A Child Advocacy Center opens in Sofia

02.10.2015 14:06


It has been created due to UNICEF’s and bTV’s support, in partnership with Animus Association Foundation and Sofia Municipality

Sofia, 2 October 2015 - A Child Advocacy Center was opened on the International Day of Non-Violence in Sofia. This is an innovative type of service for women and children who have suffered violence and abuse. The service encompasses good judicial, medical, psychological and social practices, placing the child at the center of all their efforts. The Child Advocacy Center has been established and will be functioning thanks to the support of bTV and the tens of thousands of UNICEF’s pledge donors who joined the mutual efforts against violence against children during the “Future free of violence violence” campaign. Child Advocacy Center has been developed by UNICEF, Animus Association Foundation and Sofia Municipality, in partnership with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Agency for Social Assistance.

All children have the right to be protected from violence. Many children in Bulgaria as well as all over the world become victims of physical, psychological and sexual violence- regardless of their gender, age, ethnicity and religion. Often enough, violence takes place at home, at school, at the institution where the child has been placed - which are all, in fact, places where a child should be best protected. But there are very few reported cases, and the punished abusers are even fewer - that is why it is essential that every child has access to timely support and friendly justice system  that takes into account the individual needs and the level of development of every boy and every girl”, said Ms. Maria Jesus Conde, UNICEF Representative in Bulgaria.

The Center provides incessant support and advocacy for children who are victims of violence, as well as for their families throughout the whole time their case is being worked on - from the moment a case of violence is reported, through the launching of investigation to the conclusion of the process of restoring the child and the family’s daily life routine. Every single crisis intervention and advocacy support, medical services, consultations, informing and preparation for the participation in the trial and pre-trial proceedings are coordinated by the Advocacy Center.

“I am thrilled that together, we are part of a big and positive change that is taking place in our society. We are witnessing how people are awakening and becoming more sensitized to cases of violence. It is crucial that we, the ones from the media, do not only show the fate of victims of violence and exploitation, or reflect on the negative consequences - but actively change the world in order to turn it into a better and more secure place for the most vulnerable members of our society - children!”, said Ms. Mariana Vekilska, one of the main supporters and advocates in the campaign and TV host of bTV’s weekend morning show.

After Montana, where the first UNICEF-supported Child Advocacy Center in Bulgaria was opened on 14 September 2015 (and by the end of the year the service will start functioning in Shumen, too) - Sofia became the second municipality in the country that hosts the innovative service.

“Taking care of our children is the most important type of care that our society should engage in. 74 children have received support in the three specialized centers on the territory of Sofia municipality. Help has been provided to 43 children since the beginning of 2015. The new model of this Child Advocacy Center is very useful and I thank UNICEF for the development and the financing of yet another good practice that we hope will turn into a sustainable, state-funded, social service for years to come”, said Ms. Yordanka Fandukova, Mayor of Sofia municipality, at the opening of the Child Advocacy Center.

The model for the provision of integrated services for children and their families has been developed by UNICEF, the Social Activities and Practices Institute and “Animus Association” Foundation.

“The idea behind the Child Advocacy Center is truly innovative. If up until now we have been providing predominantly psychological and therapeutic support to children and women victims of violence, the new service is the place where the coordination of the links between various organs and institutions is established so that children are at the heart of all of their efforts and also where girls and boys will feel ultimately protected”, said Ms. Nadezhda Stoycheva, “Animus Association” Foundation’s Director.

The Child Advocacy Center will be dealing with all types of violence with children and their families, encompassing victims who have suffered abuse in the past, as well as victims who are currently experiencing violence in their families and beyond. The service will be helping children who have witnessed domestic violence and will ensure support in the process of ending the violence for parents who have suffered abuse, for their recovery and the improvement of their capacity to take care of the child – with a special focus on the child’s security and best interest. The Center also offers legal escort for the child and the victimized parent in order to ensure a violence-free family environment.

The cozy atmosphere in the Child Advocacy Center has been provided by IKEA-Bulgaria.   

Why the Child Advocacy Center is important for children and their families:  
The Child Advocacy Center is a step towards the more effective guarantee of the rights of children victims and witnesses of violence. The escort, the cooperation for a friendly hearing, the support for overcoming of the consequences of a traumatic experience are just part of the measures that we owe to the children. This is a moral as well as a judicial obligation in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and numerous European Directives. The effort for the realization of these obligations should be backed up, but in order for that to happen it is essential that amendments in the Penal Code are made – changes that envision procedures which are adapted to the needs of the child and are implemented by trained professionals. It is up to the political will of the legislators whether the most vulnerable participants in the penal process - children, will be granted the type of justice that supports, recovers and brings a sense of real justice instead of victimizing them again every time they are in contact with the judiciary, the law-enforcement or the protective systems.

Additional information:

:: Violence around the world   
- According to UNICEF’s data, every 5 minutes a child around the world dies as a result of violence;   
- Almost one quarter of the boys aged 15 to19 (70 million worldwide) have experienced different forms of physical violence;  
- 1 in 3 girls aged 13 to15 are victims of recurring abuse;     
- Around 120 million girls below the age of 20 (1 in every 10 on a global scale) have experienced forced intercourse or other forms of forced sexual acts; 
- 1 in 3 ever-married adolescent girls aged 15-19 (or 84 million on a global scale) have been victims of emotional, physical or sexual abuse, committed by their husbands or partner;   
- Globally, half of all girls aged 15 to 19 believe that a husbands/partner is justified in beating his wife/partner under specific circumstances such as refusing to have sex, leaving the house without permission, arguing, neglecting the children or burning the dinner;  
- Data suggests that in some countries, 7 out of 10 girls aged 15 to 19 who have suffered some form of physical or sexual abuse, never sought help: the majority claim that they do not perceive what happened as abuse and do not regard it as a problem that needs to be addressed;   
Worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married before their 18th birthday. More than one in three (about 250 million) entered into union before age 15;  
- Approximately 28 million adolescent girls alive today have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or cutting in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where it is most common;

:: Violence in Bulgaria     
- In 2014, “Animus Association” Foundation consulted 1981 victims of violence;   
- 1688 out of these 1981 are victims of domestic violence (which makes up 85% of all cases the organization has worked on);   
- 74 are the cases of sexual violence, 35 – of human trafficking, 184 - other types of violence;   
- 74 victims of violence who visited a Crisis center in 2014, were consulted by “Animus Association” Foundation;   
- 177 victims of violence, consulted by the “Animus Association” Foundation, visited the Center for rehabilitation, counseling, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis in 2014.   
- 205 victims of violence, consulted by the Animus Association, have visited the Social Services Center for Children and Families in 2014.   - 867 phone consultations were given via the national hotline  02/ 981 76 86 in 2014.   
- 658 people were consulted on issues related to violence via the National hotline for children – 116 111 – in 2014.  

About UNICEF:  
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  

For more information:   
Jacklin Tzocheva, Communication Officer, UNICEF Bulgaria   
Tel.: 02/9696208,  
E-mail: jtzocheva@unicef.org 

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