BRIS Report 1999


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BRIS Report 1999

  1. 1. BRIS ReportCalls made to BRIS helplines 1999Published in March 2000 BRIS Childrens Rights in Society
  2. 2. Contents Childrens Rights in Society (BRIS) Summary 4 Report More calls from children than ever before 4 200,000 attempts to contact the Childrens Helpline 4 Survey of abusers for fourth year in succession 5 The BRIS Helpline for Adults - About Children 6 Calls made in 1999 to the Childrens Helpline Calls from children and young people 7 and to the BRIS Helpline for Adults - About Children Number of calls from children 1991-99, FIG. 1 7 Number of calls from children per month, FIG. 2 8 For every call made to BRIS helplines where sufficient information is available, a statistical record is Nature of the calls 9 made based on different criteria for calls from children and adults. No personal details are recorded, Calls to BRIS from children and young people related primarily to: 10 but the forms used contain information such as the childrens sex and age, where they live, their do- Problem categories in childrens calls, FIG. 3 10 mestic circumstances and the views they expressed in the call. Perpetrators of sexual abuse cited in calls from children, FIG. 4 14 Perpetrators of physical abuse/neglect cited in calls from children, FIG. 5 16 Information relating to abusers, important contacts for the child, the length of the call, the reference Who called the Childrens Helpline? 19 and the date and name of the person who took the call are also recorded. Information from these Age of children cited in calls from children, FIG. 6 19 forms is collected together and presented in the annual BRIS report. Do boys and girls have the same problems? 19 What are the environments in which problems occur? 20 Breakdown of problem environments in calls from children, FIG. 7 20 Childrens Rights in Society (BRIS) How are problems affected by age and environment? 20 Gunnar Sandelin, Press Secretary Family patterns and problem categories 21 Peter Irgens, Development Secretary Domestic circumstances of children callers, FIG. 8 21 March 2000 Children in care 22 BRIS referrals 22 Breakdown of BRIS referrals 23 Referrals of calls from children TABLE A 23 Managing assignments 23 Other calls Breakdown of calls to the Childrens Helpline, FIG. 9 24 Other calls: state of mind of the children, FIG. 10 26 Breakdown of total call durations, FIG. 11 27 Calls from adults about children 28 Profiles of adult callers 28 Callers relationships to the children cited in the calls, FIG. 12 28 Age of children cited in calls from adults, FIG. 13 29 What do adults call about with regard to children? 29 Problem categories in calls from adults, FIG. 14 29 Breakdown of BRIS referrals of calls from adults 33 Referrals, etc. of calls from adults TABLE B 33 Text: Gunnar Sandelin Research: Peter Irgens Conclusion 34 Photography: Martin and Karin Nauclér Layout: Rolf A Olsson Printing: Ålands Tryckeriet2 B R I S R E P O RT • C A L L S M A D E I N 1 9 9 9 B R I S R E P O RT • C A L L S M A D E I N 1 9 9 9 3
  3. 3. Summary More calls from children In 1999 a total of 14,341 calls from children and young people to the BRIS than ever before Childrens Helpline were statistically recorded, the highest annual total to date. Compared to 1998 this was a 12 per cent increase in the number of calls. During the 1990s the number of calls to the BRIS helpline, Swedens largest specialist helpline for children and young people, has increased tenfold. Fol- lowing two years in which there was a marginal decrease, the number of calls from children has increased dramatically over the past two years. The major increase in the number of calls over the past decade is partly due to the fact that BRIS has become more well-known and because children and young people in general have developed a greater readiness to talk about difficult problems. Yet there are also indications that there is a gro- wing number of children and young people whose situation appears to be deteriorating. Certain children appear to be suffering from serial abuse ranging from ne- glect to physical, psychological and sexual abuse. Yet the calls recorded in BRIS statistics during 1999 accounted for a mere 14 per cent of the total number of calls received. During the year there was a total of 104,000 calls, yet 86 per cent of these provided insufficient information for further statistical processing. An in- calls, children and young people convey feelings of sorrow, anxiety, loneli- depth study of these so-called "other calls" is presented on page (24). ness or fear. In addition, there were more than 400 calls in which the caller expressed su- Despite an increase in the number of lines, actual accessibility of the Chil- icidal sentiments. drens Helpline in 1999 was less than 50 per cent, which means that there were an estimated 200,000 attempts from children and young people to con- "In the municipal networks were good at identifying the troublemakers, 200,000 attempts tact the service. which is fine. But the calls to BRIS show that many of the children who are to contact suffering the most are invisible and remain unnoticed," says Göran Harnesk, In 1999 around seven out of ten of the statistically recorded calls related to general secretary of BRIS. the Childrens Helpline girls with an average age between 13 and 14 years. This has also been the "The task before us is becoming increasingly clear: we have to ensure that case during recent years. these inconspicuous, invisible children must be noticed. I see a necessity for all types of training for work involving children to draw attention to this." The most common types of problems which children called about were: Roughly one third of the calls from children relate to victims of crime. In fu- • Bullying: 13.3 per cent of calls ture, BRIS aims to extend its involvement with this group of children who • Family conflicts: 11.9 per cent are particularly at risk. • Love and personal relationships: 10.9 per cent This is one of the reasons why BRIS, for the fourth year in succession, has • Problems relating