by Anastasia Cojocaru
I was born in post-communist Romania and some my earliest memories come from the 90s. A lot has changed since I was born, but I cannot deny that growing up in Romania was difficult for me. Throughout my childhood and adolescence I have been subjected to various forms of physical, mental, and emotional abuse at school and in my family.
Why am I telling you this? Because on the 4th of June each year the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression is commemorated. I did not know about this day until I decided to write this article. Each year the 1st of June was one of the important days of the summer for me along with the 15th of June when school was finished. This international observance day was initially established in 1982 to focus on the child victims of the Lebanon war taking place at the time and its purpose was later extended to ‘acknowledge the pain suffered by children throughout the world who are the victims of physical, mental and emotional abuse; this day affirms the UN’s commitment to protect the rights of children’.
Today I want you to think about someone you know who has been a victim of abuse as a child. Why did they become a victim? How did they feel? How can we make children’s suffering stop?
Maybe you could go back to that point in the past when you witnessed someone being abused or even when you were abused yourself. I am aware that this is a painful experience and you do not have to do it if you do not want to. You need to be brave to go back and face the past. Think about what it meant for you and for the person being abused. How did that change you? How do you think that changed them? How should Romanian society and its mentality change so that children would be less vulnerable? For starters, beating children with the scope of educating them and making them learn a lesson should stop being a (fairly) common practice. A fair amount of parents (20%) believe that beating their children is a way of educating them. Out of 120.000 households monitored by UNICEF, 11.000 displayed cases of abuse or neglect of children. Click here and here to read more. This is more frequent in rural areas rather than urban ones though. Unless they change at some point in their life, the pain inflicted on these children is likely to lead to more violence that they might inflict on their own children when the time comes. Abuse will only lead to more abuse if we do not act against it in our everyday life.
Children need to be protected and educated through non-abusive methods. But, most importantly, my own experience made me believe that children need to be seen, heard, and listened to; they need to have their experiences heard and understood by the right individuals so that their the effects of abuse would be reduced and prevented.