It was “goodbye sex”, stated the employee of a private resocialization centre in Galanta, Čistý Deň, when police questioned him about abuse suffered by a 14-year-old girl who had joined the centre’s programme. But despite his act being a crime, the police refused to charge him following his claim that he did not know that the girl, referred to as Natália, was so young.
The statement is contained in police documentation related to a case opened by Natália Blahová, an opposition MP for Freedom and Solidarity (SaS). She convened a press conference on September 10 to highlight the sexual abuse of Natália, a minor in state care.
Blahová claimed that a therapist in a resocialization centre had sex with Natália against her will in October 2014. Sex involving children under 15 is unlawful, even if it is consensual.
Natália’s mother learned about it two months later, but the head of Čistý Deň (Clean Day), Peter Tománek, persuaded her to leave her daughter there, according to Blahová. Natália was later abused again, it is alleged.
Aside from the case of Natália, there have been more cases of physical, psychological and sexual violence in the centre, and other employees were engaged in these, according to Blahová.
She pointed out that the responsible authorities knew about the case for a year but did not take the necessary steps.
“The irresponsibility of all involved is blatant,” Blahová wrote in a blog post. “Even if all of them immediately started to act, there is irreversible damage to the souls and bodies of these children.”
The Central Office of Labour, Social Affairs and Family knew about suspicions of Natália’s abuse but has not investigated.
Even social workers have not spoken with Natália about the abuse and have not asked her about it. She did not tell them proactively either, according to Marianna Nicáková of the local Labour, Social Affairs and Family Office in the town of Piešťany.
The police investigated two allegations, but halted prosecutions because the acts described were not criminal. Police officers made this decision based on a psychological examination. Prosecutors approved the police’s actions, according to Mária Linkešová from Trnava district police.
“The most difficult thing is that those systems are closed; monitoring is minimal,” social advisor and former head of the labour office in Bratislava Ida Želinská told the Sme daily. “There should be some control, which is now replaced by the media.”
The care of every Čistý Deň client is under intensive supervision by social workers, the prosecutor’s office and courts, according to the centre’s head, Peter Tománek.
“We should not create the impression that after clients enter the facility, the doors behind them are closed, and no one knows what happens to them,” Tománek told the press. “A child can meet alone with a social worker and may go home if he or she has permission.”
Who is lying?
Many details of the case remain unclear. Two days after Blahová’s press conference, Tománek gave an interview to the Týždeň weekly. He admitted that his employee had had sex with a girl aged 14, but insisted it was consensual.
“You can’t prevent children from having sexual intercourse,” Tománek told the weekly.
However, resocialisation centre employees are responsible for the protection of clients in their care until they reach the age of 18. In such cases the law permitting consensual sex with persons older than 15 does not apply. The investigator ignored this fact, according to opposition OĽaNO-NOVA MP and former interior minister Daniel Lipšic, who is acting as a lawyer for Natália’s parents.
Tománek also denies that the man involved was a therapist; instead, he says he was an adult client.
Parents stated that he was introduced as an ergo-therapist, Blahová responded.
Later, Police President Tibor Gašpar informed the public that the individual who abused the girl was in fact an employee of Čistý Deň who was working there as cook.
He added that police would review the original file and that a thorough inspection of the centre was now taking place.
Tománek will also be investigated because he reportedly knew about the abuse but did not inform police.
Despite suspicions that the police stopped the investigation prematurely in 2015, Interior Minister Kaliňák refused to comment on their work.
“I principally reject that we, as lay people, should dispute the acts of prosecution bodies,” Kaliňák told the press.
Prime Minister is satisfied
Ombudswoman Jana Dubovcová received a motion concerning this case on September 12.
“We’ll probably deal with it on the spot, but also at other institutions,” Dubovcová told the press, noting that she would first look into the approach that should be adopted in the case by the General Prosecutor’s Office, the police and Children’s Ombudswoman Viera Tomanová.
“It’s not surprising for me that something like this has surfaced,” said Dubovcová.
Meanwhile, all involved bodies stated that they would deal with the case. The Labour Ministry is to inspect the facility and the ministry’s commission will reconsider its accreditation.
The General Prosecutor’s Office will review the previous investigation and conduct a prosecutor’s examination of the centre.
For his part, Prime Minister Robert Fico criticised the opposition for indulging in what he called “empty talk” and panicking, and said everyone had been working.
“Try to name any case, whether it was a tragedy or anything else, when this government has remained idle,” Fico told the press.
The abused girl is now in an undisclosed location in central Slovakia where she was placed at the request of the Central Office of Labour, Social Affairs and Family. She is physically and psychologically healthy but scared of what is currently happening, according to Ľubomír Gábriš, the head of a centre for drug abusers called House of Hope without Drugs.
The system does not work
Legislation on the protection of children and families should be changed, say experts. Currently it allows resocialisation centres to accept people who are abstinent for a short period of time and are not fully healthy, according to Ľubomír Okruhlica, the head of the Centre for Therapy for Drug Dependencies.
Moreover, not all such centres employ professionals. One of the reasons is that they are often scattered and if they are outside bigger towns, their founders struggle to find qualified workers, according to psychologist Peter Šulák, founder of the Bratislava-based resocialisation centre Retest.
Also, mixing adults and youngsters who are resocialising after their drug abuse treatment and allowing former clients to serve as therapists is risky, experts agree.
“This trend has been abandoned after bad experiences abroad,” Okruhlica told the Pravda daily. “It seems that it continues here.”
15. Sep 2016 at 11:42 | Roman Cuprik