Public Defender Responds to Tragic Case of Suicide of 14-Year-Old Girl
The Public Defender of Georgia expresses her sorrow over the tragic case of a 14-year-old girl’s suicide that took place in Kobuleti on February 10. The Public Defender’s Office will examine the responsibility of each state agency for possible delayed or ineffective response to the case.
It is important to note that the above tragedy is not a single case and represents a result of systemic inaction, lack of qualifications and absence of proper rehabilitation services for child victims of violence, which are the challenges that have been indicated by the Public Defender's Office for years. This case once again shows that the responsible agencies are not able to respond to the cases of sexual abuse of children in a timely, effective or coordinated manner, which requires an urgent response from the State and implementation of systemic changes.
According to the information available to the Public Defender's Office, in 2018-2019, investigation was terminated into a third of cases of sexual violence against minors, one of the causes of which is lack of evidence, which in turn is caused by the delayed investigation and lack of proper communication with juveniles.
In 2018-2019, 317 juveniles were granted victim’s status in the sexual violence cases. However, at this stage, the State Care Agency has employed only one psychologist in each region, making it impossible to respond to all cases in a timely or proper manner. Effective action against each case of child abuse is also complicated by the number of social workers employed by the Agency, their working conditions and access to resources.
At the investigation stage, it is essential to involve relevant specialists and to create a child-friendly environment for juveniles. However, the state has not yet specified in what cases and under what circumstances a psychologist should be involved in the case. This decision is made by the investigator and the prosecutor, who have not undergone proper or periodic training on sexual violence, which substantially hinders the proper assessment of risks in cases of this specific nature.
The Public Defender emphasizes the need for public involvment in the cases of sexual violence of minors. Timely reporting of the crime and creation of a supportive environment for victim are crucial. Education institutions have a special role to play in the timely detection of cases and implementation of referral procedures.
Despite the severity and systemic nature of this problem, state agencies fail to provide the relevant staff with a retraining module tailored to the specifics of crimes of sexual violence against children. The number of professionals working on cases of sexual violence is significantly lower than the actual need. Public services fail to ensure rehabilitation of child victims of violence or their families or to create an environment in which they would be effectively supported.