to sexual abuse (8.5 per cent) and physical abuse (7.7 conducted a survey of those committing abuse in the most serious cases. per cent) were also common. This information has been passed on to the relevant authorities, the media and other organisations at the International Victims of Crime Day held in Problems involving abuse of a serious nature accounted for almost one third February 2000. of the statistically recorded calls. Calls relating to bullying were up 32 per cent on the previous year and calls relating to sexual abuse increased by 25 per cent. The number of calls rela- The survey of abusers reveals that the home is by far the most common pla- Survey of abusers for ting to physical abuse of children showed only a minor increase and remai- ce where crime takes place and that the most common abusers are parents. fourth year in succession ned proportionally at the same level. According to the children themselves almost nine out of ten cases of physical abuse and more than half of all cases of sexual abuse take place within the Information on the mental state of the children and young people who call family. BRIS reveals that they are often suffering from depression. In the majority of4 B R I S R E P O RT • C A L L S M A D E I N 1 9 9 9 B R I S R E P O RT • C A L L S M A D E I N 1 9 9 9 5
  4. 4. The Childrens Helpline revealed that natural parents were the perpetrators in 75 per cent of cases of physical abuse (father 41 per cent, mother 19 per Calls from children cent, both adults 15 per cent). and young people Sexual abuse was perpetrated at a rate of 24 per cent by a natural father, and 6 per cent by a natural mother. It is also noteworthy that 21 per cent of cases are perpetrated by young abusers (under 18 years of age), and that wo- During the 1990s the number of calls to the BRIS Childrens Helpline has men are cited as the abuser in 15 per cent of cases. increased approximately tenfold. The most dramatic increases took place up to and including 1995. In discussions, BRIS has stressed the importance of modifying the conventio- In 1996 and 1997 there was a marginal decrease in the number of calls, fol- nal view that the abuser is exclusively an adult male and that the victim is lowed by a 24 per cent increase in 1998. exclusively a girl. In 1999 there were 14,391 statistically recorded calls form children and Calls relating to bullying come top of the list on the Childrens Helpline, and young people, the highest number ever in BRIS history spanning almost in 18 per cent of cases this bullying is carried out by fellow pupils at school, thirty years. The volume of calls represents an increase of 12 per cent com- mostly by boys. There has been a noticeable decline in the bullying carried pared to 1998. out in groups by both sexes. In 1999 there were 14,341 statistically recorded calls to As in previous years, around half of the children and young people who called the BRIS Childrens Helpline. BRIS live together with their natural parents, whereas almost one in five lives together with a lone mother. In the population as a whole, a significantly lar- ger proportion of children lives with their natural parents in a nuclear family. Serious problems in the home accounted for a very high proportion (80 per No. of calls cent) of the calls made by children living with stepparents. from children By and large girls and boys called about similar problems, although there are certain differences. Girls, for example, often reveal a more depressive state of mind. In terms of the relationship between age and types of problems, a general observation that problems relating to individuals themselves increase with age, whereas problems at school decline. Calls relating to family problems are, however, common in all ages. During the year BRIS conducted an in-depth study of the children and young people in care who called the Childrens Helpline. Results showed that two thirds of children in care felt unsatisfied or deeply unsatisfied with their cir- cumstances. A similar proportion felt that contacts with the relevant authori- ties are equally poor as the actual care to which they have been allotted. Very few feel that they are in any way involved in the care offered by the community. ≈ The BRIS Helpline for There were 2,073 calls from adults to the BRIS Helpline for Adults - About Adults – About Children Children, an increase of 25 per cent on the previous year. Those who called were mainly parents and other family members. A clear majority of the calls related to girls and the average age of the chil- Fig. 1. Number of calls from children 1991-99 dren was 10 years. These calls formed the basis for the information recorded on a comprehensi- Around one third of the calls to the Helpline for Adults - About Children ve form by the 300 or so voluntary staff who man the helplines in Stock- concerned divorce problems, but physical abuse, family conflicts and sexual holm, Malmö, Gothenburg, Norrköping and Umeå. This information subse- abuse were also common problem areas. quently forms the basis for BRIS statistical processing of childrens calls. BRIS used information from the Helpline for Adults - About Children in ca- Yet only 14 per cent of the calls received by the Childrens Helpline are do- ses of serious abuse as material for its survey of abusers. In cases of physical cumented in this way. In 1999 there was actually a total of around 104,000 abuse, natural parents were cited as the perpetrators in three out of four ca- calls from children and young people, yet 86 per cent of these could not be ses. processed, mainly because they did not provide sufficient information. In cases of sexual abuse, fathers emerged as the main culprits.6 B R I S R E P O RT • C A L L S M A D E I N 1 9 9 9 B R I S R E P O RT • C A L L S M A D E I N 1 9 9 9 7
