Violence against children is a phenomenon that exists in every country, community, ethnic or religious group, irrespective of the social status of the child or the family. It happens everywhere: at home, at the kindergarten, out in the street, among friends, in child care facilities, at law enforcement institutions, etc. Children become victims to different forms of violence and abuse: physical, psychological, sexual, bullying, online, neglect, trafficking, sexual and labor exploitation, or arranged child marriages.
Violence impacts the physical and mental development of children, reducing their learning skills, their ability for verbal interaction or for joining peer groups.
Violence may hinder their development and prevent them from becoming fully functional adults and good parents. In its extreme forms, violence can even cause death.
According to data from the Agency for Social Assistance, in 2016 the child protection departments have received 3,158 alerts of violence and opened 681 cases. Over 4,200 incidents involving aggression against children have been recorded in the schools during the 2014/2015 academic year.
Since the adoption of the Child Protection Act in 2000, Bulgaria has been developing a child protection system that deals with prevention, identification of, and response to, violence against children. Corporal punishment is prohibited under the Child Protection Act, the Family Code (2009) and the Pre-school and School Education Act (2015). In February 2017, the Council of Ministers approved a National Program for the Prevention of Violence and Abuse of Children, however violence against children continues to be a serious problem.
A large portion of the incidents, however, remain hidden from view as public’s attitudes still tolerate moderate forms of corporal punishment of children – almost
68% of parents accept the use of ‘violence within reasonable bounds’ as a disciplining method .
There is lack of trust in the testimony of children, lack of specialized services for children victims of violence, the judicial procedures of investigation and court hearing are still not adapted for children.
Violence can be prevented and reduced. Strategies that have proven their effectiveness are: enforcing the law; changing social norms and values; creating a safe environment; supporting the parents and caregivers; economic advancement and supporting a higher income; availability of services to provide response and support; education and the promotion of social skills.
Насилието може да бъде предотвратено и намалено. Ефективните стратегии са: изпълнение на разпоредбите на закона; промяната на социалните норми и ценности; създаване на безопасна среда; подкрепа за родителите и полагащите грижи за децата; икономическо развитие и подкрепа за доходите; наличие на услуги за реакция и подкрепа; образование и развитие на социални умения.