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EXPERTS TALK: Children, witnessing domestic violence - Център за развитие на устойчиви общности

Why is no one talking about these children and what are their defense mechanisms?

Eleven experts from all over the country took part in the in-depth interviews with specialists within the framework of the "Children First" project.

Here is their profile:

  • 5 psychologists, two of them with previous experience as social workers
  • Social Workers at AVCs (one in Sofia and one in the country)
  • Social Worker at an NGO
  • Pedagogical Counselor at school in a small mountain town
  • Lawyer (with an expertise and experience both in Bulgaria and Italy)
  • Psychiatrist (professional interest on ACE and addictions, National Coordinator for DV at WHO)

Domestic violence is rooted mostly in the couple's capacity - to what extent parents are clearly aware of the commitment to starting a family, the role of mutual respect, compromise and good parenting. Good parenting can be learned. Mother has the main role in the process of children resilience capability – if she allows such kind of behavior towards her it means she hasn’t defined the borders and needs support even theraupetic one.

Another main conclusion is that a child should be supported during recovery period by a multidisciplinary team: psychoterapists, psychologists, teachers, pediatricians, the extended family (parents, grandparents, sublings, aunts and uncles). Awareness raising among society is needed.

 All experts agree that the very 1st intervention is to provide safe and protected space for the mother and her kids and then start working  with traumas. If the trauma is not treated on time, it would have an impact at a later age, as the opportunity to understand the problem, to do it consciously and to change coping mechanisms is missed. The issue is not on the public agenda. Physical violence is more discussed may be because it’s visible and it’s difficult to be neglected but usually psychological and emotional one has deeper and longer impact. Kids are very sensitive and they always understand that something is wrong. In many cases mothers are not aware enough of the problem and change roles with their children.

Lack оf competences in some experts and institutions that makes their work not so effective. “We don’t pay much attention to testimony of domestic violence and many cases are missed ... The protection system is very unprepared to recognize this type of injury, to take into account the needs of children and very often the fact of witnessing is missed, although it is legally mentioned that these children are considered victims of violence”, experts conclude. And add that traumatized women who have lived too long with domestic violence become insensitive to children's experiences. Еxperts have to work with the children so that they can overcome their guilt, because whatever happened in their families is not their fault. Experts working in multicultural environment should be very careful about the impact of traditions and behavioral patterns.

 Their recommendations are expressed in:

 - Providing material support for protection system (facilities, consumables, decent pay, fuels for the cars, etc.), educational qualifications;

 - Regular supervision of municipal institutions involved in the coordination mechanism;

 - Regular synchronous trainings of the multidisciplined team of institution of one region;

 - Regular trainings of other stakeholders – teachers and pedagogical staff, GPs, police, media, etc.

 - Need of unified information system and understanding the impact of it’s lack on recognition, case tracking and prevention of repeated acts

- Update of legislation – laws for social services and regulations for its implementation, specialized children court, etc.

 - Awareness raising campaign among society.

You can read more about the legal framework regarding the protection of children who witness domestic violence, focus groups with different stakeholders, mothers and children who witness domestic violence throughout the report.

Please contact us for the full text of the document!


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