Bris Report 2005

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  • 1. 05 The BRIS Report Calls and E-mails to BRIS 2005
  • 2. the bris report 2005 : content Contents: The BRIS Report 1. Summary................................................................................................... 52005 2. Child contacts in BRIS support services 2005....................................... 6 3. 10 4. Children and violence............................................................................ 14 5. Children and family............................................................................... 24 6. BRIS’ Adult contacts............................................................................... 30 7. Tsunami contacts...................................................................................32 To protect the children’s anonymity, all quotes from children are somewhat edited. Persons pictured have no connection to the text. Responsible editor: Ingela Thalén, Chairperson BRIS National Association // Texts: Gunnar Sandelin, Press Secretary BRIS Research: Peter Irgens, R&D Secretary BRIS // Graphical design: IK Stockholm // Production: Grannen, Per Tannergård Translation: Eqvator AB 3
  • 3. the bris report 2005 4 photo: magnus kristenson, mosebacke media
  • 4. the bris report 2005 : Summary Summary In total, BRIS volunteers supportively answered 19,237 Mental illness calls and e-mails in 2005. E-mails have increased in Most children in Sweden are doing well and receive the last few years and now almost half of all contacts care from adults in their surroundings, but mental are made through the BRIS-mail. Family conflicts, illness increasingly dominates our contacts with mental illness, bullying, violence and self-inflicted children. All information indicates that mental1 violence of different kinds were central topical areas illness is also on the rise in society as a result of in the contacts with children in 2005. increasing numbers of young people being forced Over the year, the website has had a total into an existence that they feel they cannot handle. of about 428,000 visits, which is an increase of 24% One of BRIS’ most important external objectives is to compared to 2004. See Supportive child contacts contribute to identifying and changing this trend. during 2005, chapter 2. Two focal areas Platform of BRIS´ activities 2006 Based on the documented supportive contacts in At the same time, the BRIS Report 2005 constitutes 2005 over which BRIS has maintained statistics, two the platform of BRIS´ activities in 2006. Based on focal areas in particular have been identified: what children and young people have conveyed we children and violence and children and family. are taking a foothold for a year that among other These areas are permeated by mental illness and things includes a parliamentary election and a large the lack of adult support. Because children are our international conference in Stockholm about clients, the main emphasis of our outreach services helplines for children. will be based on these focal areas in 2006. Read more about Children and violence, chapter 4, and Adult guarantee Children and family, chapter 5. To promote the mental health of children, BRIS will work on an adult guarantee in children’s lives as an overall theme in 2006. The written and oral accounts of children consistently bear witness to a lack of physically and mentally present adults. BRIS therefore wants to emphasize the adult world’s responsibility – every child is entitled to adult support. The objective is for the adult guarantee to be emphasized and prioritised on the political agenda. 5
  • 5. the bris report 2005 : Child contacts in BRIS support 2005 Child contacts in BRIS support 2005 E-mails and website visits on the rise The e-mails increased to 8,459 and the calls Since the BRIS-mail started in January 2001, children decreased to 10,778 – an overall decrease of 13% in have been able to reach BRIS both orally and in supportive contacts compared to the previous year. writing. This has meant that the number of e-mails At the same time the trend is for the calls to become 2 and calls are increasingly converging. For several longer. An average call lasted almost 15 minutes. decades BRIS has been synonymous with the During 2005 the website had a total of Children’s Helpline, but today the BRIS-mail stands about 428,000 visits, which is 24% more than last for close to half (44%) of all of the contacts with year. 9,732 users logged in 65,233 times. children and young people. In the Discussion Forum section, approximately In total, BRIS volunteers supportively answered 9,300 submissions were published on the nine 19,237 calls and e-mails in 2005. themes underway over the year. This is an increase 1 Statistically recorded child contacts 1991-2005 1991 3 000 Children’s Helpline, statistically recorded calls from children 1992 4 828 BRIS-mail, supportive responses 1993 6 203 1994 9 926 1995 12 189 1996 11 169 1997 10 345 1998 12 788 1999 14 341 2000 18 039 2001 19 358 2002 23 023 2003 22 044 2004 22 133 2005 19 237 6
  • 6. the bris report 2005 : Child contacts in BRIS support 2005 2 The 15 most common contact topics in calls and e-mails from children Family conflicts 19 % 3 597 Relationships with friends 15 % 2 915 Love relationships 13 % 2 430 Bullying 13 % 2 408 Loneliness 9,8 % 1 892 Other mental illness 8,4 % 1 621 Self-destructiveness 8,2 % 1 576 Existential/life issues 7,9 % 1 527 Suicide/thoughts of suicide 7,7 % 1 488 Physical abuse 6,4 % 1 228 Identity issues 5,8 % 1125 Sorrow 5,7 % 1 097 Sexuality 5,7 % 1 088 Calls Body/appearance 5,1 % 978 E-mails Sexual abuse/molestation 4,6 % 883 ntot = 19 237The total percentage exceeds 100 percent as all figures concerning child contacts reflect both the primary and secondarytopics of calls and e-mails.of 50% compared to last year. Additionally, 30,272 from boys. Also see Boys’ poor mental health,so-called test calls were received that did not chapter 4.3.contain enough information to be able to be furtherprocessed. Differences in calls and e-mails Overall, e-mailing reflects to a considerable extentEight out of ten contacts concern girls the perception of an inner problem or questioning.It is primarily the girls that contact BRIS and they For example, issues of suicide and self-destructive-mainly do so by writing: almost nine out of ten e- ness are dealt with three times more often in e-mailmails as well as seven out of ten calls from children than on the phone. On the other hand, whenare about girls. In total, eight out of ten child children are the victims of different kinds of seriouscontacts concern girls. But beyond the statistically violation by their surroundings, they prefer to haverecorded contacts, seven out of ten test calls come someone to talk to. 7 photo: ulf huett
  • 7. the bris report 2005 : Child contacts in BRIS support 2005 contacts reflect both the primary and secondary 3 topics of calls and e-mails. The 10 most common topics in calls from children Like the previous year, conflicts within the family were the single most common reason for contacting Family conflicts 18 % BRIS in 2005. These family conflicts can be about Bullying 17 % everything from liberation issues to honour-related Relationships with friends 14 % violence. Also see Children and family, chapter 5. Love relationships 12 % Mental illness a common theme Loneliness 10 % The most tangible increase in the share of contacts Physical abuse 8,0 % in the past year is related to mental illness. This Existential/life issues 6,8 % trend strongly corresponds to all reports in society Other mental illness 6,7 % in general that concern signs of an increase in the psychological problems of young people. Sexuality 6,5 % In total, one out of five child contacts with BRIS Sorrow 5,9 % ntot = 10 778 concerns mental illness. Topics such as suicide, self- destructiveness and eating disorders are included here. Loneliness, sorrow and existential life-issues 4 are also in the background. Stress is also on the rise, The 10 most common e-mail topics mainly related to school. Family conflicts 19 % Perpetrators Relationships with friends 17 % Every year BRIS makes a perpetrator profile based on Love relationships the information children and young people convey. 14 % These profiles are somewhat similar year after year. Self-destructiveness 13 % Bullying was for many years the most common Suicide/thoughts of suicide 12 % reason to call BRIS and is still one of the most Other mental illness 11 % common problem areas. Groups consisting of both Loneliness 9,6 % boys and girls are the most common “bullies” – in close to half of all cases mixed-gender groups do Existential/life issues 9,3 % the bullying. Identity issues 7,0 % A new kind of bullying that has increased in the Bullying 6,6 % ntot = 8 459 last few years is virtual bullying, which takes place in different ways on the Internet, in text messages, etc. Children tell of bullying almost three times more often The children that contact us are on average 14 years With regard to physical and sexual abuse/ over the phone than in e-mail, just as it is almost old and just over half (57%) live in a nuclear family molestation, a biological father is the most frequent twice as common to call about physical abuse, as it is while 17% live with a lone mother. The total percen- single perpetrator and the home is the most to e-mail. Also see Children and violence, chapter 4. tage exceeds 100 percent as the figures on child common crime scene. 8
  • 8. the bris report 2005 : Child contacts in BRIS support 2005 And the children remain anonymous as long as they 5 themselves want. In proportion to the total number Referrals in the contacts with children of calls, only a small fraction result in assignments from children, but they often concern the most Adult in the family 38 % vulnerable children. The assignment services are Total school 29 % therefore an important part of BRIS support. In total, 20 % School counsellor/psychologist 48 assignments were completed in 2005. 16 % School nurse 16 % Teacher 3,0 % Head teacher Friend/Boy-/girlfriend 18 % Youth counselling centre 16 % Child psychiatry and health services 7,1 % Social services 6,6 % Police 1,8 % Other adult outside the family 15 % Further contact with BRIS 32 % Other 8,8 % n = 14 224The clearest trend is that an increased percentage of find appropriate adults, regardless of whether theyboyfriends and other contemporaries are the are professionals or personal contacts of the child.perpetrators of abuse. Read more about Children Legal guardians and other related adults oftenand violence, Perpetrator profiles, chapter 4. indicate that they do not have time or energy, and The tsunami in Southeast Asia last Christmas student care has shrunk its resources to a minimum.was almost the sole call topic regarding eventscovered in the media and it still leads to children Assignmentscontacting BRIS. About 250 contacts on this subject Assignments mean that the child contacting BRIScame in, up to and including 2005. Read more about requests more active involvement by a BRIS repre-our Tsunami groups in chapter 7. sentative. This can concern children who find themselves in an acute, dangerous situation, areAfter the contact harming themselves or need help for other reasons.BRIS usually reviews with the child the people in An assignment gives BRIS the possibility of doingtheir surrounding network that they trust and can everything from conducting in-depth support andactively contribute to a change. This is done in three motivational discussions to getting in touch withfourths of all cases, but it can often be difficult to authorities or initiating similar contacts. photo: lena granefelt 9