  5. 5. These calls were either silent, cut off or so-called test calls. BRIS is based on the concepts of voluntariness, anonymity, trust and respect. Samtalens karaktär A fundamental principle for those working on the Childrens Helpline is that In many cases callers hang up, "test the water", or otherwise conceal them- the child is our client. BRIS is also a mouthpiece for children and young pe- selves before they summon the courage to ask for help. Sometimes hoax or ople at risk who dare to call because they know that they have the right to nuisance calls are also made. remain anonymous. They know that they will be able to speak to adults who have wide experience of listening and providing support. For BRIS it is important to have relevant information from which to form the basis of our efforts to influence public opinion. For this reason we place From the point of view of gaining the confidence of those who call it is of stringent demands on the information which forms the basis of the BRIS re- vital significance that BRIS is not a public body or authority. At this time of port. Because of the public nature of this work, BRIS only uses material expansion, the notion that BRIS is some sort of public authority is a com- which has been statistically processed. In this years report we are presenting mon misapprehension in media coverage. for the first time an in-depth study of those calls to BRIS, almost nine out of every ten, which up until now have remained un-researched. Calls to BRIS mainly tend to focus on one area, but it is not uncommon in the course of the conversation for children and young people to mention ot- Since tests over the year have shown that the Childrens Helpline was only her problems. So, for example, a call being dealt with in one problem cate- 50 per cent accessible, BRIS estimates that around 200,000 attempts to re- gory might also relate to assault, abuse and bullying. These elements will ach us have been made by children and young people. This lack of accessibi- also be noted in the BRIS statistical records. lity is due to insufficient financial resources. As a voluntary, independent or- ganisation rather than a public body, BRIS is 90 per cent financed by be- Translating these calls which describe all manner of problems and events quests, donations and membership fees which are primarily used to fund into a pure statistic can present problems. The BRIS statistics are based on ongoing expansion of the Childrens Helpline. the assessment of the principal problem made by the volunteers who answer the calls. But it should also be pointed out that if a preliminary summary is The spread of statistically recorded calls over the year can be seen in Fig. 2. made between first and second alternatives, this does not result in any major The main increase occurred in April and May when BRIS, for the second difference to the order in which problems are ranked. year in succession, presented a well-publicised and award-winning informa- tion campaign about the Childrens Helpline to all pupils in the fifth school A comparison with last years BRIS report will reveal that problem categori- grade around the country. es in certain cases have been re-formulated or have been demarcated from each other. Thus last years “troubled relationships” has been replaced by the wider term “family conflicts”. We have also seen fit to distinguish “physical abuse/neglect” from “psychological abuse”. No. of calls from children JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC Fig. 2. Number of calls from children per month 1999 (n = 14,341*) * n is the number of calls upon which the table is based. In addition to telephone calls throughout the year, BRIS has also received hundreds of e-mails from children and young people. The questions posed are of the same kind as those to the Childrens Helpline, and we often direct the writers of these messages to the Helpline itself. We at BRIS are currently involved in developing opportunities to communi- cate with our target group via the internet.8 B R I S R E P O RT • C A L L S M A D E I N 1 9 9 9 B R I S R E P O RT • C A L L S M A D E I N 1 9 9 9 9
  6. 6. Calls to BRIS from children and young people rela- threats, violence, abusive language or as a result of direct persecution. ted primarily to: BRIS expert on bullying, AnnCha Lagerman, stresses the importance of getting pupils actively involved in efforts to counteract bullying and the ne- cessity of establishing a nationwide network of on-the-job training for those who are actively engaged in work of this kind. Bullying Schools are the “problem areas” where bullying takes place in virtually all Family conflicts cases. This prompted BRIS, for the second year in succession, to run an in- formation campaign about the Childrens Helpline this spring for all school Love/relationship problems children in grade five. The campaign featured pictures of children who have Sexuality and sexual development now grown up to become celebrities, but who experienced problems when they were young. Together with the advertising agency TBWA, BRIS received Sexual abuse the Golden Egg, the advertising industrys highest award, for the campaign. Problems with friends “Without preaching, and making full use of childrens inquisitive natures, BRIS manages to convey its message: “Youre not alone!” This is genuine Physical abuse/neglect communication in terms the receiver understands, if ever there was”, was Drug/substance/alcohol abuse the citation of the Swedish Advertising Association. Identity and “life” issues A common situation is for those being bullied to have kept their problems to Divorce problems themselves for a long time before calling BRIS. Vulnerability and loneliness combined with fear of telling anyone make their situation intolerable in the Information long run. Furthermore, the children and young people who call the Childre- Eating disorders ns Helpline about bullying often mention that they have spoken about the problem with teachers or other school staff but have not been believed! Psychological abuse However, as children advance in years, the problems in school about which Miscellaneous they call have a tendency to diminish. For the fourth year in succession BRIS has recorded information on the per- petrators of bullying which has shown that in 85 per cent of cases, fellow pupils at school commit the bullying. Fig. 3. Problem categories in childrens calls (n= 14,300) In 2 per cent of cases teachers or other members of school staff are cited as the bullies. “Everyone just laughs at me BULLYING. Over the years, being bullied has been the most common Both boys and girls behave as bullies, but it is more common for boys to be because my mums a lesbian.” single reason for calling BRIS, and now once again calls relating to bullying both the perpetrators and victims. 