Nearly one in 10 cases of child abuse is sexual abuse or/and sexual exploitation: Save the Children Romania trains teams of police officers and non-commissioned officers to investigate crimes against children

Bucharest, 21 April 2024: Nearly 10% of child abuse, neglect and exploitation cases in the period January – September 2023 (13.340 cases) involved sexual abuse or/and sexual exploitation (1.192 and 31 cases respectively), with most victims being girls. Save the Children Romania has initiated an intentive programme for teams of police officers and non-commissioned officers in the field of investigating crimes against children, so that the investigation can lead to the identification of perpetrators and avoid re-traumatizing child victims.

During a five-day intensive seminar in Sinaia, Save the Children Romania facilitated the training of 12 police officers and non-commissioned officers in the field of investigation of crimes committed against children from District 6 Police – Criminal Investigation Service, Police Sation 20, Police Station 21, Police Station 22, Police Sation 25 and District 5 Police – Police Station 17. The trainers were Marian Trușcă – Specialized Prosecutor, Prosecutor’s Office of the Bucharest Court and Alexandra Tomescu – Specialized Prosecutor, Prosecutor’s Office of the Bucharest Court.

The setting up by Save the Children of the first Barnahus centre in Romania, which fully complies with European standards in this field, was a new step in ensuring child-friendly justice in criminal trials. However, the setting up of the Barnahus should be followed by a process of concrete and effective operationalization of the Barnahus and, given the experience of the last years of the Bucharest Public Prosecutor’s Office in investigating sexual abuse, we joined the Save the Children Organization’s initiative to operationalize this Barnahus“, says Marian Trușcă – Specialized Prosecutor, Bucharest Public Prosecutor’s Office.

In 2002, out of a total of 1,485 child sexual abuse cases, only 591 children received legal counselling/assistance and 1,135 children received psychological counselling, in 121 of the cases even psychotherapy services were needed. According to the statistics of the National Authority for the Protection of Children’s Rights and Adoption, 17,175 cases of child abuse were registered in 2022, of which 1,912 were physical abuse, 2,089 were emotional abuse and 1,485 were sexual abuse.

M.M. was in 10th grade when her mother’s husband, her stepfather, entered her room at night. Then began a long agony for the girl, sexual abuse, rape, repeated threats. It wasn’t until two years later that she got up the courage to tell her mother. Even after she told her story, she was afraid to go to the police, lest something happen to her mother or her younger sisters. M.M.’s mother states that M.M. has always been a well-behaved child who learned well. Then from the 10th grade she started to notice changes in the girl’s behaviour (she was very angry, screaming at everything, she didn’t like anything anymore, she couldn’t stand him), but the mother thought that something was going on at school, not at home. MM told mom when she came home from school one day about the abuse. The abuse happened several times a week and lasted for two years.

Training law enforcement on the use of the NICHD (The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Protocol) is extremely important in hearing child victims. The purpose of using the NICHD protocol is to reduce the suggestibility of professionals participating in the legal process of hearing child victims, to allow them to tailor their questions to the child’s developmental level, while helping children to provide as detailed and accurate a statement as possible.

The NICHD protocol is a structured way of interviewing and covers all phases of the forensic interview: introduction, alliance development, rehearsal of episodic memory, the declarative part of the hearing and the conclusion of the hearing.

Last year, police officers in the stations covered by the programme interviewed more than 300 children.


Barnahus Center

Barnahus Center from Bucharest inaugurated by Save the Children Romania in 2022 is the only complex service in Romania, where the child, in judicial situations as a victim, receives protection and assistance in an individualized, multidisciplinary way and with respect for his/her privacy. While the child is enrolled in the center’s programme, a social worker will monitor his/her case.