  • 9. the bris report 2005 : started in January 2001 because there was a E-mail emboldens need for children and young people to communicate This past summer 631 children and young people over the Internet. Today the website consists of a responded to a survey on our website about what number of functions, which are touched upon in this they thought of the BRIS-mail. Many mention that chapter. is a forum for support efforts, infor- communication over e-mail has given them courage 3 mation and knowledge retrieval where the main and self-confidence. They have received advice and emphasis lies on secure forms of BRIS’ dialogue with support in moving on with their problems. They also children and young people. It is also a platform for think that the e-mail contact has given them reaching out in terms of influencing public opinion, another view of the matter. Some children, however, maintaining contact with the media and gathering still do not know if they have any use for the funding for support services. answers and a small group (28 children) express Over the year, the website has had a displeasure and disappointment over inadequate total of about 428,000 visits, which is an increase treatment. of 24% compared to 2004. Blowing off steam, being able to tell their story, The following support functions on the Web are being taken seriously, having someone on their side, covered in this chapter: getting encouragement, knowing what is right and wrong, helping to see other possibilities and • The BRIS-mail learning that they are not alone are other important • Discussion Forums things that the children bring up. Understanding, in • Support and advice particular, is perceived as being important and tops the list of what our visitors want to get out of the • BRIS Young People BRIS-mail. The word feedback summarises the issue: • Ask the lawyer children want to know, get answers and input from • The Red Pages (administered by BRIS) an adult at BRIS. More information on the BRIS-mail can be found in chapters 1, 2, 4 and 5. 3.1 The BRIS-mail The largest section on is the BRIS-mail, 3.2 Discussion Forum which will soon be as extensive as the Children’s On the Discussion Forum, children and young Helpline. The fundamental principal of the contacts people have the opportunity of asking questions, is based on the children being able to write to us discussing issues and giving answers to each other anonymously, using their own passwords so that under the oversight of a BRIS moderator for the their e-mail is just as secure as the calls. fourth year running. Here, they can write incognito During 2005, 10,217 e-mails were received, of about everything from every-day concerns to deeper which 8,459 were supportively answered and problems. By getting answers from others who have constituted 44% of the statistically recorded child been in the same situation or have ideas on how contacts. they can resolve a tough situation, those who post a 10
  • 10. the bris report 2005 : BRIS.sequestion have an opportunity to find new solutions Response: help :Sto things that feel insurmountable. Her mum shouldn’t blame her. Parents getting a Many also share their positive thoughts and tell divorce is not the kids fault. That’s what every bookothers how they have solved a particular problem or about divorce in the world says. Stay on her side. Iftell of enjoyable meetings or events that they have it’s as bad as it sounds she needs you very much.experienced. You should do something fun like go to the cinema During 2005, about 10,200 contributions were or something. When people are having a tough timesubmitted to the Discussion Forum, of which 9,337 they should have something to look forward to.were posted after approval by BRIS. During 2005 the following themes were discussed: What should I do?Friendship, Docudramas, Family, the Catastrophe Hi! I’m a 13-year-old girl. I’m in year seven and amin Asia, Love, Tricky Situations, Questions to guys, completely undeveloped. I’ve got tiny breasts. All ofHow should a parent act? What makes you happy? my classmates have large, nice looking breasts, but IHad problems on the Internet? and various topics almost have nothing. I have just enough for a 65A. Iin the open forum: The floor is open. want to use a push-up bra, but my mum won’t let me. What should I do? Please give me some tips/Love Theme: from a horse-loving girl.How to kiss?? Response: What should I do? in each subject. The page is customised for childreni wonder when you kiss someone.. do you tilt your Hi. :) and young people, but also directed at parents andhead, but touch the lips like a normal peck or do you It’s really sad that people have to feel bad because of other important adults. On Support and advice thereopen the mouth right when you touch?? appreciate things like their breasts. I’m in year nine and I know is also help in finding where to turn if one needsan answer! that breasts grow at different speeds on different someone to talk to, including a section for thoseResponse: How to kiss?? people and everyone looks different. There isn’t who are friends of someone doing poorly. Here it isA kiss consists of about 10% technique and 90% anything you can do to get a bigger bust, all you can common that friends get in touch when they learnfeeling. It will all work out when the time is right. do is wait and not think so much about it. This isn’t of something in faith and then do not know how a fun answer, but that’s how it is. they should help without breaking that faith.The floor is open: Response: On Support and advice one can also get a picturehelp :S Are you really sure that you’re alone in having small of what children and young people say when theyHow should I help my friend..she’s in a bad way, a 15 breasts? Look around you carefully. Your breasts will contact BRIS. This is done by unidentified call and e-year-old girl who hardly knows up from down grow for several more years and is the brain in the mail examples that are available on the page.anymore. Her parents are divorced now, but her bust? No, luckily the brain’s in the head. I think youmum blames it all on her, and she gets shit every should try to let go of this and think about some- 3.4 Young people’s sectionday everywhere and from everyone. She’s down and thing that makes you feel better. :) Good luck :) BRIS Young People is a page that is customised tothey’re still kicking her, I dunno what I should do the target group of 13-18 year-olds on which one hasanymore...??? =( 3.3 Support and advice the possibility of registering as a youth member orResponse: help :S At there is a subsection called Support and school representative. As a school representative,All you can do is just try to keep a supporting arm advice, where those interested can read more about one works with current material to spread informa-around her shoulders and be there for her the whole different topics in the support services. Every area tion about BRIS at one’s school, sports club ortime when she needs it. Good luck! has a fact sheet that brings up current information recreation centre. 11
  • 11. the bris report 2005 : On BRIS Young People one can also send postcards victimised in many other cases also do not know to friends, answer a current question and make who can help them or who is responsible for what oneself heard by going into the notice board. happens. Ask the lawyer is intended as an aid to The visitors also have the opportunity of reading children and young people in all of these situations more about the UN Convention of the Rights of the who want to know more and want to find some Child and watch films bring up the rights of young clarity in what applies with regard to our legislation. people. Today there are about 400 registered questions of A section that is often used is “Write a poem or a legal nature from children and young people with short story”. Many young people share their thoughts their answers from BRIS, which emphasizes the by posting a contribution that others can read and need of an independent forum with the possibility also comment on. for children and young people to ask questions. BRIS’ intention is to continue to administer and It’s too tough refine the service. The following is a selection of Love is tough excerpts from the questions that came in during It slips between our fingers 2005: it’s in the words you say in your prettiest smile.. • I’m 9 years old and turn 10 soon and am wonde- It’s in your breath on my cheek. ring what I should do to move to my dad. I’ve said It’s the weight in my heart.. this to mum the whole time, but she doesn’t listen. Every day without your hands & your smile.. What happens if I refuse to go to her? Mum says is a day of sorrow.. that she and dad will talk to the family court, but I love you. will anyone listen to me? By: The Black that luv him • If I tell my psychologist at the child psychiatry All contributions to the Notice Board and Write a clinic that I cut myself, does he have to tell my poem or short story are approved by a moderator parents? before they are posted. • Hi! I went and talked to social services when I was 3.5 Ask the lawyer younger. Now I’m 15 and I wonder if I can read my Ask the lawyer has been developed to give children records and if so how can I get a hold of them? and young people up to age 18 an opportunity to ask questions that have legal ties. The service is open • Can my psychologist come to my trial that will be around the clock and the goal is for the questions to held in a few months. It’s about rape of a minor. be answered within 24 hours. How long a sentence can the guy who did it get? Many children and young people often convey the feeling that adults do not listen or cannot answer 3.6 The Red Pages questions important to them. It is particularly For the last two years BRIS has operated and difficult to get answers on what rights and obliga- administered a new website,, tions children and parents have to each other. Those which is a search engine for children and young 12 photo: lena granefelt
  • 12. the bris report 2005 : BRIS.sepeople up to age 18. Through the Red Pages, young 6people can get help to quickly and easily findorganisations, services and authorities that existfor them – locally or nationally. One can search What young people lack in their municipalitybased on problem area, location or free text. “The basic idea is that as a young person I What young people lack in their municipality according to approx. 300 e-mails to the Red Pages via the Tip function.should be able to find out where I can turn to in my according to approx. 300 e-mails to the Red Pages via the Tip function.local surroundings. If I want help with someparticular problem or answers to some importantquestion, I should be able to find organisations and Safe outdoor environmentservices dealing with it,” says Maria Rådlund, Social Safe outdoor environmentWorker at BRIS who is also the editor of the RedPages. 10 % 10 %Well-visited websiteDuring 2005 the traffic to the Red Pages increased 34% Support/Helpmarkedly to about 40,000 visits per month in the last Activity centre 25% 34% Support/Helpquarter. The website’s “Tip function” also gives children Activity centre 25%and young people the opportunity of informing theeditorial staff of good services available in theirtown, or giving their opinions and saying what they 31%lack. Here there is also information about authori-ties and tips on where to turn with different 31%questions or problems.Buffer Youth centreThe Red Pages has its own section for adults –Buffer. Here there is a news page where current Youth centrenews concerning children and young people ispresented and updated every day. Within Bufferthere is also a project bank – the search engine forprojects that aim to improve the living conditionsof children and young people by spreading good What young people lack in their organisations where they can meet contemporariesexamples. municipality with similar problems. Young people mainly want to The content in the search engine for the Red Young people primarily inquire about recreation have support services for children of parents withPages and the project bank is based on active centres or other kinds of activity centres where they problems of drug and alcohol abuse, parents withorganisations registering their own services and can meet contemporaries. Those that inquire about mental illnesses and support when one has been aprojects. support services primarily express a lack of group victim of sexual assault. 13
