A round table on the topic of „Prevention of Sexual Harassment and Abusement of Children: Accomplishments and Challenges“ was organized by the Association of Parents Step by step, on May 13th, 2014 at the Great hall of Školska knjiga in Zagreb. A same named round table was also organized three years ago, which parallel to the beginning of a campaign by the European Council for Stopping Sexual Abusement of Children named „One of Five“.
Many presenters have tried to answer the question of what has changed in the last three years and analysed the achievements and challenges in the past three years in relation to the problem of sexual violence against children. The moderator of the round table Gorana Hitrec, prof. psych. from the Association of Parents Step by Step, stated that there were several accomplishments achieved in the last three years. The Croatian Parliament ratified the European Counsel’s Convention about Protecting Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abusement, the police and the Croatian legislation have been improved on the matter of their accessibility to working with children, cooperation with the media has slowly been improving and the experts working with children are continuously being educated. Gorana Hitrec stressed the importance of systematic data collection on both the victims and the offenders of said crimes, treatment involvement of the non-abusing parent, introduction and implementation of sex education in schools and the introduction of efficient and preventive programs.
Ivana Milas Klaric, Ombudswoman for Children, pointed out that Croatia although ratified the Convention of the Council of Europe – part of the recommendations are still not being implemented and another part are being executed only normatively. She also pointed out the issue of very lengthy litigation, the large number of different examiners when taking evidence from children, lack of support systems, institutions and experts and the lack of supervision and monitoring of perpetrators of sexual abuse and exploitation of children. Bruna Profaca, from the Polyclinic for Child Protection of the City of Zagreb, presented the details of their clinical sample according to which 10.8% of Croatian children have experienced some form of sexual abuse during their lifetime, of which a 80% were the female children. Number of child abuse increases with age. Profaca has pointed out that children are often re-victimized and re-traumatized by improper testing, for which there’s a great need to work on. She also suggested that the Polyclinics for Child Protection are needed all over Croatia, and not just in the City of Zagreb. Marina Ajduković from the Faculty of Law in Zagreb also stressed the need for the introduction and implementation of sex education in schools in order to prevent sexual abuse and protect children. The next presenter at the round table was Sanja Gospodionović, police officer for juvenile delinquency and crime at the expense of family and youth. Gospodinović referred to the fact that to prove a criminal offense committed against children, the police officers need a high level of knowledge and a highly sensitized approach. This is achieved through a continuous and special education (being implemented for thirteen years now) in which police officers expressing a special affinity for working with children are sent to complete a specific training course and then awarded the title of specialized officers for youth. President of the Juvenile Section of the County Court in Zagreb, Lana Petö Kujundzic, presented the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators of crimes against sexual freedom where children are victims. Petö Kujundzic agreed with the previous presenters regarding the necessary urgency of acting by not only policemen and policewomen, but also social services, public prosecutors and litigation in general. She also noted that on the whole, Croatian facilities in which children are being interrogated are not children-friendly, that not all courts have experts for working with children and that the social welfare centers and family centers do not have special departments and people designated to working with abused children.
The final part of the roundtable focused on the role of sex education in the educational system. Jóna Pálsdóttir presented experiences from Iceland through their project “Awakening of Consciousness.” Education in Iceland is used as a tool for the prevention of sexual abuse against and among children. Pálsdóttir continued by presenting an educational film that is used in sexual education. The Croatian issue of the role of health education in the prevention of sexual abuse and exploitation of children was presented by Aleksandar Štulhofer from the Department of Sociology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb. Štulhofer referred to the attacks on the content of the program, i.e. the Curriculum of Health Education, which led to the censorship of the authors of the program. He noted that health education is a continuous process and that it is necessary to observe the youth culture and listen to their needs. Štulhofer stressed that the content of health education is not the desired final product and that its current school schedule is insufficient for the purpose of better and faster education of young people. The last presenter at the roundtables Silvija Stanić from the Association of Parents Step by Step presented the CAP program, intended for the prevention of child abuse, and pointed out that the task of professionals and experts, and the entire society, is to continue to invest in working with the youth on the prevention of sexual abuse, risky sexual behaviour, etc.

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