Identification of Sexual Abuse and Violence
AUTHOR: Indrė Baltraitytė
collaborating countries: Lithuania, Estonia and Norway
Cooperation between the Baltic and Nordic countries is important for both regions. It has been undergoing for more than a decade. The Nordplus Programme, which adds value to cooperation in education and promotes the establishment of a Baltic–Nordic educational area, is one which particularly stands out.
Lithuania can be proud of these statistics and the high quality of projects. This article outlines one project which is a real success story.
LIONS QUEST LIETUVA has been implementing its LIONS QUEST programme of social and emotional development across Lithuanian schools. The same organisation also launched the Nordplus Horizontal project. Dr. Daiva Šukytė, Chief Trainer at LIONS QUEST LIETUVA, agreed to share her views. “Our experience and monitoring of schools and violence and sexual abuse of children in the country led to the addition of more lessons to our programme in an effort to address these painful issues. For five years, we monitored the programme – which aims to prevent violence and sexual abuse of children – as it developed and was implemented in Norway. So we started to look for support to translate and adapt the programme and once the Nordplus Horizontal grant was secured, the project – Norwegian Assistance to Baltic Schools for the Identification of Sexual Abuse and Violence – was launched in the summer of 2013 and completed in September 2014.”
Prevention of violence and sexual abuse
The main idea of the project is to tackle the problem by relying on the good practices of Norway, adapt and implement the programme for the prevention of violence and sexual abuse of children developed in Norway in Lithuanian and Estonian schools with the help of Norwegian experts.
The company chose a partner from Estonia and kept in close contact throughout the project. Six Lithuanian and two Estonian schools took part in the project. Partners from Norway shared their experience and ongoing preventive programme, presented programme training methods and helped train the trainers for work in Lithuania and Estonia.
The project coordinators and partners waited for feedback from teachers with a mixture of eagerness and trepidation. The project included tests to prove its effectiveness both before and after the programme. The pilot lessons demonstrated that teachers found it very difficult to work with this programme. The teachers who delivered the material shared their experiences and pointed out that the first class was the most difficult one as it dealt with female and male sexual organs. Some female teachers indicated that they needed several weeks to prepare for the class, while others were too hesitant and asked other teachers who were ready to deal with these topics to substitute for them. It was also difficult to work with the material on inappropriate touching as it is rare that this kind of intimate subject is discussed in Lithuania.
One teacher said after her class that it was one of the hardest tests of her career. At the same time, she emphasised that these series of classes made children friendlier to their peers and she, as the mentor, found it easier to look for compromises and honour the agreements after these classes. Even today, children are eager to ask her for help and she enjoys the respectful way that they behave.
Dr. Šukytė said that such stories are very common and teachers in Estonia who participated in the project, were trained and delivered the material to schoolchildren were also experiencing similar emotions. This provided further proof of the necessity of the project.
A survey conducted during the project was aimed at collecting information on the exposure of students to violence and sexual abuse, their knowledge of how to tackle difficult situations and the decisions that they made when confronted with them. No specific cases of sexual abuse were identified during the project but the anonymous questionnaires clearly showed that these problems were very relevant for some children.
Dr. Šukytė said: “We hope that the adapted programme and a curriculum covering a period of several years will help achieve even better results and enable more children to turn to trustworthy adults for help.”