  • 13. the bris report 2005 : Children and violence Children and violence Adult guarantee as a social concept concerning children and violence, we see many lonely In the report’s introduction, it was emphasized that and victimised children. This is true when children are this year BRIS will work with the overall theme of an exposed to adult’s violence and when children inflict adult guarantee in children’s lives. BRIS wants to violence on contemporaries or physically harm make the adult guarantee a social concept because themselves. BRIS’ material on children and violence is 4 every child should be entitled to meaningful adult extensive. Therefore we have chosen to focus on three relationships. The background is that all too many areas, all of which constitute important aspects of the children that contact BRIS bear witness to the fact lives of children exposed to violence today: that what is fundamentally lacking in their lives are aware, meaningful and mature adults. • Adult’s violence toward children, which is comprised of physical and sexual abuse. The lack of a meaningful adult presence is the basis for the chapter Children and violence because it • Violence between children, which primarily is like a binding tie through the theme in all aspects. concerns bullying. • Self-inflicted violence, which is tied to mental Three aspects of violence illness. Whether dealing with adults’ violence toward children, children’s violence toward each other or children’s From violence to self-inflicted violence violence toward themselves, there is a tie to the lack of Since the mid-90s BRIS has experienced a pendulum supportive adult relationships. In all texts and calls motion in the contacts with children and young 7 Perpetrators in child contacts about physical abuse Father 41 % Mother 14 % Both adults 8,7 % Boyfriend/girlfriend 8,5 % Stepfather 6,2 % Sibling 4,7 % Teacher/school personnel 1,9 % Other known contemporary 8,0 % Other known adult 2,8 % See perpetrators of the Other 4,4 % n = 1 182 same age, page 19. 14
  • 14. the bris report 2005 : Children and violencepeople, which we call from violence to self-inflicted 8violence. During the mid-90s many children called Perpetrators in child contacts about sexual abuse/molestationabout physical and sexual abuse, primarily commit-ted by adult perpetrators. Victimisation due to Father 23 %bullying was the single most common reason for Boyfriend 7,4 %contacting BRIS, where the perpetrator was most Mother 6,8 %often a contemporary. These contacts are approx- Stepfather 6,7 %imately constant to date, but some years we haveseen an increase in the percentage of young Teacher/school personnel 3,7 %perpetrators, which also applies to 2005. Sibling 3,1 % In contrast to previous years, BRIS now at the Another family member 5,4 %same time receives thousands of testimonies about Other known contemporary 15 %children’s self-inflicted violence. Since the BRIS-mailstarted five years ago, an explosion of e-mails Other known adult 12 %concerning self-destructive behaviour and suicidal Other 16 % n = 779issues has arisen. When the possibility of writing toBRIS was made available, mainly young girlsreceived a channel for expressing both self-hate and areas and they are predominantly similar year after • Hi I’m a 14-year-old guy and I was out 10 mina loathing of life. See 4.3 Self-inflicted violence and year. Through the BRIS-mail we have in the last few longer than I’m allowed. Dad grabbed me really hardmental illness. years also received information about perpetrators and I began to scream. Then he hit me in the back from children who write to us. and violently threw me down on the floor next to4.1 Adults’ violence to children Year after year, the violence in the majority of mum and she didn’t care. I screamed and cried…In 1971 BRIS started with the original objective of cases is consistently committed in the home,protecting children from adult violence. The fight which is true of 81% of the physical abuse cases • 12-year-old girl. Her mum is always cross with herwas taken to the part of society that neglected child and 52% of the sexual abuse cases in BRIS child and usually beats her. Today her mum’s boyfriendabuse. The organisation’s founders worked like a fire contacts in 2005. The most common perpetrator is dragged her up the stairs so violently that sheunder authorities and decision-makers. The “BRIS also consistently a biological father. injured her shoulder, just because she thought herguerrilla” was one of the media’s terms of the day. In child contacts about physical abuse, the homework in Swedish was hard and asked for help.BRIS also made strong contributions in making perpetrator is a male in seven out of ten cases andSweden the first country in the world to prohibit in sexual abuse there is a male perpetrator in nine • Girl, 15 years old. After a while it comes out thatcorporal punishment of children. out of ten cases. Girls are also the most common her dad beats her. That is however better than when Adult violence to children almost solely concerns victims: in almost seven out of ten cases of she has to “console” him. The abuse has been goingphysical abuse and sexual abuse. In 2005 BRIS had physical abuse and just over eight out of ten cases on for several years. It started with the mouth, buta total of 2,002 supportive child contacts that dealt in sexual abuse/molestation. now he does it both “here and there”. Her motherwith these areas. The question is if there are hidden statistics here knows about it and her solution is to give the daugh- as well with regard to the victimisation of boys ter birth control pills.Perpetrators and victims because it is girls who talk about their problems. InFor a decade, BRIS has compiled annual perpetrator total, eight out of ten supportive child contacts with • 17-year-old girl calls about her stepfather whoprofiles from the children’s information in these BRIS concern girls. sexually abuses her every night. Has been going on 15
  • 15. the bris report 2005 : Children and violence for 2 years. He threatens her and says that she will There are several groups of adults that abuse regard to further training of employees in schools, not manage if she tells anyone. She takes pills that their position of power for assault. Similar expe- the social services, the police and the justice system. close her off to be able to stand it. Has two younger riences are had by children victimised by violence or During 2005 BRIS has reacted to a few cases in siblings whom she does not dare leave out of fear sexual abuse perpetrated by persons on whom they particular where the courts, despite more stringent that they will also have problems. Her mother does are dependent in various ways, such as leaders, legislation, have reduced sentences and damages in not know anything. teachers or treatment personnel. courts of appeal with regard to damages to children All too often our volunteers note after the call as the victims of crime in sexual abuse. The child protects the attacker that the child does not want to tell anyone about “For many years we have criticized the ignorance When a close relative abuses the child, it is a double what is happening. It is possible to speak ano- of and lack of a child-based perspective in Swedish betrayal: the person, who above all should protect nymously to BRIS, but not to anyone else. The same courts. Psychological assault is often enough to the child, abuses this dependency for violence. The applies to the BRIS-mail, where children and young make a child not resist. And an assault in childhood last stronghold of trust crumbles when what should people write and explain incognito, but then do not lasts longer than if it happened at an adult age,” be an adult support turns into its opposite. At BRIS want to go any further. says Göran Harnesk, General Secretary of BRIS. Also we constantly hear of how feelings of shame and see Ask the lawyer, chapter 3. guilt get the upper hand over the child. Children Inadequate professionalism easily assume blame themselves, especially when a BRIS also learns of children’s experiences of contacts 4.2 Violence between children close adult is the perpetrator. with authorities in association with physical and An important starting point is to primarily view For a violated child, trust in the adult world is sexual abuse. As in other contexts, here there is violence between children as an expression of already damaged – and it is from this perspective naturally an under-representation of the cases where vulnerability, insecurity and a sense of being lost in that children sometimes look around to find help. children quickly and correctly find good help and life. On commission of the Government, the National The smallest doubt or signals that it will not hold treatment. The signals to BRIS show in the meantime Agency for Education and the Swedish National the entire way can however get the child to back-out that society all too often fails to provide the most Agency for School Improvement have coined the entirely. Not daring to tell, not believing it will make vulnerable children fast and professional help. overall term “abusive treatment” when equal rights any difference – or believing it will just get worse, Among the questions that come to BRIS’ legal are violated. All schools must have plans of action not knowing what is happening – are all adequate queries, many concern how to go about making a against abusive treatment, which includes sexual reasons for a child to stay silent. report and how an investigation is done. How are harassment and racism, among other things. Frequently they themselves also paint pictures of hearings conducted? Does one have to testify in the The term also includes bullying, but what threatening trials, prison sentences, splitting the presence of others? Who will protect me afterwards? distinguishes bullying is that the victim is offended family, etc. What happens to the person I report? Today there on several occasions and that there is an imbalance are many good examples and trials with regard to in power between perpetrator and victim. Disadvantaged and dependent making it easier for children to make a report, but In the background lies the drastic conflict of loyalty for most of the children it is a complicated way to Bullying that arises when one of the parents physically or go. BRIS and others have long called attention to the Bullying is one of the most important problem areas sexually abuses the child. What happens with the need for improved collaboration between different in BRIS’ history. During the mid-1990s, the statistics family if a report is made? And will anyone believe actors as well as increased competence of those who exploded and bullying became the most common what the child says? For many children, the strategy will meet vulnerable children in various contexts. reason for children to contact BRIS up to the last few becomes thinking instead about the possibility of There is a great deal left to do on the treatment of years. With the e-mail services, mental illness and themselves leaving the home environment and the children in crisis both with regard to simplification family conflicts have however become the areas possibility of getting a foster family. and clarification on an organisational level and with most on the rise. 16
  • 16. the bris report 2005 : Children and violence 17photo: lena granefeltr
