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The recent discovery of the sexual abuse and incest scandal in Austria attracted a lot of public attention to problems of sexual abuse of children.

Every year, the Slovenian police receive around three hundred notifications and/or information or suspicions of children being victims of sexual abuse. The police manage to prove the existence of criminal offence in 80% of all reported cases. In such cases they file a criminal complaint with the competent state prosecutor's office. In other cases, when there is no basis provided for a criminal complaint, the police notify the prosecutor with a report in which all the facts are indicated. In these cases, the prosecutor decides whether he should require supplemental information or he should himself acquire additional information.

Sexual abuse includes different forms of sexual activities, which usually develop from less intimate, non-contact to contact sexual activities. A perpetrator often gradually gains the trust of a child, which makes the commission of a criminal offence easier using cheating, bribes, threats and also physical force. Sexual abuse of children happens in different social environments, and it does not depend on the economic or social status, ethnic or religious affiliation of victims or perpetrators.

Information on the suspicion of criminal sexual abuse is often provided by social work centres or other institutions (i.e. health and education institutes). Such cases are very often reported by the parent or parents, close relatives or individuals who are not directly connected with the child. A child, for example, may confide in his/her classmate, and the classmate passes the information on to his/her parents, who then take action.

In more than 80% of cases, children are acquainted with the perpetrators of criminal offences. About half of the perpetrators are related to the children, and in almost 50% of cases they are one of the child's parents; the others are relatives and family friends or neighbours. In the remaining 20%, the perpetrators get to know the children subsequently. They may even make active efforts to gain access to them in order to easily commit a criminal offence.

Pursuant to Article 183 of the Penal Code of the Republic of Slovenia, sexual abuse of children is defined as a criminal offence of sexual assault against a person less than 15 years old. Children between the ages of 8 and 12 are most often victims of sexual abuse. However, the police have dealt with cases where the victims were babies only a few months old. There are not many such cases, probably due to the fact that such information is extremely difficult to collect.

Material evidence in investigating sexual abuse is rare. It is very difficult to find traces of such offences or witnesses who saw the abuse. The police have to rely on children's statements, which can be confirmed directly or indirectly, as it is possible to gather from the children's statements whether things really happened or were only made-up stories. Children rarely lie about sexual abuse. It is more likely that they keep silent about it because they are afraid of consequences or because they favour their abusers, since the abusers convince them they express their love for them through these acts.

The consequences of sexual abuse, especially for children, can be very grave. Recovery from sexual abuse takes a long time and the victim's life may be influenced forever. Therefore, early detection of such abuse is of paramount importance.

More information is available in the brochure "When I Become a Victim of Crime".

Web eye - Spletno oko (anonymous reporting of child pornography and hate speech on the Internet)