If you google ‘goodbye sex’ in English the search will return a supply of mostly light-hearted ‘how to’ and ‘how not to’ break-up stories. Since September 12, a similar search in Slovak would return a very different story, one that would make your heart sink.
In Slovak, ‘goodbye sex’ is now what a client-turned-employee of a drug rehabilitation centre does to a 14-year-old girl in his care.
“The intercourse was unforced, to say goodbye,” the centre’s director said in his first reaction to the scandal unfolding around his facility, in a debate organised by the Týždeň weekly on September 12.
That is essentially the story that has been shaking Slovakia since last weekend, when opposition MP Natália Blahová published a blog post alleging that several primary-school-age girls had suffered sexual abuse at the Čistý Deň re-socialisation centre in the small town of Galanta, in the south-west of Slovakia.
But there’s more. The evidence that the media were able to uncover in the following five days suggests that the management of the institution, as well as even higher-ranking public officials, had been aware of the allegations for months but had failed to take any action to prevent sexual abuse from happening again.
For now, the story is still far from clear (and the prospects of it being clarified further are doubtful); there are too many questions that we have been asking but to which we receive no satisfactory response.
For instance, is the drug problem of the girl in the original blog post, Natália, really as the blog describes it? And if so, why did her mother opt to confine her to a facility with a harsh regime for many months? And did the director of the facility and his wife really emotionally blackmail Natália’s mother to withdraw her complaint and send the girl back to the facility?
Clearly, every publicised case of sexual abuse is a highly sensitive issue and there have been cases in which such allegations turned out to be revenge-driven or simply unfounded.
But before we start asking those questions, let us note that blaming the victim is the unacceptable but still the most likely initial reaction of many Slovaks to allegations of rape or abuse.
And before we start questioning the motivation of the individuals involved in the case, which has unfortunately become a political issue over the past week, we should stop and take note of the known facts:
There is a vulnerable 14-year-old girl, who had intercourse with a staff member at the facility.
The law clearly defines sexual intercourse with a minor under 15 years of age as a crime. The age limit is set at 18 when it concerns persons who are clients of this kind of facility.
In fact, much less than sexual intercourse can be enough to attract a criminal prosecution – just ask former Slovak National Party (SNS) leader Ján Slota, who currently faces prosecution for buying drinks and making sexual suggestions to adolescent girls.
There is the facility in question, which is financed using public money and was aware of these allegations for months before they became public.
There is the state, which apparently pays little or no attention to how people employed using public funds treat the individuals that are placed in their care.
And there are the politicians – those in power, who try to act as if this was none of their concern; and those in opposition, who are treading a very fine line by trying to play politics with what is a tragic story.
These are only the basics. According to who you believe, Slovakia is witnessing a horror story in which Lolita meets Trainspotting, with shades of the appalling Fritzl case. But the reality cannot be easily likened to films or literature, or even other real-life cases.
Most of us will never know how a 14-year-old girl feels at any given moment in time; and a story told is not the story lived, but is burdened with interpretation.
Regardless of that, once the story has been told we cannot pass by in silence.
15. Sep 2016 at 14:43 | Michaela Terenzani