17 per cent of calls refer to bullying by are top of our list of problem categories. This follows an ongoing trend in mixed groups of boys and girls, a significant decrease compared to the pre- “They shout “darky” and other racist helplines for children and young people all over Europe. vious year. things at me every day.” Boys alone are cited as perpetrators in 56 per cent of cases, and girls alone During 1999 there were almost two thousand calls which were primarily in a mere 27 per cent of cases. “They bring weapons into school. I just want to kill myself.” concerned with bullying, an increase of 32 per cent compared to 1998. By way of comparison, in 1992 BRIS statistically recorded around 450 calls on this subject. FAMILY CONFLICTS is a newly devised problem category replacing the “At home they just argue and fight. former heading “troubled relationships” (within the family). In 1998 calls in I want to go to a foster home, but the this category showed the largest increase of all, 40 per cent. In 1999 this social services dont believe me…” Apart from an increase in bullying, BRIS has also given warnings over the past year about increasingly brutal behaviour with sexual overtones in which trend continued with a 31 per cent rise, an increase in the number of calls by “I want to withdraw the complaint I girls are influenced by the behaviour patterns of boys. A study carried out by 1,700. This means that family conflicts is the problem category which has made against my dad, because nobody in Save the Children in 1999 showed a dramatic increase in the use of sexual shown the largest overall rise in the past two years. the family talks to me any more…” language by children. There is a risk that this may cause sexual violence to occur at much lower ages than is currently the case. This problem category encompasses all kinds of conflicts inside the family, “The whole family call my Swedish but often involves profound and difficult disputes from which it is not easy girlfriend a tart…” For a number of years BRIS has held conferences and seminars providing for those involved to free themselves. What often happens is that the child is training and information about successful models in use in the fight against drawn into a destructive conflict of loyalties between parents whose relations- bullying. This was also the main subject for our magazine Children and hip is disintegrating or has broken down. Disputes are often caused by the Young People (Barn & Ungdom) (2/99). In the magazine we featured a study fact that parents exploit the fact that their children are dependent on them. by the Swedish Institute of Public Opinion and Research, commissioned by Many calls in this category refer to a burden of care within the family, in one of the major Swedish teaching unions, which indicated that one third of which parents are incapable of recognising their childrens needs. In addition, pupils in grade nine feel uncomfortable when they are at school owing to there are often conflicts as a result of sexual and physical abuse of children.10 B R I S R E P O RT • C A L L S M A D E I N 1 9 9 9 B R I S R E P O RT • C A L L S M A D E I N 1 9 9 9 11
  7. 7. One call in four pertains to children in conflict with their mothers, but equ- SEXUAL ABUSE is a problem category to which BRIS has devoted spe- “Its not my dad who comes in to ally common are cases in which a child is in conflict with both parents. Ove- cial attention in 1999. We have given information via the media and in semi- my room at nights. Its a disgusting rall some 70 per cent of calls related to conflicts between the child and one nars about a change which took place during the past year. One fundamen- old man…” adult. tal reason for this was a dramatic increase in the number of calls during the “Dad used to rape me and Mum first six months of the year. drank herself to death. Now its my foster father who rapes me…” Overall in 1999 there was a 25 per cent increase in the number of calls rela- “If I only had a girlfriend then LOVE/RELATIONSHIP PROBLEMS have produced a marginal increase in ting to sexual abuse compared to the previous year. Over the full period the- “Mums boyfriend takes money from life would be fine…” calls in 1999, yet this category has still fallen from the top position it held in re were 1,200 statistically recorded calls relating to sexual abuse, compared men who pay to have sex with Mum last years BRIS report. Even though the Childrens Helpline is not an “ago- to a mere 300 back in 1991. and me…” “I slept with a boy Id been chatting to. ny aunt”, the pains and pleasures of young people relating to this perennial Now he says hell kill me if he cant see subject have always resulted in a certain volume of calls. Together with sexu- BRIS does not have a straightforward answer as to why children and young me again…” ality and sexual development, they account for around 20 per cent of the to- people are currently making so many calls about sexual abuse. Information “My parents have arranged a wife for tal number of calls. on the incidence of sexual abuse of children only dates back for twenty me, but Im in love with a Swedish years, and only now are we beginning to gain a clearer overall picture both girl…” The love/relationship category usually involves teenagers who call for advice of the perpetrators and their victims. on problems related to falling in love. They also need someone to talk to about the unhappy state which this can cause. The category also includes a “We want to focus on this because we no longer think that the generally ac- number of calls about the conflicting feelings aroused in a relationship, such cepted view that perpetrators are adult males who interfere with children is as whether