  • 17. the bris report 2005 : Children and violence The contacts about bullying have in the last few subjected to beating and sexually explicit verbal view is still that there are children in far too many years been somewhat constant, but are primarily abuse. Now they don’t dare walk home. Their cases who do not get the support to which they are made over the phone; victimisation due to bullying parents must pick them up. The headmaster does entitled. Victimisation is doubled when the child is something children and young people want to talk nothing, a report to the National Board of Education calls the situation to the attention of adults, but is about. This topic is twice as common among just sits on a pile. not believed. Or that the responsibility is put back contacts with boys as with girls. More than one out on them: “You just have to get a little tougher!” of five BRIS contacts with boys deal with bullying • 11-year-old boy who says that several older boys compared to one out of ten for girls. have threatened to set him on fire because he has • They tease me the whole time because I am braces. He is very scared. Muslim. Once they forced me to eat pork. When I Bullies and bullied told my dad, he got angry with me. I tell the teachers We know that bullying almost always takes place in Insufficient adult support but they just say that I have to get a little tougher. school. With regard to perpetrators/bullies, mixed- BRIS’ experience is that children try in many ways to Boy age 12 gender groups have been the most common way of handle the bullying on their own and that it often bullying in the last few years, which is the case in seems difficult to get the right help from adults. It is therefore important as an adult to remember almost half of all cases. Many times the victim has told people in charge at that bullying and harassment can never be written Otherwise, boys are more often bullies than their school without success. The inability of the off as “normal trouble between kids”. The children’s girls. Bullying of different kinds is primarily brought school world to deal with bullying is similar to stories from their own perspective proves the up by younger children up to the lower teens and previous years, despite action plans and directives opposite: their lacking self-esteem, joy of life, and the share of contacts decreases as age increases. The from above. possibility to learn and develop influence their bullying that takes place at higher ages is also done entire life situation. Not being accepted, being to a lesser extent by groups than by individuals. • Standing on the side of the bullied is much more frozen out and belittled leaves particularly serious What we recognise is the timeless nature of difficult. I don’t think there is one GOOD adult to scars on a growing child who is in the midst of bullying. It is about freezing someone out, spreading rely on at my school, you have no idea! I have getting to know and develop his or her personality. rumours and false accusations. Here there are spoken with my teacher about this but she got ideas Because adult support so often fails, it affects the wrecked bicycles, soaked clothes, constant insults and I had to talk to the counsellor!! Hello... Boy age 15 children’s way of handling the situation. One way is to about looks, background etc. And of course pure normalise the situation and accept that “I deserve personal violence: kicks, hits, locking someone in, • I hate all adults. I’ve been bullied for 4 years so I this”. BRIS has contact with many children who spraying with water, holding the head down in the had a panic attack when I started at the new school. describe how they keep a stiff upper lip, put up with it, toilette. The list goes on. Then I had to go to a bunch of meetings where become invisible, dream themselves away and belittle everyone stares me down… Girl age 14 themselves. For these children, it also translates to a • Girl, age 15, who is crying and starts the call by destructive behaviour – to themselves or others. saying she “does not want to live any longer”. It The lack of adult support that many children turns out that she has been bullied for 7 years and it describe is particularly serious because it is through Setting clear boundaries is just getting worse. Today classmates threw all of the presence of clear and confident adults that It is therefore important to realise that the bullying her clothes in the shower in PE. much of the bullying can be prevented. Of course is primarily tied to the group. When worry and there is an under-representation in BRIS’ materials stress arise in a group, when the rules of conduct or • A 14-year-old girl calls and says that she and her of the cases where children receive quick and the leadership is unclear, when the individual is not friend have been physically abused by a gang of boys intelligent support and help from adults because sure of where she or he belongs or feels they are who constantly fight with them. They have been there is then seldom reason to contact us. But our called into question – then the mechanisms of 18
  • 18. the bris report 2005 : Children and violence rejection arise. It is the obligation of the adults in • The girls in my class have written a load of nasty charge to see to it that boundaries are set for this. things to me on lunar like “Damned anal cunt” In BRIS’ contacts there are also a number of child- “Freaking Idiot” “Geek” and “I’m gonna bully you to ren who describe themselves as bullies, and who do death” …Girl, age 12 not know how to quit, to “change roles”. Here too, the school’s adults have an important job: to help • A few “mates” in school have spread a picture of him children in constructive role changes, to find good when he was drunk and vomited at a party. After that ways of getting affirmation and being seen. he has received a load of cruel nicknames and everyone laughs at him. He is afraid that his parents will find out. Virtual bullying Also see 4.4 Destructive contacts on the Internet. Along with new arenas being made available, we have in the last few years received a small, but Teacher training growing number of contacts that deal with new In a 2004 debate article in Dagens Nyheter, BRIS kinds of harassment. Through the Internet and brought up the issue of the responsibility of adults in mobile telephone, bullying has found a new arena. school in cases of bullying. Focus was placed on the Through e-mail, guest book postings and photo- teacher colleges’ insufficient training in preventative graphs on websites, comments on chat pages and in work. The quality of training at all schools of educa- text messages, children and young people have had tion in the country was surveyed and assessed. The to put up with persecution of various kinds, which results showed that only two of the country’s training when done repeatedly could be called virtual programmes for new teachers gave them adequate bullying. Through the Internet’s fast circulation proficiency. Therefore BRIS demanded that the Govern- ability, things can gain unmanageable proportions ment charge the National Agency for Higher Education for a child, such as when anonymous threats fill the with reviewing teacher training programmes to better mobile’s display, or pictures are published or e- adapt them to an adult presence in schools with ade- mailed on the Net for everlasting circulation. In quate competence to combat the violation of students. 2005 BRIS had more than 700 contacts with children and young people that dealt with IT- Perpetrators of the same age related issues and problems. It is among these A clear trend in the child contacts of 2005 is the contacts that this kind of bullying is touched upon. marked rise in perpetrators of the same age with regard to physical and sexual abuse. In physical • I don’t know what to do, a girl wrote that I’m abuse, the share of same-age perpetrators rose to ugly!! Then I wrote that she was stupid. And she’s 22% from 15% the year before. 30% of the sexual dissing me on msn and writing a bunch of mean abuse/molestation was committed by a contem- things about me: retard ! cunt! Girl, age 13 porary. In 2004 this figure was 24%. See perpetrator figures pp. 14/15. These same-age perpetrators are • They wrote that I’m like fat, stupid and a little usually boyfriends or contemporaries known to the “retarded” and they published my mobile number on victims from their surroundings/circle of acquain- the page where they wrote: “If you want to call a real tances. Siblings, unknown contemporaries or, on idiot” and then my e-mail address. Boy, age 14 rare occasions, girlfriends can also be perpetrators. 19photo: lena granefelt
  • 19. the bris report 2005 : Children and violence • A 15-year-old girl has been raped and beaten by means 4,001 contacts in this area, which includes her 18-year-old boyfriend. She is ashamed of it and self-destructiveness, suicide/thoughts of suicide, has not dared tell anyone. This was not the first time eating disorders and other mental illness. A very it has happened. large majority, 90%, concern girls. This picture is also confirmed in BRIS Adult Helpline. See chapter • A 14-year-old girl says that a gang of boys usually 2, figure 2, and chapter 6 on the Adult Helpline. comes to her school and they pull girls in some- where and have unprotected sex with them. She Loneliness and lack of adults feels this is humiliating, but sees no solution. She What is striking is that these children and young thinks the adults know about it and see it, but do people basically express a great loneliness that not care. “Am I pregnant?” she wonders. permeates their thoughts, feelings and actions. They tell of both an outer and inner loneliness. The purely Sometimes the share of same-age perpetrators varies physical loneliness expresses itself in them seldom strongly from year to year. The difference this year is having someone to talk to or do things with. They also that the trend is clear with regard to physical and live with an inner alienation where they describe sexual abuse. The influx of BRIS contacts with children confusion in what they feel, think and do. The feeling and young people about bullying and mental illness of loneliness is then amplified by the lack of adults in shows that an increasing number of young people are their lives who can help them get their inner lives in not doing well. The extent of a connection to the per- order. These children and young people often express centage of young perpetrators in this context is unclear. a clear worry and fear of not being able to find help. BRIS finds it very worrying that young people that are • 13-year-old boy says that when he goes skateboar- doing so poorly do not seem to have the adult support ding there is a gang of immigrants that rob and beat they need. A central function of society is helping to him. He has reported them to the police once, but it find adults that can help these children deal with their all ended with the gang beating him again. various thoughts and feelings and offer hope that the state of things can be changed for the better. 4.3 Self-inflicted violence and mental illness • I am a guy who’ll soon turn 16 and I really have a Since 2002 BRIS has been sounding the alarm that big problem. I am almost always alone. I have hardly many girls who e-mail have contemplated suicide any friends. I simply don’t dare to do things. It just for a long time, and some of them have made gets worse and worse... several attempts to end their life. It is also common that girls with suicidal and self-destructive tenden- • I feel alone even if I have loads of friends! why is cies have little faith in adults and have prior this? I can talk with my friends and things but I negative experience of professional help. BRIS don’t know why I feel so lonely:( Girl, age 13. demanded therefore that the government make large investments in preventative measures. Self-mutilation most common In 2005 mental illness was mentioned in one There were 1,576 supportive contacts with children out of five supportive child contacts with BRIS. This and young people that directly dealt with self- 20 photo: lena granefelt
