Locika Centre: Child victims of domestic violence suffer secondary trauma during questioning

According to national statistics, as many as 14% of Czech children experience domestic violence directly or indirectly at some point in their lives and many are left permanently scarred. Shockingly, experts say it often takes up to six years for a child experiencing domestic violence to get help. And when they do, the support network is not what it should be.

Photo: Centrum Locika

Despite the high number of children who experience domestic violence directly or suffer from witnessing violence within the family, many of them fail to get professional help in dealing with the trauma. Often a child is taken away from aggressive parents and put in institutionalized or foster care without getting PTSD therapy.

The Locika Centre has been helping these children for eight years now and is working hard to raise awareness of the problem. Their primary concern is for abused children to be heard. It organizes a national event called “Drumming Against Child Abuse and Domestic Violence” in which thousands of children around the country drum together at a set time. The drums signify that children must be heard and none should remain silent victims of abuse.

Petra Wünschová | Photo: Centrum Locika

Another big issue is for children who have experienced abuse or come into direct contact with it not to suffer secondary trauma when questioned by the authorities. The head of Locika Petra Wünschová says that children who are victims of abuse, neglect or exploitation often have to speak to as many as 30 different people during the investigation –which is sometimes as traumatic as the abuse itself.

“It is not rare for children to undergo, for example, three types of forensic examination in the investigation and follow-up phase, which makes no sense at all. It is very expensive for the system, inefficient and highly traumatic for the children. What we are trying to do is to is establish a system that is transparent and predictable, so that everyone knows what to do when a child asks for help."

Photo: Centrum Locika

With that in mind, the LOCIKA Centre launched the first Children's Advocacy Centre in Prague last year. Instead of being taken from place to place to be questioned, experts come to the child in an environment that is child-friendly and protective.

"The criminal police come here and the child first speaks briefly with a psychologist who will put them at ease and reassure them about the process. The child is then interviewed right here and then the psychologist comes back to help them process the experience and explain what will happen next."

Marian Jurečka | Photo: Office of Czech Government

The Children's Advocacy Centre in Prague is a pilot project and the Locika Centre is pushing to get similar centres established around the country. It wants this to be institutionalized within an amendment to the Social Protection of Children Act. Labour and Social Affairs Minister Marian Jurečka has said the ministry is ready to support such a network of centres and MPs are expected to discuss the proposed amendment to law in its first reading at the end of November.

Authors: Daniela Lazarová , Lucie Korcová
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