondents said that they had been victims of inappropriate touching or displays. Merely 6% pressed criminal charges, half of those went to court. One in four such cases saw trial without conviction, said Mohorč Kejžar.
The survey also inquired about the expectations for Children's House. Children mostly wish it would be a place where their stories would be heard and believed, whereas parents expect a safe space, professional services and immediate support.
Both children and parents deem it important that psychological support is available as well as support by the police and other health workers.
The minister said today that a facility which is to host Slovenia's first Barnahus had already been selected. She also pointed out that another project setting up a network of support centres for children in general across the country would follow the Barnahus project.
Mirka Honko of the Council of Europe's Children's Rights division meanwhile expressed support for Slovenia's Barnahus project, calling it a flagship project in Europe and hoping it would inspire other member states to follow suit.
The full report on child abuse in Slovenia can be read here