  • 20. the bris report 2005 : Children and violencedestructiveness. These most often consist of injuring Medication taking it? Are the pills what makes me feel stupid inoneself by mutilation. Here there is a broad group During the year BRIS has received a large number of school? are some of the questions. Some of thewith many underlying causes of their psychological calls and e-mails about medication and pills. Almost contacts also tell of pills as a form of intoxication insuffering that also shows varying degrees of severity 500 of the child contacts brought this up. Here too connection with alcohol consumption. For example,in the mutilation. The common denominator is the overwhelming majority are about girls who in some young people are worried that they both takehowever that they often tried in vain to get the adult various ways use medication against psychological pills and drink alcohol on the to react at the start of their self-destructive problems.path, which led to increased worry and anxiety. The majority of the contacts deal with young • 16-year-old girl who says that she will kill herself. Their internal stress then rose and the ensuing people who describe the use of different kinds of She has the pills in front of her, takes sleeping pills,increase in pain was in turn deadened by more medicines to counter anxiety or panic attacks or to sedatives and neuroleptics. She “snorts” sleepingmutilation. Many describe how they at the time have the strength to live or to feel better etc. It is medication to get a faster rush. Has not gone toexperience a certain relief because the psychological often unclear what medicine they use, but they are school in the autumn as she couldn’t manage afterpain is embodied in physical pain, visible blood and most often called “anti-depressants” or “happy being committed to the child psychiatry ward.scars. This is also a kind of cry for help, showing pills”.their surroundings that they need attention. Many of those who take medication also tell of • “I don’t know what I should do? I suffer anxiety conflicts with their parents and tough family• I sit at the desk and feel how horrible life is… about everything. Have lost my appetite. Never want situations, and that they feel very vulnerable andwant to cry, but the tears don’t come… feel the dull to do anything. Take medicine against depression alone in their harsh family situation.knife hard against my hip and pull… Girl, age 13 but don’t think it helps. Hate my life. What the hell should I do?” E-mail, boy, age 17 • I take antidepp pills – my dad and his girlfriend• I have thoughts of suicide. I cut myself because and mum and her boyfriend have alcohol problems –just for a while I want to feel pain somewhere else Many describe that the medication does not help I can’t talk with anyone. What I want is to havethan in my heart. I just cut harder and harder every and that they have been given different prescrip- someone to talk to – maybe a contact family. 16-time... Girl, age 15 tions over time; some also question if the prescrip- year-old girl. tions are meaningful. A few feel pressured to take• hi .. I’m a 12 year old girl who thinks about suicide... the medicine even though they themselves do not Whether or not prescribing psycho-pharmaceuticalsI just can’t carry on living anymore. don’t dare talk to my want to and wonder where they can turn to get in difficult family situations is for the child’s best, isparents… is there any way for me to want to live again? effective help. an important question. BRIS thinks that it can more be a matter of resource shortages that lead to the• why live? why even breath? i don’t think i’m • I’ve moved in with my boyfriend after loads of child only getting medicine in these situations,important anywhere and never dare believe in trouble at home I wish they weren’t so demanding I instead of or without parallel treatment. Also seepeople that say ugly me is good enough. Boy, age 16 take medicine but I have no psychiatric contact Children and family, chapter 5. beyond the medicine.• 15-year-old girl who describes her life as chaotic. Boys’ poor mental healthShe heard voices in her head and after that her It is notable that few who take these anti-depressive In 2005 BRIS also chose to put the spotlight on theparents contacted a child psychiatrist and got the medications describe having an ongoing supportive poor mental health of boys through a debate articlemedicine Valium. There was also a counsellor discussion contact at the same time. They also in Dagens Nyheter, among other things. In this area,contact at her school, but now she has also started describe worry about the pharmaceutical product’s for the last three years BRIS has been warning of theseeing pictures in her head. Frightening scenes… potential side effects: Does it affect looks? Can I stop explosive increase in signs of serious mental illness 21
  • 21. the bris report 2005 : Children and violence among our teenage girls, primarily in the e-mails Can’t deal with everything being a problem. This is anyone I knew but an old 53 year old man. He said about self-destructive behaviour and problems of the last try. Help me damned it. that he knew where I live and that I should watch suicide. But even if the girls can have an aggressive out for him. I’M SCARED! self-contempt, it is BRIS experience that they at the “An important issue is how society at an early stage same time are verbally expressive and seek help. will be able to help boys express their feelings in • I want to warn everyone about meeting someone Eight out of ten supportive contacts during 2005 words. We must also find out more about what tools from the Internet. The guy I was supposed to meet were about girls. boys themselves feel they need to be able to make got me to... yeah, imagine all of the idiots you know In spite of this we have approximately 4,000 themselves understood and be treated when they and then add them all up and times that by three. calls and e-mails from boys annually that speak of have problems,” says Göran Harnesk BRIS General Then you’ll get how many stupid things I did. I how tough their lives can be. Looking at the boys’ Secretary. started drinking, cut myself, was involved in an contacts with BRIS, they are over-represented in the awful assault, started to abuse pain pills, I was areas of bullying and physical abuse, sexuality and 4.4 Destructive contacts over dying. sexual development. the Internet I’m not saying this will happen to all of the girls We also know that in total there are about as In 2004 we could clearly see a distinct increase in that meet someone on the Internet, but it did to me, many boys as girls who contact BRIS, but the destructive contacts over the Internet. This negative please don’t do it. problem is that they most often are not able to trend has since continued in 2005 as well. The formulate themselves in a manner indicative of Internet is often used as a tool to harm other people. • Hi, six months ago I made a film of myself. I was seeking help. Instead of ending up in our documen- This can involve bullying over the Internet (see the undressed and I sent it to my boyfriend. Now we’re ted statistics over supportive contacts, the boys are heading Virtual bullying in this chapter), spreading not together anymore, but all the time he threatens found among the test calls. These contain too little lies about someone or posting private information me with putting the film out on the Net if we don’t information to be able to be documented seriously, about people. It often involves a young person have sex. I really don’t want to but don’t know what but our studies show that many boys have a need of having had a contact on the Internet that was I should do. Is there anyone that has any good testing us and that they often do so in a provocative perceived as trustworthy, for example a boyfriend or advice? Don’t tell me to talk to mum because I don’t manner with sexually explicit words and shouts, an older person who in various ways expresses a dare… among other things, that are mixed with incomplete desire to help in a tough situation. messages about their own victimisation. The child/young person has often shared private Other things that are brought up are contacts where While the girls cry for help by cutting themselves thoughts, or even pictures of him or herself, with or a child or young person has found out that someone and taking pills, boys and young men succeed in without clothes. This can be done by e-mailing wants to commit suicide in confidence. This can be a their suicide attempts to a substantially greater pictures or through a web cam. person close or someone that they do not at all extent (NASP 2001, 2002). BRIS’ experience shows Here many bear witness of the trust being abused know where he or she lives. Many get in touch with that poor self-esteem, despair and a perception of when the person they have had contact with sends BRIS about their worry and wonder what they not being good enough often lie behind an extrover- these private pictures or thoughts to others. This is should do. ted posture. how three young people describe their meeting with It is however important to know that even if In the boys’ case, underlying depression can also someone they met on the Internet, taken from BRIS many calls and e-mails to BRIS concern destructive play a role. One boy expresses it like this in an e-mail: Discussion Forum: meetings over the Internet, the majority of the contacts are positive. Many of the children and • Now death is close. Wounds on my wrists. Suicide. • Hi! I’m really scared! A guy on lunarstorm contac- young people who contact BRIS about this, describe It’s not getting better. Bad start in life. No help. ted me and I thought it was someone I knew… I friendship, love and joy and that the Internet has School doesn’t give a damn, no body gives a damn. answered him but then it turned out that it wasn’t given them friends for life. 22
  • 22. 23photo: lena granefeltr
  • 23. the bris report 2005 : Children and family Children and family Three focal areas The family is always important Based on what children and young people have told In BRIS’ contacts with children and young people the BRIS during 2005, children and family is one of our parents and the family are always important. For the focal areas in 2006. The children’s primary circle of child, a family conflict brings things to a head, but close adults, who should support and raise the the important thing from a child’s perspective is that 5 children to be secure adults, are in the family. Yet the there are ways out of conflicts where no one needs to children say that it is in the home or in the network feel hurt or unfairly treated. For many the contact around the family that a very large share of the with BRIS constitutes an opportunity to “blow off assaults and in-depth conflicts occur. Upon closer steam” – to anonymously be able to express feelings inspection of our statistics concerning children and that everyone else is nuts and unsympathetic. But we family we have chosen to emphasize three areas: often also hear about situations that are considerably more serious, where in-depth conflicts and mistrust • Family conflicts – an area that has “topped” BRIS’ lead to a deadlock or an acute crisis that is impos- statistics as the most common contact topic the last sible for children to handle because of their position few years. of dependency and disadvantage in relation to • “Different worlds” – children who live with parents or other guardians. different norm systems with separated parents. • Neglected children – who live in families with The adult has the power substance or alcohol abuse, mental illness, poverty etc. One of the most common reasons for children to contact BRIS is a situation where children and 5.1 Family conflicts parents/guardians come into conflict with each In the last few years, family conflicts have overtaken other. Sometimes tensions that temporarily arise are bullying’s place as the single most common reason for what incite the child’s need for support, but often children to contact BRIS. Family conflicts have always more long-term conflicts are involved where the been central through the years, but now constitute the child does not see a way out. As always when it most common topic in both calls and e-mails. During comes to parents there are strong ties of loyalty on 2005 almost 3,600 child contacts as well as one out of the child’s part. Many children find it extremely four adult calls concerned family conflicts. difficult to criticise their parents. This is not a Under this heading everything from normal situation one wants to be in and BRIS’ experience is liberation processes to more violent conflicts with, that the child also feels a great sense of responsibi- among other things, cultural clashes with teenagers in lity for seeking possible solutions. immigrant families can occur. The conflicts can arise in different constellations, but the most common is • 14-year-old girl who is worried that her mother will that the child who contacts BRIS has him or herself die and keeps tabs on her food intake. Her mother has ended up in a conflict usually with both parents, or been anorexic for many years. Her parents have been just one of the parents. divorced for eight years. Her little sister lives with her 24
