Questionable justice in child abuse cases in Turkey

Questionable justice in child abuse cases in Turkey

An 8-year-old girl was sexually abused by a 24-year-old guy living in the same apartment building in 2012. The man abused another neighbor’s daughter and when their moms learned about the situation they went to the police. A case was opened. The defendant was sentenced to three years and nine months on charges of sexual abuse. It was appealed, and the file has been held at the Supreme Court of Appeals for two years. 

Lawyer Seda Akço told us that this case makes us question the pace of justice in Turkey. The case started in 2012 and in 2016 it has still not been finalized. For four years, this child and her mother have been waiting for justice to be served. This has its consequences.

First, the trauma of the victim continues. There are also secondary traumas: The child is increasingly fearful, afraid of the dark, and does not want to go near any men. 

Second, the suspect in a child’s sexual abuse case lives in society without any control. Perhaps during that time other children become his victims. In a process where a person is tried for child abuse for years without arrest, how would anyone know if he becomes, for example, a school bus driver? 

Third, because such a case may last so long, this causes the families of many child abuse victims to abstain from seeking justice. They think their children will be exhausted and worn out by the long trial process and for this reason they do not file complaints. 

Put yourself in their shoes: You are told that if you file a complaint, your daughter will appear in courts for four to five years, while the suspect will be free during that time and may even live in the same building as you. But in the end, justice will be served. If you do not complain, the person will be free, but you can still escape the whole situation by moving to another place. 

What would you do? You may opt for the first option insistently, but if you are a parent it could be your priority to make sure that your child is harmed only minimally. 

In this particular case, there are shortcomings in the determination of abuse. The child should have undergone a psychological exam; detailed evidence could have been found only through an expert team.  

The last, but maybe the most important, aspect is taking care of the victim. The harm inflicted on the children was not examined in this incident and no measures were taken to compensate the harm. 

According to the Child Protection Law, any office starting a procedure involving children must inform the local Family and Social Policies Ministry Directorate and that office must examine the situation that the child is facing. 

This obligation was not met. Courts do not report the cases, thinking it basically produces no good. 

When they do not report, directorates do not form a service to follow up these reports. They should form these services so that the issue would exceed being only a criminal proceeding and prosecution and effective and protective intervention is provided. 

For parents, filing a complaint does not necessarily mean they are able to protect their child. After such incidents, if services to support the child’s psychology are not provided, then the damage magnifies. 

As well as medical treatment, several social support services are needed to meet the needs of the family, for a new social environment, and for the security of the child, as well as counseling for the parents to strengthen their capacity to cope with this situation. 

I wish politicians would stop petty fighting and discuss these issues.