Novaya Gazeta report on child abuse in Russia
Olga Zhuravskaya, president of the NGO Zhuravlik has commented on a study on child abuse by Novaya Gazeta
Domestic violence against children
Journalists studied more than 400 court cases involving violent crimes against children, including neglect, grievous bodily harm, beatings and even murder. The data showed that relatives and people close to the child, such as a stepfather, stepmother, parent’s partner, or other cohabitant, commit more than 80% of child abuse in Russia. Often, they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The reasons for attacking children are usually minor misconduct: loud crying that interferes with work or drinking, reluctance to go to bed, or poor grades at school. Very small children could be beaten for vomiting.
40% of those accused of child abuse received a reduced punishment because they had other children to care for, or were pregnant. Even in cases where the torture lasted for years, as long as the child survived, most of the time the courts suspended the case or gave the defendants community service. 15% of domestic violence cases were discontinued completely, most of the time due to reconciliation between the parties. In addition, several cases were dismissed after the 2017 law that decriminalized domestic violence.
The punishments are not working
‘Punishing adults more harshly for domestic violence against children will not result in fewer children suffering. This is because it is not fear of punishment that stops someone from committing a crime, instead it is the ability to restrain himself’ says Olga Zhuravskaya, president of Zhuravlik. ‘Most parents who beat their children were physically abused themselves in childhood. They need to live with this trauma somehow: either through imitating this behavior – I will be violent too – or through the realisation that they were treated badly. This is a serious problem’.
‘In order to reduce the mortality of children as a result of domestic violence, we need to implement supportive social services that help families with children’, Zhuravskaya believes.
‘At the moment, the system does not support parents – it does the opposite. If a desperate mother, who realised that she isn’t coping, turns to social services to help her, her child is simply taken away from her. Neighbours who hear children crying do not know what to do. There is a risk that if they call social services, the child will be taken away and possibly sent to an orphanage. And will the child feel better there? Unlikely.”
More information on the study can be found at the Novaya Gazeta website.