We still force children to hug and kiss people who come to visit, even when it makes the children uncomfortable. Instead, they should be taught about the inviolability of their bodies: that they therefore have the right to say no.
This week, a new case of suspected sexual abuse broke out, this time among campers. Jernej Munc from the Association for Power, which deals with victims of violence, assessed for the Ob Osmih show on our radio that there are no more of these cases in recent years than before, but that as a society we are becoming more sensitive and more victims are speaking out. The response of the Union of Scouts of Slovenia highlights as an example of good practice: “It means that they have removed this person from all positions when they are suspected, that they have supported the victim and that they are cooperating with the police. This shows a high level of integrity as opposed to possibly sweeping it under the carpet. This is basically what builds trust in the organization. “ He warns that no environment is immune to sexual abuse, but most of it happens in the home environment, 85 percent of victims know the perpetrator well and trust him.
The best prevention is informationAccording to Jerneja Munc, topics such as sexual abuse, body boundaries and getting to know one’s own body are included in the curriculum too late. “My opinion is that we should already talk about these topics with preschool children, of course in a way that is appropriate for them: about what is appropriate and what is inappropriate touch, about the fact that they have the right to say no if they don’t like something in the relationship with their own body or have a bad feeling about something, and that if something like that is happening, they can say so and nothing will be wrong. Many times we still expect that when visiting an aunt or uncle, the child will give a kiss or a hug. Some kids like it, some don’t want it, they’re uncomfortable with it, and they have the right not to be forced to do it. And that’s the kind of information a young child needs to get.”Small children can also be informed through stories, for example about the underwear rule, according to which no one has the right to touch you. “Of course, research or peer curiosity is something else. If they are interested in it, there is nothing wrong, but if the child does not like it, the peer has no right to force him to do it either.”
How to recognize that sexual abuse has occurredIf a child knows significantly more details about sexuality than would be attributed to a certain age, this can be one of the alarm signs, others are changes in behavior, withdrawal, outbursts of anger, resistance to changing clothes, grooming, showering or visiting certain people. “There may be inflammation of the urinary tract, unexplained abdominal pain. If there are more of these signs, it is a signal that something may have happened. If suspicion arises, they can always contact our association, and with specific information, they should report the incident to the police.” When a victim speaks up, we need to send her a message that we trust her, that as a society we will do everything we can to protect her, and that what happened to her is not acceptable. Then we make sure that the circumstances are investigated and that the perpetrator is punished accordingly.According to estimates, only about 20 percent of victims report sexual abuse. “There is still a fear that if the victims speak up, they will be even more stigmatized and that then, for example, the court proceedings will be an even worse experience for them than the abuse itself. And unfortunately, this still sometimes happens.”
Listen to the longer conversation in this episode at Eight o’clock.