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Pediatricians combating sexual abuse of children

PODGORICA, 5 September 2017 – International surveys, covering the Balkans as well, indicate that 12-15 per cent of girls and 8-10 per cent of boys suffer from sexual violence. Only one in ten victims comes public about it.

A recently conducted survey among members of Montenegrin Association of Pediatricians is yet another warning that sexual abuse of children is still a taboo. Most of the interviewees said they have not met a child that had suffered sexual abuse.

Jelisaveta Sanja Rolovic, supervisor of USA Academy of Family Therapists - UNICEF Montenegro / Dusko Miljanic / 2017

“If someone who is practicing pediatrics for two, ten or 15 or 20 years tells you that he/she has never faced a case of sexual abuse of children, and rarely sees it, than you should ask: what is it that you are failing to see?”, says psychotherapist Jelisaveta Sanja Rolovic, supervisor of USA Academy of Family Therapists, who was running a two-day pediatricians training in Podgorica titled ‘Sexual Abuse of Children - Break the Silence’ as the author of the training programme, and together with the Professor Amira Peco-Antic.

The goal of the training, which is being implemented by Hotline for Women and Children Victims of Violence in Podgorica, and Association for Preventive Pediatrics of Montenegro in partnership with the Ministry of Health and UNICEF Montenegro, with the financial support of the EU, is to empower the pediatricians in order to provide adequate care and protect the children from sexual abuse, but also to be able to openly talk on the issue.

Rolovic warns on small number of pediatricians willing to report sexual abuse. Pediatrician Vesna Macic believes that these attitudes can be changed through education.

“So far, I had a couple of situations where the child was physically abused and I failed to report it. Because we all live in a small town, I succumbed to stigmatization. With experience I have today, I believe that if we fail to report these cases we will fail to do anything for the kids”, says Macic. The president of the Association for preventive pediatrics of Montenegro Nebojsa Kavaric emphasizes that pediatricians are hesitant to report violence, although most of them work in institutions that have social and legal services.

"It is possible that they fear from stigmatization. Firstly among colleagues, and then among patients, that they are the ones who interfere in family relationships. Pediatricians have to be representatives of each child's health rights," says Kavaric, and underlines that institutions must empower all health workers working with children.

Nebojsa Kavaric, the president of the Association for preventive pediatrics of Montenegro - UNICEF Montenegro / Dusko Miljanic / 2017

Pediatrics specialist Sinisa Vulekovic underlines the importance of protocols aimed at helping children that are sexually abused.

“We should all know the proper systemic way how to help children for which we suspect to be abused in any way”, says Vulekovic.

The head of Podgorica SOS Hotline and Project coordinator Biljana Zekovic stressed that we need multi-sectoral cooperation if we want to successfully fight sexual abuse of children.

“We are often brought to a situation where we have to weigh what does the victim of violence gets if we report the violence and process the case”, says Zekovic and adds that, on the issue at hand, besides the medical practitioners, we should educate much more both lawyers and social workers.



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