  • 24. the bris report 2005 : Children and familyfather. The girl has feelings of guilt over thinking bad relationships are difficult. She feels that her mother radio channels broadcast programs that in differentthoughts about her mother and being ashamed of her. gets hurt every time after a failed relationship. Now ways try to “coach” parents in their rearing job. In her mother has met yet another new man… BRIS’ opinion, it is good that the responsibility ofAs both emotionally and materially dependent, the adults is stressed in all conceivable ways. In BRIS’child is in a weak position that is almost always Trouble between parents adult contacts, we also get a clear message aboutperceived as hopeless with regard to the possibility Trouble between parents creates insecurity for child- how tough it can be to be a parent today and howof change. Through the children’s stories, it becomes ren. Many child calls and e-mails bear witness to stressing daily life can be for both adults andclear that it is the adult who has the power, which worries about parents quarrelling a lot and the children.these tangible examples show: potential of it leading to a divorce. The children Nevertheless children and young people can understand that the reasons can be finances, never assume responsibility or be made to blame for• The 15-year-old boy told his parents that he is gay. unemployment, substance or alcohol abuse or the adults not being able to cope. Having a functioningThey responded by throwing him out and taking the children themselves, among other things. Sometimes relationship, the communication between adult andhouse keys. Now he lives with his boyfriend’s parents already live separately, but argue about child working because they respect and listen tograndmother. custodial and visitation issues where the child ends each other, is and remains primarily the adults’ up in the middle of the conflict. Children who responsibility.• Adopted 11-year-old girl with divorced parents contact BRIS often think about what they them-that have new partners. Her parents fight and let the selves can do about their parents’ troubles; they The family and child psychiatrygirl carry messages between them and she does not assume responsibility and not infrequently try to From the hundreds of contacts that BRIS annuallyget along with either of them or her mother’s new mediate between the parents. has with children where there are references topartner. Has been told that she will be sent back to This also involves complicated loyalties where child and youth psychiatric services, we can drawthe country she came from. children can be forced to defend one parent from the conclusion that in these contexts it is common the other. But children are also clear-sighted, and that children often do not dare tell what they haveThe conflicts are about money, friends, love relations- can see that a divorce is not just something threate- been subjected to. The children in these cases arehips (including the parents’), school and performance ning: “Is it normal to want one’s parents to get a primarily between the ages of 13-18 and most areexpectations, unfairness between siblings, computer divorce?” is one question. girls who are doing very poorly. They tell BRIS thatusage, divorce, sexuality etc. The cause of the trouble they often do not dare contact the child psychiatryor the child’s problem is however not infrequently • Boy, age 12, is unhappy about his parents quarrel- services at all and that one of the foremost reasonsjust a triggering factor in a tense and pressured ling all the time, as he expresses it. He is very afraid is fear that their parents will find out what they say.situation, where one finds it difficult to talk with each that they will get a divorce. He actually thinks they The reason for them not wanting to tell the truthother and there is not always mutual trust. will, but does not dare ask. is that it is often the parents themselves that physically and/or psychologically abuse them,• How can my own parents tell me that I am the • If I ever get married I will never hit my wife like neglect them or betray them. Children also describebiggest mistake of their lives. I feel absolutely dad does to mum...15-year-old boy how parents manipulate the counsellor and portrayhorrible about it. I can’t stand living under the same themselves as considerate. In some cases, the childroof as them anymore. Can’t handle living with An adult responsibility has also been the subject of threats of revenge ifthem anymore. Where can I go? Girl, age 15 The parental role has been discussed and debated in they tell. Another reason for remaining silent is various contexts in the last few years. In national worry that the child psychiatry services will make a• 17-year-old girl calls because she is worried about commission reports the need of parental support report to social services, which could have undesira-her mother. She thinks all of her mother’s love has been emphasized and several television and ble and/or inconceivable consequences for the child. 25
  • 25. the bris report 2005 : Children and family Caught between the lines of the law BRIS’ experience over the years is that children in these cases seldom want to make an immediate report. Their primary need is support and the desire for the victimisations to end. Many have the insight that they are in need of help and sometimes express a desire for a treatment contact where the family is not involved, which is not possible at most of the child psychiatry clinics. Here the child is caught in between various laws such as the Health and Medical Services Act, the Secrecy Act, the Social Services Act and the Parental Code, which give parents the right to insight in their child’s treatment. In BRIS’ opinion, society should to a greater extent rely on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which upholds the child’s right to healthcare and the child’s best always being the guiding principle. This would make it possible to admit children without the parents’ knowledge by virtue of the Secrecy Act, if child psychiatry together with the child deems it to be the best. 5.2 “Different worlds” More than half a million children in Sweden live with separated parents. Every year just over 50,000 children are affected by their parents’ divorce or separation (Statistics Sweden). A large number of the contacts that children and young people have with BRIS also deal directly or indirectly with the parents’ separations and their consequences. Conflicts that have their origins in children living in different worlds run like a binding tie through many calls and e-mails to BRIS. This topic is also dominant on our adult helpline. Also see chapter 6. Split family common Just over four out of ten contacts with BRIS come from children who do not live with both of their biological parents, which is an over-representation 26 photo: fredrik nyman
  • 26. the bris report 2005 : Children and familycompared to the overall population. Approximately • A 10-year-old boy with separated parents has two Children as a messenger630 supportive child contacts dealt directly with siblings ages 12 and 8. They live with mum, but are An extremely complicated situation for the childproblems of divorce. with dad every other weekend. Now dad wants to have arises in a conflict when one parent insidiously The children most often contact us a while after them every other week, but the problem is that the delegates his or her opinions. Being drawn into athe divorce, when they live off-and-on with one of children do not like his new girlfriend – she shouts game between adults where one becomes a mes-the parents, usually a lone mother. They express and argues with them. But the boy does not dare say senger or representative of the will of one side is athoughts about where they live, stress and sadness this out of fear that his dad will get angry or upset. psychological strain not meant for children. Child-about the family being split up, and feelings of ren often express their unhappiness over beingloneliness, abandonment, and not being listened to. • A 14-year-old girl wants to stay with her mum when pressured into these attempts at visitation sabotage:It is also common that they reflect on what they her parents separate. She will try to tell her dad, but sheshould do to get the parents to get along or that they is also afraid that he might get upset. At the same time • Mum says all the time that dad doesn’t want to seeassume the blame for what has happened: she says that no one has asked her what she wants. me and she doesn’t want me to go to dad, but when I see dad we have a great time. Dad doesn’t say that he• A 7-year-old girl calls and says that her parents Visitation problems surrounding the children are doesn’t want to see me. Mum has asked me to sayare going to get divorced, but she does not want also a common reason for adults to call BRIS. Also things to social services that aren’t true. Is she allowedthem to. She wonders if there is anything she can do see chapter 6. to do that? I like them both but can’t handle mum’sso it does not happen. grumbling about dad much longer. It’s not right. When no one listens• A 13-year-old girl says: “My parents always quarrel. On the other hand, many children that contact BRIS What should I do?And now they’ve decided to separate. The last few have clearly expressed their wishes in how they Although all divorces affect children in differentdays they have quarrelled over me and it feels like I want to live, but their parents do not take them into ways, the commonality among our contacts is thatam the reason they are separating. I want to run consideration. In many cases this generates feelings children and young people seldom feel they areaway and come back when they are getting along.” of insult and anger. Calls and e-mails as well as listened to. “What should I do to get them to listen questions to our lawyer on the web reflect how to me?” is therefore a recurring question that adultsLiving arrangements the most central these issues are in children’s lives and how must take seriously. The children who contact BRIScommon problem important it is to be respected for their opinions and often need help in expressing their feelings andFor the children in separated families the living thoughts on what rights they have: daring to stand up for their wishes on livingarrangements are the most common problem. The arrangements are often dysfunctional from • I live with dad and am with mum on the weekends. I When one has one’s own problems it can bethe child’s perspective, which is why the child’s want to be with my mum more, but dad refuses. What difficult to be empathetic, but the children’s storieswishes often concern living more or less with one should I do to be able to be with my mum more? Help me. show that the parents must make an effort to listenparent. The difficulty in expressing these desires and understand their situation. Most of the parentsconsists of the fear that the other parent can be hurt • I would prefer to live with my dad, but mum won’t have spoken with their children, but childrenand the potential of the contact with him or her let me. The court order has to be followed, she says. continuously need time and space to talk about theirbeing negatively impacted. How can I get them to listen to me? situation. This is a prerequisite for the adults to be The strong tie to parents means that children in able to make decisions that are for the child’s best.their dependent position often take more considera- • What can I do when there’s an agreement between Children with separated parents tell about familytion of their guardian’s feelings than of their own and my mum and dad about me living with dad every conflicts, neglect, physical and mental illness andend up in real conflicts when they express their wishes: weekend. I refuse to go. Do I have to? alcohol and substance abuse relatively more often 27