to remain together with someone who is aggressive or has an al- sufficient. This is true in six cases out of ten, according to our sources. But cohol or substance abuse problem, or the problems caused by developing a we also need to gather information about perpetrator groups including wo- crush on a teacher. men and young people in order to provide the best possible preventive and therapeutic protection for those children and young people who become Lover/relationship problems which cross ethnic and cultural barriers also fe- their victims. It may also help us to reach potential perpetrators,” wrote ature, along with problems resulting from contacts established via the inter- BRIS general secretary Göran Harnesk and press secretary Gunnar Sandelin net, yet these are only a small proportion of the overall total. The most com- in the Swedish broadsheet Dagens Nyheter at the end of November. mon questions tend to be: “How can I make a move on the person Im inter- ested in?” and “What can I do now that the relationship has ended and I Increased knowledge results in a gradual breakdown of taboo barriers. Chil- feel so bad?” dren and young people today know more and are more willing to tell about their experiences. There are also signs which indicate that there is an increa- One noticeable trend of recent years is that there is a relatively equal spilt se in the sufferings of a small yet growing group of vulnerable children in between boys and girls who call for advice on love/relationship problems. Swedish society. In the late 1980s and at the beginning of the 90s when the taboo about mentioning sexual abuse of children and young people was broken down, “What is foreplay?” SEXUALITY AND SEXUAL DEVELOPMENT is a problem category which the number of abuse-related calls to BRIS increased significantly. In the late relates to love/relationship problems. Here too, most of the calls come from 1990s there was a stagnation in the number of calls on this subject, yet in “If you get an erection in the shower teenagers, yet in this case there is a higher proportion of boys who call 1999 the number increased once again. after PE, does it mean youre gay?” about sexuality and sexual development. Many calls relate to a fixation with appearance and what is normal in terms It is important to realise that many of the calls to the Childrens Helpline “Do girls think about sex of bodily development. about sexual abuse concern offences of a most serious nature. They seldom as much as boys do?” relate to verbal abuse or a hands-off situation. Almost exclusively they invol- Questions about sexual identity and how others accept this are also com- ve a hands-on situation - often rape or sexual intercourse forced upon the mon. “Am I a lesbian?” “Could I be gay” are recurring questions. Questions victim with violence. relating to the fear of HIV/aids and sexually transmitted diseases are also common. Calls from children which relate purely to pregnancy, abortion and Calls relating to sexual abuse may often be preceded by a number of so-cal- similar problems have also been included in this category. led test calls before the child cautiously begins to talk about the issue. A high degree of professionalism is required in order to deal with these revela- The sexuality and sexual development category comprises a number of diffi- tions. Together with physical abuse/assault, sexual abuse is the problem cate- culties and crises, but also positive hopes relating to the process of becoming gory in which children have clearly been the victim of what the law defines an adult. as criminal acts. The majority of cases occur within the family and very seldom result in any criminal charges. Children rarely wish to report their relatives: instead, they call BRIS because they want to put a stop to their suffering. Calls relating to sexual abuse showed that around 80 per cent of victims12 B R I S R E P O RT • C A L L S M A D E I N 1 9 9 9 B R I S R E P O RT • C A L L S M A D E I N 1 9 9 9 13
  8. 8. were girls, boys making up the remaining 20 per cent. The calls revealed an Mother/stepmother (9 per cent). This category includes the majority of fe- over-representation from children and young people who live with steppa- male perpetrators, the victims of whom are mostly boys. Violation of the ge- rents. nitals is not uncommon from female perpetrators. Abuse is often linked to problems of alcohol, drug and substance abuse and to psychological distur- For the fourth year in succession BRIS has conducted a survey of perpetra- bance. Cases in which a stepmother turns a stepson into her secret lover be- tors, and this year we have also studied the nature of the abuse in question. hind the back of the father are also not uncommon. The other adult in the family category may involve a number of adults, a re- lative living with the family, or foster parents committing the abuse. Father The other known adult category often involves a friend of the family, sports coach, adult neighbour or perhaps the father of a friend. For the most part Known person of equal age (not sibling) this group tends to commit rape or serious sexual assault. The victim often Teacher/ other member of school staff feels ashamed and afraid to reveal the identity of the perpetrator since that person is often a popular adult in their social circle. “Who would believe Stepfather that Dads best friend raped me?” In these cases the victim often talks about committing suicide. Mother/stepmother Sibling The Others category involves unknown perpetrators. They may be adults who interfere with or rape the victim, and sometimes the victims are girls as Other adult family member young as 14 who pose for, or sell sexual favours to, older men. Occasionally cases involved groups of unknown older boys who commit gang rape, and Other known adult sometimes older boys who molest younger boys. Others The fact that the perpetrator is unknown is especially frightening for the vic- tim. Could he strike again? In 85 per cent of cases the perpetrator was said to be male, but at least 20 per cent of these were boys under the age of 18. Women accounted