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Safeguarding Teenage Intimate Partner Relationships (STIR): The perspective of the Bulgarian experts Luiza Shahbazyan (Applied Research and Communications.

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Presentation on theme: "Safeguarding Teenage Intimate Partner Relationships (STIR): The perspective of the Bulgarian experts Luiza Shahbazyan (Applied Research and Communications."— Presentation transcript:

1 Safeguarding Teenage Intimate Partner Relationships (STIR): The perspective of the Bulgarian experts Luiza Shahbazyan (Applied Research and Communications Fund) Christine Barter (University of Bristol) Georgi Apostolov (Applied Research and Communications Fund) September 2013 ISPCAN European Regional Conference on Child Abuse & Neglect Dublin, Ireland

2 The organisation Applied Research and Communications Fund is a leading Bulgarian innovation policy and research institute. Since 1991 we have supported the development of information society through policy analyses, advocacy, capacity building and awareness raising. Since 2005 we have been implementing the EC Safer Internet program in Bulgaria Currently, we coordinate an integrated Safer Internet Centre with an awareness node, a hotline and a helpline that aims to create a better and safer internet experiences for children and young people.

3 The problem Over 90% of the Bulgarian teens use internet on a regular basis, one in five has received nasty or hurtful messages (EU Kids Online, 2010). 50% of the inquiries to the national child helpline are about teen dating. However, prior to this initiative there isnt any systematic assessment of the existing safeguarding mechanisms concerning date violence and related phenomena.

4 The aim To map and evaluate the policy and practice in the area of teenage intimate violence and the degree to which the online context is addressed.

5 The method Design: workshop for experts, policy makers, practitioners and other key stakeholders Stumuli: developed by the project partners, includes a set of questions and a hypothetical case Procedure: Group discussion of the case followed by Q&A session Duration: 3:30 h Participants: 38 participants from various organisations including Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, General Directorate of National Police, district police stations, district offices on juvenile delinquency, State Agency for Child Protection, UNWE, Bulgarian Safer Internet hotline and helpline, the child helpline , the missing children helpline , other NGOs NGOs

6 Participants

7 Stimuli Annas teacher is concerned about her. She has found boys in Annas class laughing over pictures of her on their mobile phones. The pictures show her having oral sex with a boy who looks much older than her. Anna is 15. The teacher has talked to Anna about the pictures. Anna says that her boyfriend took them and she doesnt mind although she was upset when the boys in her class started laughing about them. She says that she didnt know that everyone would see them. She doesnt want her parents to know about them as they would be angry and might try and stop her seeing her boyfriend. She says that Mark, her boyfriend, is 19 and she really likes him although he sometimes laughs at her and tells her she is stupid. She says that he sent the pictures to friends because he was angry with her for spending an evening out with her girlfriends.

8 Findings: case discussion I Defining instances of partner violence involving internet and mobile technologies Identified as interpersonal violence - psychological and emotional abuse, evidence for sexual crime (dissemination of CAM) Identifying people in position to help School team including the class teacher, the principal and the school psychologist/counselor to work with the target, the classmates and the family Assessing needs Providing psychological support and family consultation, involving police to track down and remove the harmful content Availability of relevant literature or literature No written materials mentioned, discussions and individual consultations recommended

9 Findings: case discussion II Is it a child protection issue? Definitely yes. Evidence for violation of targets rights, she is entitled to services under multiple legal documents including the Child Protection Act and the Law on Juvenile Delinquency. Existing guidance for managing the case Coordinating mechanism for counteracting bullying Coordinating mechanism for safeguarding children at risk The Child Protection Act School rules and regulations School child protection policy Job descriptions of the school personnel What if the target is 13 years old? Sexual abuse is categorised differently in the Penal code for children under and over 14. In other acts there is no such distinction.

10 Findings: Q&A I Policy and practice initiatives on violence in teenage intimate relationships Mostly initiatives by the NGO sector within projects for prevention of bullying, cyberbullying and gender based violence targeted at young people and practitioners, mostly implemented as a one time event in schools and social services Prevention of virtual and real violence by interactive sessions in schools Schools without gender-based violence and stereotypes No specific policy in place

11 Findings: Q&A II Professional training available Mostly delivered by NGOs as one time events Methodologies developed by SAPI, GERT and Anymus to target relational violence High staff turnover, so trainings for better qualification are not sustainable The teenage intimate violence in the media The public is not very sensitive towards this problem, tendency to blame the victim Media tend to present stories in a sensational way

12 Findings: Q&A III Gender perspective in policies/measures Recognized in measures against domestic violence No policy, several attempts were made to pass gender equality law unsuccessfully due to lack of understanding of the issue Equality against the law does not guarantee gender equality Are intimate partner violence cases addressed in prevention and intervention measures/policies? Law on domestic violence Social services for children and women victims of domestic violence National plan for prevention of violence includes one of the NGOs campaign against domestic violence Violence should not become tradition within project Childhood without violence by SAPI It is not part of the prevention objectives of the police and offices on juvenile delinquency Professionals understanding of gender perspective Most psychologists and social workers are sensitive, teachers are not Agreement that most victims are female and the impact for the target is enormous Domestic violence is the most familiar form, most likely to be addressed in campaigns

13 Concerns Lack of clear procedures to prevent secondary victimisation of the target when multiple institutions have to intervene, existence of conflicting procedures, limited use of care proceedings Existing coordinating mechanism for child protection but poor implementation Numerous materials and practices developed by NGOs, no significant impact on political level High staff turnover, which impedes continuous training Feeling helpless when dealing with internet crimes No political will to address the gender perspective

14 Conclusions Intimate partner violence is treated most often as type of psychological and sexual abuse Low awareness of the specifics of online intimate partner violence, most practitioners dont feel ready to address it. Dealing with crimes that have online and offline components requires multidisciplinary teams to intervene but existing mechanisms are not working NGOs most active in the area offering a number of existing programs for prevention for students and professionals as well as social services to offer help and support to targets. Lack of up to date findings that differentiate between types of meanness online. No policy in place or any state initiated comprehensive measures to address the issue of teenage partner violence explicitly, either online or offline.

15 Questions? Luiza Shahbazyan Applied Research and Communications Fund Project website: |


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