Sexual abuse of children is the most common form of violence against children in Latvia, as reported by State Police. According to data from Dardedze centre, 26% of cases of violence against children involved sexual abuse in 2016.
To avoid situations when children are reminded of their traumatic experience during police interrogation and make sure solid evidence is acquired from it, a meeting was held on Monday, 3 April, to commence a pilot project in Riga and Riga region for the introduction of inter-institutional cooperation model for work with sexually abused children, as reported by Dardedze centre representative Anda Avena.
Last year, experts of the Ombudsman’s office found that the current approach for police interrogation of sexually abused children does not guarantee caution and care for those children. Minors are often interrogated in rooms inappropriate for children. The interrogation process itself lacks a single, consequent approach in the child’s best interest, said the centre’s representative.
It should be noted that the child’s testimony in cases of sexual abuse is usually the only evidence that can help unravel the crime, prevent its repetition and protect the victim, says Dardedze pilot project manager Laura Celmale.
«Children often have to retell their traumatic experience several times – to police officers, doctors, psychologists and social workers. Forcing the child to retell the experience over and over forces the mind to relive the trauma over and over again. In addition, police interrogation is often performed after the child has commenced rehabilitation process,» Celmane says.
To resolve the aforementioned problems, the Crime Prevention Council supported the introduction of Child House cooperation model last year. The pilot project is set to commence in Riga and Riga region in 2017. The Child House model made in Iceland has been adopted in ten European countries, including Estonia and Lithuania. «It has been recognized as an effective reaction mechanism to sexual abuse. It also helps protect the rights of the victim and efficiently reach goals of the criminal process and rehabilitation. Lanzarote Committee recommends Child House European Council member states as an effective solution for inter-institutional cooperation,» comments the centre’s representative.
«Investigation work with children who suffered sexual abuse is especially hard, according to State Police. The police have to acquire evidence and testimony to help catch the perpetrator and, at the same time, avoid traumatizing the child even more. This is exactly what the pilot project’s intended goal is,» says SP Criminal Investigations Office chief inspector, psychologist Dace Landmane.