for the Fig. 4. Perpetrators of sexual abuse cited in calls from chil- dren (n = 1,305) remaining 15 per cent of perpetrators. The father is cited as the perpetrator in 24 per cent of cases. Cases often in- volve rape, although other forms of physical abuse also occur. Sometimes a number of siblings are at risk and the victim may often protect younger The number of calls relating to PROBLEMS WITH FRIENDS continu- “My best friend has moved away. brothers and sisters by “consenting” to be their fathers sexual partner. In ed to rise in 1999, this time by 9 per cent. This was preceded by a record 43 Now Ive got no-one.” many cases the mother is absent, otherwise she may turn a blind eye to what per cent increase in the previous year. These calls might appear to be of an everyday nature, yet the children and young people who call can neverthe- “My friends shun me because they think is happening. These children, almost always girls, often speak about suicide my boyfriends a nazi.” as their only escape route. less be totally crushed by the isolation they feel. Common problems are When a stepfather is cited as the perpetrator the pattern of abuse is very si- strong feelings of loneliness and sorrow resulting from the loss of, or chan- “I darent tell the singer in our band that milar to those cases involving the natural father. ges in, friendships or from friendships which have broken down. he sings flat.” More particularly, calls can relate to feelings of rejection without being di- The known person of equal age category (13 per cent) together with the sib- rectly bullied, fighting or serious conflicts between different gangs or a fal- ling category (7 per cent) comprise the “young perpetrators” group. Abuse ling out with a best friend. Other problems might relate to moving and not often takes the form of rape or forced intercourse practised by boyfriends or being able to find new friends, or to extreme shyness which prohibits con- older brothers on girls. In some cases boys too are the victims. tact with others. Questions relating to trust are also common: “Do I have BRIS has observed that at least one case of sexual abuse in five reported to any friend I can trust?” the Childrens Helpline is committed by a child under 18 years of age. Taking up these issues with an adult outsider can sometimes be of help. From these cases we can observe a fixation with sex and violence which ap- pears to be occurring in children of increasingly younger ages. The IT-society exposes children to a steady flow of sexual stimuli - “sexual rain,” as it has PHYSICAL ABUSE / NEGLECT has been recorded separately this “My dads quite a scary type. Not to year because psychological abuse has also become a separate problem cate- mention his friends.Theyd kill you.” been called. We have noticed from calls to the Childrens Helpline that this flow of information has probably affected the boundaries of impulse control gory. Over the past five years BRIS has given warnings in the media that physical abuse of children in Sweden is on the increase, as indicated by sta- “I stay home from school because Ive in the young perpetrators category. This view is also shared by the Save the got bruises on my face.” Children unit which deals with boys problems. tistics from the police and from BRIS itself. In 1999 calls relating to physical abuse of children showed a marginal increase yet remained largely on the “My mums been hitting me all my life.” As in previous years the teacher/other member of school staff category is same level as the previous year. “over-represented”. This is probably because it is easier to talk about sexual abuse at school than about abuse in the home, where children often feel that In 1999 there were around 1,100 calls primarily relating to physical abuse. they are “turning in” a close relative.14 B R I S R E P O RT • C A L L S M A D E I N 1 9 9 9 B R I S R E P O RT • C A L L S M A D E I N 1 9 9 9 15
  9. 9. For the fourth year in succession BRIS has conducted a survey of the perpe- DRUG/SUBSTANCE/ALCOHOL ABUSE. Calls from children and “Mums soiled herself and is lying on the trators of physical abuse of children, and results reveal a picture which is young people who live in families affected by abuse of this kind increased by floor…” broadly similar to previous years: 12 per cent in 1999, the same amount as the overall average increase in the “My parents say its my fault that they A parent is cited as the perpetrator in 74 per cent of cases. number of calls to the Childrens Helpline. During the previous year the in- drink and hit me.” Fathers (41 per cent) are the chief perpetrators. crease was 26 per cent, an indicator that these calls are growing in number Mothers (19 per cent) and both parents (14 per cent) are also active perpe- even though the overall proportion they represent remains largely constant “I got so drunk at the spring festival that trators. (at around 5 per cent). it was no fun at all…” In 61 per cent of cases the abuse was carried out solely by a male perpetra- For children in environments of this kind, everyday life often involves aban- tor, and by a female in 23 per cent of cases. In just under 16 per cent of ca- donment, excessive responsibility and a good deal anxiety. Many calls refer ses both a male and female were the active perpetrators. to parents who are abusers both of drugs and alcohol. In some cases chil- dren have to look after their siblings and the home itself. These children of- Looking at gender in all cases of physical abuse, 66 per cent of perpetrators ten learn how to conceal the reality of their home situation from the rest of were men and the remaining 34 per cent were women. the world. They have often been required to take responsibility from a very early age. Often these cases also involve neglect, psychological abuse and be- Thus it can be seen that calls to the Childrens Helpline show a more com- atings of the children who call. Taking into account secondary subjects of plex picture than the common assumption that it is only men/fathers who calls received, this problem category is one of those which is increasing beat