  • 27. the bris report 2005 : Children and family than others. There is a group of vulnerable children Children regularly describe that they have to assume and it doesn’t matter what I say because no one here that are in need of help from other adults. great responsibility. Beyond managing school on listens to me. I’ve decided to just run away. It may be their own, they often must also assume the entire the only way to get social services to understand. 5.3 Neglected children responsibility for the home, younger siblings and Girl, age 16. Neglected children are particularly vulnerable parents. Having to be a parent to their own parents because they have parents that for various reasons is a common experience. They often convey a feeling • Social services has made their investigation and cannot handle their parental responsibilities. The of great loneliness and say that both their own decided that it’s better for me to live with my mum parents can waver for various reasons such as their situation and the conditions at home are largely because that’s what’s generally better for kids. They own alcohol or substance abuse, criminality, mental unknown to their surroundings. take no consideration of the fact that my step-dad illness or intellectual disability. These children are has hit me for two years and that I don’t want to live dependent on there being other functioning adults • A 12-year-old boy. His dad is dead and his mum with him. 14-year-old girl. in their network or on support from authorities. drinks too much. He is worried about his mum and In BRIS’ statistics over supportive contacts we often does not know what he should do because she does Children placed in foster homes find them under headings like psychological abuse, not realise that she drinks. There is no counsellor at Despite involvement by the authorities, the neglec- neglect, alcohol or substance abuse, physical/mental his school, but he will try to talk with the school nurse. ted children can continue to be victimised. Upon illness in the family and sometimes among children placement in a foster home the authorities take over placed in foster homes as well. In these cases BRIS can • A 13-year-old girl who wishes her mum will get responsibility, but these children often get in touch offer more than supportive conversations by trying to treatment for her substance abuse. The girl has with BRIS and say that the new living arrangements find helpful adults in their surroundings together with three siblings; the youngest is one year old. The do not work. Society not only gets involved, but also the child or going further and instigating supportive children have written an anonymous letter to social all too easily leaves children in the lurch. During efforts by authorities on assignment of the child. Also services and requested help because they are afraid 2005 we had at least 350 child contacts concerning see Assignments, chapter 2. their mum will get angry. children who were placed in foster homes, at treatment centres or the like. Responsibility and poverty Authorities’ adult perspective In year 2000, BRIS prepared a report about The neglected children that contact BRIS tell of Over the years many children have expressed their children in various kinds of foster homes and social many difficulties in their daily lives that no child in mistrust of authorities to BRIS, primarily the social care that reflected their simple demand to be our society should need to suffer. Many are upper services and child psychiatry services in its various listened to and have a trustworthy adult at hand. elementary or lower middle school children who say forms. The children’s feelings of not being listened The fundamental problem has since then remained that they do not have any food and are hungry, to is the common denominator; a kind of adult the same, however. Research has come to the among other things because the parents do not have perspective where the children are not the subject, conclusion that the people that have been placed in any money, are seldom home or because they drink. but merely the object of potential measures. Some foster homes in their childhood have much worse of the neglected children describe that their voice is opportunities than others (Vinnerljung, National • An 11-year-old boy calls and says that he is home not heard when their situation is finally noticed and Board of Health and Welfare 2005). It is therefore alone and hungry. There is no food and his mother the authorities are brought in. important to bring attention to their situation as just drinks. soon as possible. • I have grown up with psychological abuse my • A 10-year-old girl says that she does not know entire life and had enough and got in touch with • Girl in a foster home who wonders if she can where her mother is, that sometimes her mother social services. But mum and dad put up a nice front switch families and what will happen then. She has is drunk and that the money at home has run out. at their meetings. Then they listen to my parents lived with the family for about one year. It was OK at 28
  • 28. the bris report 2005 : Children and familyfirst, but now she thinks it has changed. The parents anyone to talk to who will do anything. What others want to start studies, but do not get into acall her stupid and mean among other things. The should I do? wonders a 17 year-old girl programme and many do not know what they wantfamily does not think of her as a “real” child. to do. Self-esteem can easily drop and there is a risk • A guy, age 17, who says that his mum has been that these young adults can end up in depression or• Angry and disappointed girl. Was placed in a foster picked up by the police and was taken to the alcohol and substance abuse. The time when onehome and has not had contact with her real family psychiatric hospital while she violently resisted. He must leave the days of youth and take the step intosince. The placement feels wrong. Many questions feels sad and does not know if his mum will get adult life is a difficult transition for many who callabout her upbringing. The girl says that social services well again. Has no one to talk to. or write to BRIS, which tries to support them. Buthave not bothered to ask her how she is doing. not even BRIS can answer what social authority • A guy who is 16-years-old and says that his father is these young people/young adults should turn to.In a debate article in Sydsvenska Dagbladet in unemployed and drinks most days. When he does,December, BRIS’ National Association Chairperson, the boy is threatened, harassed and denigrated. HisIngela Thalén, demanded that these children’s father has beaten him several times when he wasstories must be taken seriously and suggested drunk.among other things more secure relationships tofoster homes, earlier focus on potential custodial The boundary between neglect and physicaltransfer and adoption, a municipal maintenance violence can sometimes be difficult to draw. Weobligation during the school years and a municipal know that neglected children run a greater risk“follow-up programme” once the child has turned 18. than others of being victimised by physical and Other important aspects are that institutional sexual abuse of different kinds, but in this chaptercare must be equipped with a quality and evaluation we have focused on neglect without physicalsystem and that all children and young people violence in the family sphere. Also see Childrenconcerned should be interviewed about their needs and violence, chapter 4.and views. 5.4 Young adultsOn the edge of violence Young people over the age of 18 also call or write toSome of the children who live under neglect, BRIS and wonder where they should turn to withmistreatment, psychological abuse and other forms their problems. During 2005 we had just over 800of neglect also speak of difficult situations that are such contacts.more or less characterised by violence: These young people find themselves in a kind of vacuum because they do not fall under child• I don’t dare call the helpline but emailing might be psychiatry services and adult psychiatry services dogood. I have a mum who has been drinking her not feel right. They have no school healthcare towhole life. Live with mum, I don’t see my dad very contact and are also too old for BRIS. They are onoften and he doesn’t seem to care. When mum the way into adult life and are at a loss as to wheredrinks she turns into a monster, completely mad they can find support and help. They often live atand screams the whole time. Coping with getting up home because they have no money of their own,to go to school is really hard when I’ve not slept a which entails difficulties in their family situations.wink because mum’s been drinking. I don’t have Some want to start working, but cannot find a job, photo: fredrik nyman 29
  • 29. the bris report 2005 : BRIS’ Adult contacts BRIS’ Adult contacts Children need adults. This is the collective experience questions, and get help in going further. Many of the at BRIS from our extensive dialogue with children and calls are about the child being in a natural development young people. The children’s stories confirm their process about which the caller feels uncertainty and reliance on present, involved adults. Therefore the has questions. In other calls, the caller is encouraged theme of an adult guarantee will be a cornerstone in to find adequate help for the child. The calls to the 6 BRIS activities in 2006. The calls from adults that our Adult Helpline last on average just over 24 minutes. employed BRIS representatives receive are also a part During 2005 BRIS expanded the possibility for of this experience. The Adult Helpline is a tool to con- adults to call. This resulted in 2,570 statistically vey and make the child perspective visible to adults. recorded adult calls, which is an increase of 20% compared to the previous year. BRIS Adult Helpline – about Children Adults can call the BRIS Adult Helpline – about Women call about young children Children to talk about issues concerning children and In almost eight out of ten cases the adult caller is young people. It is an opportunity for adults to call a woman and half of all callers are mothers. The about children who do not have the possibility of adults call about children who are younger than on contacting BRIS on their own; a helpline for adults the Children’s Helpline. The average age of the who are worried about children in their surroundings. “adult helpline children” is barely 11. It can also be professional adults in the child’s Adults call somewhat more often about girls, surroundings that want support and advice. Together 55% of the calls, but more of the calls from adults with BRIS the adult can express his or her concern and concern boys than on the Children’s Helpline. 9 Callers in calls from adults Mother 51 % Father 15 % Grandparent 9,5 % Sibling/other relative 5,3 % Friend’s parent/Family acquaintance 5,2 % Stepparent 4,3 % Authority representative/other prof. 3,6 % Neighbour 1,4 % Other 4,3 % n = 2 564 30
