A child, probably in the third grade, is being sexually abused. He trusts his mother, and tells what happened. The first blow to liberation is to re-shock at the same time. Until the case comes to court – and, of course, it is not up to that – the child will have to repeat his or her experiences countless times. They are always strangers – in police uniforms, in doctor’s coats. Unfamiliar faces that the child has to report. Each repetition of the experience can evoke a lot of emotions in a child: can I trust this person? Why did you suddenly become the center of attention? What is right and what is wrong? Each time the experience is repeated, there is a high risk that the child will be traumatized again. That the crime of violence, the act, burns more deeply in one’s memory.
Rooms radiate warmth
The Children’s Foundation and the Pro Familia both believe this is a mistake, which is why they opened the country’s first children’s home in Flensburg. Children and young people who are involved in criminal proceedings mainly because of sexual violence are cared for here. This means that everything from the first consultation to reporting the police and going to court takes place here at the outpatient contact point. The wall colors in the renovated villa are kept in soft colours. There are toys, stuffed toys and colorful pictures hanging on the walls. The rooms radiate warmth and tranquility. This is made possible by the commitment of many individuals in Flensburg. A victim protection officer in Schleswig-Holstein, Ulrike Stahlmann-Liebelt, purchased the building with her family and made it available to the Children’s Foundation. About 100,000 euros were supported by the state. Additional funds came from private donations.
“Previously, children were sent from A to B, and that is no longer the case.”
Sandra Blad, Pro Familia
Usually, victims have to repeat their statements regularly. Children, young people, or their parents should arrange their own appointments with institutions such as the Youth Welfare Office, the police, a doctor and a lawyer. Sandra Blade, case manager at Pro Familia, pulls the strings at Childhood-Haus—they organize, communicate, and mediate. For example, it is important that everything is directed to the needs of the child, even during a police interrogation or judicial video. Flensburg has many years of experience in psychosocial counseling – an exemplary model for child-friendly justice and victim protection nationwide. Affected children and youth can now get advice, care, medical exams and legal advice with lawyers. Also first therapeutic talks.
Help for all child victims of violence
The focus of the house is clearly on support before, during, and after criminal charges. But this is not an exclusion criterion. “No one here,” says Sandra Ballad. There are also always, even the majority, cases that go unreported. And: Children can come here and go home again after counseling – also in a way that parents don’t necessarily notice. According to the Ministry of Justice, this is a completely new project with a beacon character for Schleswig-Holstein. The experience gained in Flensburg can also be used for other homes of this type.
No direct confrontation with the perpetrators
It is the eighth such home nationwide that the Children’s Foundation opens on Friday. Dr Astrid Healing Bucky, Managing Director of the Foundation, refers not only to the home as a point of contact but also to its function as an interrogation place for judicial questioning. Because in the Childhood Home, interviews can be conducted on site and not in court. Thus, situations in which the child confronts the offender can be avoided.
Two additional entrances were created in the house for this. The upper floor is for children and their caregivers only. If the alleged offender has to enter the home, for example for the day of a hearing in court proceedings, the child is first brought into the hearing room before the accused arrives at a different time. Dr. explains. Astrid Healing-Becky. During the interrogation, the child is not personally confronted with the alleged perpetrator, but the defense attorney can follow the interrogation via video.
The childhood home is meant to be a place where victims are not held accountable to anyone. which they believe in. And where it comes to their needs as children. The first case has already declared itself.
Online on the site www.childhood-haus.de/flensburg or by email to case manager Sandra Blad: firstname.lastname@example.org