The Barnahus model involves a multi-disciplinary and inter-agency approach, ensuring collaboration between different agencies (judicial, social, medical) in a single space responsive to the needs of the child victim, providing complex services to the child and his/her family “under one roof”. The collaborative framework offered by the Barnahus premises brings together partners in the implementation of the core functions for the investigation of child abuse, professionals conducting forensic interviews, actors of judicial protocol, specialists providing the necessary assistance.

Barnahus is a unique model as it encompasses all relevant services to assess and document the investigation and prosecution of cases of violence against children and to assist and support the child victim.

Services of the Barnahus Centre in Bucharest

a) Psychological expertise – The results of the psychological expertise revealed:

Post-traumatic stress following sexual abuse, manifested by:

  • repeated reliving of the original traumatic event (through unwanted recall of the event in the form of sequences, nightmares and exaggerated physical or emotional reactions to people or places related to the original event);
  • sleep disturbances (sometimes sleeping a lot, “I sleep not deeply but cautiously”, “most of the time I don’t feel rested in the morning, I would go back to sleep”, “I have periods when I don’t sleep for a whole week”);
  • irritability or fits of anger.

All these symptoms can manifest together or as specific reactions, such as:

  • Panic attack – occurs when something or someone reminds them of the traumatic event they have experienced. (‘tight in the chest, breathing heavily’)
  • Deliberate avoidance of any everyday situation that might remind him of the trauma – avoids streets, paths where he might encounter the suspect;
  • Depression – manifested by diminished interest and pleasure, undue guilt or self-blame;
  • Suicidal ideation, as a more serious form of depression (studies show that over 50% of sexual abuse victims have had the thought of suicide in their minds);
  • Use of substances such as drugs, alcohol, as a method of pain relief – (once drank a whole bottle of wine);
  • Tendency to isolate, caused by the belief that others are unable to understand and help her, which can lead to social dysfunction;
  • Delusional ideation (delusions, hallucinations) – “periods when I didn’t sleep and for a whole week, I saw people who weren’t there”.

b) Psychological intervention with the following objectives:

  1. Decrease of symptoms resulting from abuse (anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances);
  2. Prevention of re-victimization.


Gabriela Alexandrescu, Executive President of Save the Children Romania, said, “The short path from the moment of referral to the moment of an eventual conviction of the abuser decreases the risk of re-victimization of the child and the intense feeling of fear and insecurity that something as bad as abuse could happen.”

Save the Children’s recommendations to the Romanian Government and Parliament:

  • Revise criminal legislation to ensure adequate protection of children against sexual abuse. This includes measures previously submitted to the authorities by Save the Children on reconsidering the provisions of the Penal Code that criminalise sexual intercourse with a minor under 16, including reducing the age difference between the perpetrator and the child from 5 years to 3 years.
  • Promote the national reporting system on child abuse, exploitation, neglect and improve data collection on sexual abuse.
  • In line with the National Strategy for the Protection and Promotion of Children’s Rights 2023-2027 “Protected Children, Safe Romania”, starting this year the process of national expansion of Barnahus-type programmes, based on the model created by Save the Children and currently underway.
  • Integrate comprehensive sexuality education into the middle and high school curriculum, with a priority focus on informing children about respecting personal boundaries in relationships, recognising abusive behaviour and knowing how to report it.
  • Develop and adequately fund specialised services for victims of sexual abuse, providing free, accessible, child-friendly and equitably distributed counselling, therapy and legal services in urban and rural areas.
  • Ensure access to ongoing training for police, justice, health and education professionals to improve the identification of sexual abuse cases and ensure hearing conditions and procedures consistent with the dignity of children and their rights to protection and social, educational and psychological support.
  • Develop parental counselling services both within the local social services system and in educational establishments through psycho-pedagogical support offices.
  • Establishing legal obligations for all legal entities, public or private, to draw up their own policies for preventing, protecting, reporting and dealing with any form of child abuse, in the form of codes of conduct or regulations for children and adults directly or indirectly involved in their specific activities.


Contact person: Mihaela Dinu, project manager, phone 0723276350 / email –