  • 30. the bris report 2005 : BRIS’ Adult contacts Examples from the Adult Helpline 10 The 10 most common topics in calls from adults about children • Mother of an 8-year-old boy calls about the boy strongly expressing that he no longer wants to live. The child’s mental health 35 % Wonders how she should handle this. Problems in the parental role 31 % • A teacher of a 13-year-old girl wonders what she should do. The girl has been very sad and said that Divorce-related problems 30 % she has cut herself on the arms several times. 20 % Visitation problems • Mother of two teenage boys is worried about them 12 % Custody conflicts sitting in front of the computer too much. They do not go out and miss school a lot. 11 % Other problems of divorce • Stepparent who is worried about her partner’s 15- Family conflicts 24 % year-old daughter. The girl says that she hurts herself Other problems related to the child 18 % by cutting herself. She does not like living with her Problems with authorities 15 % mum and her new husband, of whom the girl is afraid. Physical abuse 12 % • Mother of a 10-year-old girl has problems after the divorce because her ex-husband blames her and says Neglect 10 % to the child that everything is the mother’s fault. Sexual abuse/molestation 8,8 % • Mother of a 6-year-old girl says that the girl does Psychological abuse 8,5 % n = 2 570 not want to go to her father. The physical abuse investigation has been discontinued due to lack of evidence. The mother wonders how she can copeCompared to the Children’s Helpline, there is yet ano- when they constituted more than a third of the with forcing the girl to go.ther excess of calls about children who live with a lone calls. This is a confirmation of BRIS child contacts • Mother of a teenage boy calls and says that they aremother, with both parents alternately or in a stepfamily. where mental illness is prominent. in the middle of a custody battle and neither she nor At the same time, almost as many calls are about the boy feel that they are listened to in family court.Mental illness and parental problems in the parental role where there has also • Father of an 8-year-old boy is worried about his sonproblems most common been a strong rise in the calls. who lives with him on the weekends. The boy hasThere is great concern for the children’s mental Within these two topics, the calls have increased said that he wants to move to his dad, but that hishealth among adults. The calls and e-mails from by 60% and 48% respectively compared to 2004. mother will not allow it because she would be alone.children and young people confirm their need for Adults overall seem to be increasingly concerned • Paternal grandmother of a preschool girl isadult support. In particularly vulnerable situations, in their parental roles. They express fear about worried about the girl who lives with her fatherwhen the child’s mental health is imbalanced or in being inadequate and ask for support and advice every other weekend. The caller is worried about notchanges in the family situation, the need for adult from BRIS. being able to see her granddaughter because she hassupport is particularly pressing. Through the Adult The calls about divorce conflicts (visitation/ little contact with the child’s father.Helpline, BRIS can convey this knowledge and in such custody etc.) constitute just about one third of the • A mother is worried about her teenage daughtera way be a link between the child and the adult. contacts on the Adult Helpline. The calls about who chats on unknown websites. Believes the girl is As early as last year, a pronounced increase in physical abuse have increased somewhat. These are seeing a boy that is considerably older.the calls about the child’s mental health was 89% family related and show an increase in the • Mother worried about her 16-year-old son who hasnoticed and this was further reinforced in 2005 share of abusive mothers. fits of rage and breaks things at home. 31
  • 31. the bris report 2005 : Tsunami contacts Tsunami contacts • Hi! I was in Phuket 26 Dec 04. I want to meet some- • My big sister is in Thailand. We have not heard one that was there when it happened too cause it feels from her, she may be dead. I think about her all the wrong to just talk to people who’ve seen it on TV. time. I love her so much. My parents have called the E-mail to BRIS. Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and looked at pictures on the Internet, but they can’t find her. It feels like 7 In the period immediately following the tsunami I’m going mad. What should I do? catastrophe in Southeast Asia, BRIS received about E-mail from a 12-year-old girl. 100 calls and e-mails on the subject from children and young people. Many were directly affected; some Many children and young people continued to call or had experienced the trauma there when parents write in the weeks after the catastrophe to express were lost while they survived. Others were injured, or the shock over what happened. Several also expressed missing siblings or relatives about whom they had a desire to do something for those affected. heard no news, while some waited in vain for their best friend to show up here at home. Below are some • I have so much anxiety that I can’t sleep without examples from the week after the catastrophe: stopping to think about what’s happened. But I don’t feel bad for me, I feel bad for all the people that died • A 13-year-old girl calls because her best friend is in the tidal wave. The people who’ve lost loved ones in Thailand and no one has heard anything from the that have died. I don’t know what I should do. family. She is very worried that something happened E-mail from a 13-year-old girl. to her friend. 32
  • 32. the bris report 2005 : Tsunami contactsphotos: Göran Harnesk och Eva Waltré, BRIS 33
  • 33. the bris report 2005 : Tsunami contacts • I can’t sleep at nights, just dream about water and representatives together with externally recruited little babies floating around in the water. It feels like child group counsellors. The children in BRIS the world is so unfair. I’ve collected money, but it mourning groups have both been affected by a perso- feels like I’m not doing enough! nal trauma related to the catastrophe and have also E-mail from a 15-year-old boy. lost relatives. This is how the groups differentiate themselves compared to other mourning groups for In the year that has passed, BRIS has had about 150 children that are held throughout the country, such as more supportive contacts about the tsunami by Save the Children, which has long experience of work e-mail or on the phone. These contacts have been with children in mourning. about everything from those directly affected to those that feel anxiety over how friends and their families Pedagogy will be able to carry on with life. Common questions All meetings in the child groups follow a given struc- are what it is like to be in mourning and how one ture that contains a mixture of conversations in large should act when talking to the person affected. groups, in smaller groups and between two people. The children write, paint, draw and play freely. Every 7.1 BRIS’ child group project meeting has a carefully selected mix of various means Shortly after the catastrophe BRIS offered affected of expression. “There has been great interest in coming children and young people between the ages of 8 to the groups from everyone. This way many children and 18 the opportunity of group meetings with have been given the opportunity of moving on and others in similar situations. Over the year BRIS has finding a little hope in spite of everything they have held a total of seven child groups throughout the experienced,” summarises Eva Waltré, a psychologist country, of which five were in Stockholm and one at BRIS who has worked with the tsunami groups. each in Malmö and Göteborg. More than 40 children participated in the group support. The first groups Objective started at the end of February. In Stockholm, two Children who experience difficult, common expe- parent/relative groups were started in connection riences often have a need of being able to share with the child groups. The adult groups were for these with each other under adult guidance. BRIS those that have children or close relatives in our experience from the catastrophes of Estonia and child groups. All groups, child and adult groups, September 11, 2001 was that many children after a continued passed the anniversary. while look outside of their natural networks to find help in handling their thoughts and feelings. Mourning and trauma groups An important role for the group counsellors is These groups address children between the ages of 8 also to convey general information about what and 18 and the division was done based on received happens when one experiences a traumatic event. applications and the age of the children. There are This knowledge can help the children move on. For groups for the children/young people who have lost children in our mourning groups, the loss and their close relatives and groups for those who survived sorrow is about a process of adaptation. A sorrow that and not lost someone close. The groups’ size varies will last throughout life, where they need to find a between 6 to 8 children. They are led by BRIS balance between moving on in life and remembering. 34
  • 34. Co-authors: Martin Höög, Jenny Ingårda, Eva Waltré, Kerstin Sjöbratt, Olof Hülphers, Sofia Grönkvist, Maria Rådlund, Johnny Nordström, Karin Johansson, BRIS.
  • 35. Riksförbundet BRIS BRIS(Head Office)Karlavägen 121 BRIS – Children’s Rights in Society – was founded in 1971 and is an NGO, a voluntary organisation with no party political affiliation,SE-115 26 Stockholm which supports children in distress. BRIS acts as a supplement to public bodies and authorities, and is a link between children,Tel: +46 (0)8-598 888 00 adults and the community. BRIS also aims to influence public opinion in order to increase the respect that adults have for childrenFax: +46 (0)8-598 888 as individuals, and to ensure that decision-makers promote a more child-friendly society in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. BRIS is a national association, which operates in five regions, each of which have helplines, employed personnelBRIS region Mitt and volunteers at their offices.(Central Region)Karlavägen 121SE-115 26 Stockholm Support servicesTel: +46 (0)8-598 888 10 BRIS support for children and young people has its base in the Children’s HelplineFax: +46 (0)8-598 888 11 and the BRIS-mail. During 2005 a total of more than 19,000 recorded contacts came in via these channels.BRIS region Nord As of January 2006, BRIS extended the opening hours of the(Northern Region) Children’s Helpline, which reaches out to children and young peopleKungsgatan 36, 2 trSE-903 25 Umeå up to the age of 18: Monday-Friday 3:00 pm – 9:00 pm and Satur-Tel: +46 (0)90-203 65 10 day, Sunday and holidays 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm. Calls are automati- The Children’s Helpline:Fax: +46 (0)90-203 65 cally routed to one of the open regional offices. BRIS bears the 0200-230 230 cost of the children’s calls, which are usually made fromBRIS region Syd mobile telephones. Calls to the Children’s Helpline do not(Southern Region) appear on the caller’s telephone bills, and BRIS neither BRIS-mail:Östra Rönneholmsv. 7SE-211 47 Malmö sees nor traces the caller’s telephone number. At the website, children and young people www.bris.seTel: +46 (0)40-690 80 70Fax: +46 (0)40-690 80 71 have among other things the opportunity to e-mail under safe conditions. Many prefer to write instead of BRIS Adult Helpline – about Children:BRIS region Väst(Western Region) calling, and today the BRIS-mail is BRIS’ most expansive activity with just over 10,000 e-mails received in 2005. 077-150 50 50Hvitfeldtsgatan 14SE-411 20 GöteborgTel: +46 (0)31-750 11 30 BRIS Adult Helpline – about Children Membership and donations:Fax: +46 (0)31-750 11 The BRIS Adult Helpline – about Children receives calls from adults who need someone to talk to about pro- Pg 901504-1 blems relating to children. Calls are received at differentBRIS region Öst(Eastern Region) offices and, unlike the Children’s Helpline, which is free,Knäppingborgsgatan 7 calls are charged at standard rates.SE-602 26 Norrköping The helpline for adults is open every weekday fromTel: +46 (0)11-440 05 50Fax: +46 (0)11-440 05 51 10:00 am – 1:00 pm. In 2005, almost 2,600 calls received from adults.