children. most. Calls relate primarily (69 per cent) to abuse on the part of parents, but some Father also relate to siblings who are abusers of some kind. Around one fifth of all cases involve abuse on the part of callers themselves, and sometimes callers Mother are worried about a friend who is in the danger zone. Both adults “So what is the meaning of life then…?” Known person of equal age (not sibling) IDENTITY AND “LIFE” ISSUES chiefly relate to basic existential “My mums going to die soon…” Stepfather problems, various life choices and questions relating to individual identity. “Im scared that I might be a psycho- “Who am I?” “Am I good enough?” are typical problem questions covered Sibling path…” in this category. Some callers occasionally express more serious kinds of dis- Teacher/other member of school staff satisfaction with life and its meaning. Calls in this category decreased by 14 per cent in 1999. Other known adult Others DIVORCE PROBLEMS and problems relating to separations, custody and “Dad fancies men and Mum drinks all access. Calls in this category to the Childrens Helpline have fallen by the time.Who should I live with?” around 50 per cent since the 1980s. On the other hand, problems resulting Fig. 5. Perpetrators of physical abuse/neglect cited in calls “I hide at Mums to get out of going to from divorce are the single most common reason for adults to call the BRIS from children (n = 1,432) Dads…” Adult Helpline - About Children. A number of calls relate to parents under stress who start to hit out. Alcohol “Mums always getting new boyfriends. I The children who call are often very anxious over the fact that they are not really miss Dad…” often plays a part, and abuse against both women and children is not un- able to see one of the parents and about moving around against their will, common. In many cases the caller relates how the social services have elected etc. Step families with new stepparents and step siblings can be a source of only to believe the parents side of the story. conflict which affects the child. Conflicts of loyalty and feelings of alienation also lead to considerable insecurity. Many calls relate to a desire on the part Children and young people from different ethnic backgrounds also call in of children to see more of their fathers. the hope of escaping family violence. Calls are also received from children and young people who want to help a friend who is the subject of violence BRIS has promoted the rights of children to have their views heard in custo- in the home. Suspicions or certain knowledge of physical child abuse was dy disputes and welcomes the law which seeks primarily to grant joint cus- also a common reason for adults to call the Adult Helpline - About Children tody of children where possible. It is important for society to respect a chil- during 1999. (See also the section on calls from adults). ds rights to both parents. However, BRIS maintains that the best interests of children must always come first, and a judgement for joint custody must ne- “In an age in which the pace of life is increasing and networks are diminis- ver be a right for any parent who is unable to provide protection for a child hing, parents are coming under increasing levels of stress. In our experience or to fulfil his or her needs. this often spills over onto the children,” says Göran Harnesk, general secre- tary of BRIS.16 B R I S R E P O RT • C A L L S M A D E I N 1 9 9 9 B R I S R E P O RT • C A L L S M A D E I N 1 9 9 9 17
  10. 10. “Where is BRIS?” INFORMATION is a new problem category for this year. Here we have For many years the average age of those to whom calls to BRIS relate has Who called collected together questions regarding all manner of subjects. They might be been 13 to 14 years. This was also the case in 1999. Thus most calls relate the Childrens Helpline? “Are two 13 year-olds allowed practical questions on how to do something (“How do you dance?”) or re- to children of basic secondary school age. to sleep with each other?” quests for information about childrens rights. They may also be of a general On average, the boys tend to be somewhat older than the girls. request for information about BRIS or subjects related to the organisation. The Childrens Helpline is open to all children and young people up to 18 “Are you allowed to read years of age. a police report?” The majority of calls concerned girls, as usual. Girls, perhaps, find it easier “I eat and then Im sick. EATING DISORDERS are not a common source of calls to the Childre- to seek help and to talk about their problems. I just cant help it…” ns Helpline. Calls of this nature have gone down over the past year, only ac- counting for a small percentage of the total number of calls. Yet those who In 1999, 71 per cent of calls primarily related to girls, with boys accounting “I want to look like a supermodel…” call (almost exclusively girls) are distressed and their physical and mental he- for the remaining 29 per cent. alth is in danger. In many cases one can discern identity crises and inner con- Exactly the same division has now occurred for the past three years. “I never wanted it to be like this…” flicts as underlying factors. Unrealistic and inflated demands for beauty from those around and the individuals own ego make this issue one which is In recent years the average length of calls has increased, rising to just under complicated and difficult to solve. 