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7 Mar, 2009 05:59

Spare the rod and spoil the child?

The official number of crimes against children in Russia last year alone exceeded 62,000.

In 2008 the General Prosecutors’ Office registered 62,000 cases of crimes against children and teenagers. At least 388 children died as a result of these crimes.

Although this data marks a significant decrease in such cases since 2007, behind these dry statistics, there are real children suffering real physical and emotional pain.

One boy’s story

Denis is a typical ten-year-old. Almost seven years ago he was found in a skip. That day is now the date of his birthday. His parents were never traced.

His foster-parents Irina and Sergey went through several months of bureaucratic nightmares before they were able to bring Denis home.

“What struck me at first when we wanted to pat him on his back, he would shrink back into himself,” Sergey said.

“The first winter kids were playing outside and Denis fell down on an ice slide. We ran to him, he was standing there, hurting obviously but he kept repeating ‘I am not going to cry, I am not going to cry’ as if he was afraid to.”

It is now hard to say if it was due to the memories of his past life with his parents or his short experience in the orphanage.

Cases when children are abused by those who are meant to take care of them are not a rare exception – a lot of times it is their parents.

“Parents or foster parents who abuse their children physically or mentally are those who want to have children to satisfy their ego not for the sake of the children,” Irina said.

Support for children

Marina Gordeyeva runs the “Support for Children” fund to help children in trouble.

It was established not long ago, but her table is swamped with papers. According to her, many parents stick to the rule – spare the rod and spoil the child.

“We carried out an experiment in one of Russia’s regions,”
she said. “In a certain village we went from house to house talking to parents. For a lot of them it was news that physical punishment is a crime. There are parents who think my child – my property, to beat means to educate.”

Russian authorities are looking for ways to toughen the legislation on such crimes, but Gordeyeva says it is more important to fight the causes.

Meanwhile, experts predict the worsening economic situation might put pressure on families – and children might be among the first victims.