The National Network for Children Bulgaria shared an article about sexual violence in Bulgaria, the victims' inability to be heard, and the poor or non-existent sex education in the country. The article notes that in 2019, official statistics from the Minister of Interior indicated that 264 children were victims of sexual abuse. This number is only representative of the most severe cases. The number of cases that have been silenced due to shame, anger or fear remains unknown.
Bulgarian children can be sexually assaulted anywhere, even in their homes, where silence reigns on the topic of sex. When parents and schools avoid the subject children gather inadequate infromation from friends, pornographic websites and other risky channels, all of which can lead to early sexualisation, as well as difficult relationships, aggression, depression and health problems.
NNC Bulgaria emphasizes that it is extremely important that schools, kindergartens and other organized childcare spaces create the conditions for open speaking, adjusted to the age of the child, for the prevention of sexual abuse. This information should not only be for children, but also for parents and other professionals working with children. Some parents experience fear or discomfort discussing these topics with their children, and they need help and advice to do it in the most appropriate way.
The article notes that civic organizations tackling sexual abuse are often approached by the children themselves. Children seeking help are often repeatedly abused by older adults. It is shocking that a 9-year-old child may talk about sex as an adult, but not about topics that are relevant to his or her age. Such cases occur because no one protects the victims before the crime occurs. For this reason, civic organizations, such as PULSE Foundation Pernik, the Bulgarian Family Planning and Sexual Health Association, the Bulgarian Red Cross and others create school trainings not only in ways children can protect themselves from and recognize abusers, but also for how to prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases later in life.
Bulgarian children have a legal right to sexual education as described in Art. 122 (1) of the Health Act. Despite this, access to health and sexual education in Bulgaria are threatened by propaganda and fake news spread by some NGOs and patriotic parties/formations, as well as by the actions of the Minister of Education, Krasimir Valchev. You can read the full text of the National Network for Children and their position against this trend in Bulgarian HERE.