13 minutes in 1999. Overall there were more than 3,000 hours of calls. Older children spoke for longer than younger ones, and girls on average spoke for longer than boys. “My parents and brother call me PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE. This category has been separated from The spread of ages for calls from children and young people is as follows: a fat pig all the time…” physical abuse/neglect this year in order to study the problems more closely. Actual psychological abuse represents only a fraction of the total number of “Mum says shes going to calls relating to abuse in general, yet those children and young people who kick my head in…” do call bear witness to a daily terror which undermines their value as a hu- “Dad threatens us. Hes not right man being. The most common perpetrators of psychological abuse are fat- in the head…” hers (25 per cent), mothers (17 per cent), and both parents together (20 per cent). Those of similar age (including siblings) account for almost 13 per cent of psychological abuse. “Will the world come to an end MISCELLANEOUS is a category which comprises those questions which in 2000?” could not be ascribed to other categories. It includes calls on related and se- rious topics which only account for a few per cent of the total number of “I go into town and attack people. calls. Theres something wrong with me…” Miscellaneous may cover, for example, a child who simply wants to talk, cri- “Ive taken 12 sleeping pills…” minality, loneliness, a feeling of having lost ones way, and thoughts of suici- de. In 1999 BRIS received at least 400 calls involving suicidal thoughts, of which a large part came from children and young people with an express desire to take their own life. Years Calls may also refer to problems at school other than bullying, or to sorrow and feelings of helplessness when, for example, a parent or sibling has died. Fig. 6. Age of children cited in calls from children (n = 12,552) Calls often reveal the callers desire to be noticed, accepted and reassured for who they are. Other calls in this category concern unemployment and family finances, pro- By and large girls and boys call about similar problems, yet boys call more Do boys and girls blems of refugees and racial conflicts. Many calls reflect the feelings of de- frequently about bullying, sexuality and sexual development and about phy- have the same problems? pression, alienation, loneliness and sorrow which permeate the majority of sical abuse. Girls talk for longer and their calls more often concern various calls to the Childrens Helpline. Calls in the “miscellaneous” category incre- kinds of relationship problems: family, friendship and love-related problems. ase in number as the callers progress in age. Calls from girls are also more frequently concerned with sexual abuse of va- rious kinds. However, it could not be said in general that girls talk about problems rela- ting to feelings and boys about subjects which can be measured. Boys are al- most equal to girls when it comes to expressing their state of feelings, yet girls tend to express feelings of sorrow, depression and thoughts of suicide more often than boys.18 B R I S R E P O RT • C A L L S M A D E I N 1 9 9 9 B R I S R E P O RT • C A L L S M A D E I N 1 9 9 9 19
  11. 11. What are Most commonly, problems are not linked to any specific environment but often personal in nature or relate to difficulties in love/relationships. the environments in tend rather to exist in the inner world of the children and young people themselves, where problems such as love and relationships and sexuality and Problems concerning friendships, bullying and physical abuse fall with age, which problems occur? sexual development tend to predominate. whereas calls relating to sexual abuse are dominated by the middle group of “secondary school children”. The home is also a common problem area. Calls to the Childrens Helpline However, calls relating to problems in the home feature large in all age confirm that most serious violations, such as physical and sexual abuse, take groups. place within the family. School is also a relatively common environment in which problems occur, largely because it is the principal “place of work” for children and young pe- As in previous years, the majority of children (56 per cent) who called BRIS Family patterns ople. As one might expect, problems in school are mainly concerned with live with their natural parents in a nuclear family. However, this is a clear and problem categories bullying and friendship issues. under-representation compared to the Swedish population in general. 17 per cent of the children to whom calls to the Childrens Helpline relate Recreational environments give rise to fewer problems than school. Main live together with a lone mother. Around 7 per cent live in stepfamilies, the problem areas concern love and relationships. same number as those who live with a lone father. A small minority live with both their separated parents or in accommoda- tion of their own. 7,6 % Recreation Natural nuclear family Natural lone mother 21,7 % 38,4 % School Personal Stepfamily Natural lone father Foster home 32,3 % Living with both separated parents Home Living in accommodation of their own Others Fig. 7. Breakdown of problem environments in calls from Fig. 8. Domestic circumstances of children callers (n = 8,154) children (n = 12,483) Looking at the subjects to which calls refer in relation to family patterns we can observe that 80 per cent of calls refer to problems in the home if the child lives with a stepfamily. How are problems As in previous years, dividing the calls from children into three age groups If the child lives with a lone father, the equivalent figure is 70 per cent. affected by age shows distinctions between the groups of a consistent nature: and environment? Calls relating to physical abuse are far more common if the child lives with • junior and middle school children (12 years old and below) a lone father, and in stepfamilies there is an over-representation of the sexual • secondary school children (13 to 15 years old) abuse and family conflicts categories. • older teenagers (16 years old and above) On the other hand, when the child lives with a lone mother there is a higher School appears to be a more common problem environment for younger frequency of family conflict-related problems than in other calls. children. 36 per cent of junior and middle school children related their pro- blems to school. This figure fell to a mere 7 per cent in the upper age group. On the other hand, the percentage of personal problems rises with age to more than 60 per cent in the “older teenagers” group. These problems are20 B R I S R E P O RT • C A L L S M A D E I N 1 9 9 9 B R I S R E P O RT • C A L L S M A D E I N 1 9 9 9 21