Thousands of Russian children die each year at the hands of their own parents
April 9, 2009
In January 2009 under a bridge outside of Moscow, the body of three-year-old Daniel Boiko was found. The boy was first starved, and then thrown alive into the river with a car battery tied to his neck. The child was killed by his foster parents. These same parents were accused of the death a few months earlier of another foster son. Numerous marks from blows were found on the body of 18-month-old Tolya, who choked on vomit during feeding.
A criminal case has been opened against the parents of four-year-old Gleb Ageyev—similar stories started to come in when this article was almost ready for print. The story of a boy who had been beaten and reduced to the condition of an animal shook the whole country. It looks as though the child will now be protected from the “care” of his father and mother. There is one problem: this story is not unusual. In Russia the number of children and teenagers who are suffering from cruel treatment at the hands of their own family is growing steadily. Every year 25,000 young Russian citizens become victims of child abuse, and about 2,000 die at the hands of their parents or care-givers. Our Version sorted through the causes of this disturbing tendency, and figured out how to protect boys and girls from the cruelty of those closest to them and the indifference of those around them.
At a recent session, members of the Russian parliament and their guests pondered how to return the youngest generation to a happy childhood. It’s difficult to say if all Soviet children enjoyed a happy childhood. Parliament communists say they did—why else would young citizens have thanked their countries leaders for it? Today’s children don’t have an easy time of it. The statistics shared by representatives of the Ministry of the Interior and the Prosecutor-General’s office with the MPs testify to this.
“In 2008 over 126,000 minors suffered attempted violent crimes, of whom over 62,000 suffered actual crimes,” first deputy minister of internal affairs Mikhail Sukhodolsky explained. “1914 children died at the hands of adults, and 2330 suffered serious harm to their health. Year to year the number of children and teens who experience abuse at the hands of their parents or caregivers is growing.”
“The scale of family violence is certainly increasing,” Alexei Golovan, Children’s Rights Commissioner for Moscow confirmed to Our Version. “There are several reasons for this. First of all, our society has become more cruel and cynical. Secondly, our national legislation is very lenient towards adults who treat children with cruelty. And last, and very importantly, compared with Soviet times, when the affairs of a family could simply be by a caucus, trade union committee or comrades’ court, the institution of the family has become more closed. We have fought for this, and with reason, arguing that interference in the private life of citizens is unacceptable. But this kind of closedness has its disadvantages: now we don’t know what is happening with those family members who need special attention and protection. And this applies not only to children, but also to adults, such as the elderly, who also frequently suffer violence from their relatives.”
According to Ministry of Internal Affairs statistics, every year law enforcement agencies bring to light over 100,000 irresponsible mothers and father. Altogether in 2008 450,000 parents and caregivers were brought to account for not fulfilling their roles as caregivers. Additionally, 5,500 criminal cases were filed, and almost 33,000 people were stripped of parental rights. In Moscow 2,058 families had one or more parents deprived of parental rights, up from 1,300 in 2001.
To escape abuse, many children run away from home. Over the course of the last five years every year 55,000 minors have run away from homes or orphanages. Through a mere three police operations performed last summer, 24,000 runaway children were found. Of them, 90% were returned to their parents, while the rest were sent to specialized children’s institutions.
One of the main themes of this session of parliament became the situation of adopted children, including those overseas. Granted, there have not been very many complaints about mistreatment of the latter. This is probably because the statistics for those in Russia are much grimmer. Just in 2007, 27 children were killed or seriously injured as a result of abuse by their adoptive families. Last year social workers took almost 400 children away from their adoptive families; in 323 cases it was for the failure of the adoptive families to fulfill their responsibilities to the child, while in 58 cases it was for harsh treatment. And there are even more noncriminal returns—when an orphan is taken into a family, and then later returned to the orphanage. “There are thousands of such cases,” confirmed the minister of education and science Andrei Fursenko, who believes that it is essential to spend more time on preparation for adoption, so that “if a child is taken into a family, he is taken in for real and for the long term.”
According to Mikhail Sukhodolsky, the most flagrant incidents happen in foster families: children are mistreated, sexually molested, or beaten. As an example he mentioned an incident that happened earlier this year in the Kursk region. “A caregiver poured gasoline over a minor under his care, and lit the child on fire. The caregiver was stripped of their care giving rights. The judge sentenced the guilty party to merely 180 hours of community service.”
An equally shocking incident took place just days ago in the village of Korobovo just outside of Moscow. March 20th, four-year-old Gleb Ageyev was brought into a Moscow hospital. There was not an unharmed spot on the boy’s body. Doctors discovered a closed craniocerebral injury, injuries to his genitals, and thermal skin burns. The boy’s left eye practically would not open due to a hematoma, his neck was covered in blood and abrasions, his lip was split, and his front teeth were knocked out. His foster mother said that he first spilled a pot of boiling water on himself, and then fell down the stairs from the second floor. However the doctors did not believe this story and turned to the police. The police questioned the neighbors, and they said that the boy was frequently mistreated, such as being left underclothed in sub-zero temperatures. Independent experts confirmed that the boy’s injuries were the result of beatings. Gleb and his younger sister Polina, who likely also suffered abuse, were taken away from their adoptive parents. Meanwhile the Ageyevs were brought to trial. If convicted, they may face a fine of up to 40,000 rubles or up to three months in prison.
In order to prevent domestic violence, the Ministry of Internal Affairs is creating a new position: a police family inspector. For now the new position has been filled on a trial basis in five regions. This inspector would take control of troubled families. Authorities are dissatisfied with the fact that they only learn of such problems after a child has been beaten or killed.
“In accordance with the family code, any specialist working with children (doctors, school or kindergarten teachers) who learns that a child has suffered abuse, must immediately notify authorities,” explained Alexei Golovan. “In the West this notification system works well: at the smallest suspicion, doctors and teachers inform authorities. Here the alarm is usually raised by neighbors, friends, or relatives. We often come across neglected cases. We start to investigate, and we discover that the school knew, the clinic knew, but they did not take any steps to notify authorities, even though they were legally obligated to. And all because they don’t have anything to lose by not caring about the child’s fate. And this will continue until we start holding people responsible for failing to report such incidents.”
Institutions are required to react to reports within three days, and immediately if the case is serious. “Additionally, police departments now have a children’s affairs division,” Golovan continued. “If a child is in need of urgent help, police officers must immediately, like firefighters, arrive at the location and do whatever necessary to protect the child’s interests. For instance, taking the child away from the family and taking him or her to a hospital or orphanage, then passing this information on to the appropriate authorities, who will take care of the situation.”
According to Golovan, many countries have special telephone numbers which people can call who are worried about how a child is being treated. Or a child can call the number himself, and he will be given not only psychological assistance, but government organizations responsible for his protection will take action. In Russia there is no such service yet, but it is still possible to find justice for the children of negligent parents. Complaints can be made to the police, or to any teacher. “In Moscow there were even instances of children coming to an orphanage for protection,” said Golovan. “Of course, in such cases the orphanage is required to take in the child.”
Recent cases of child abuse in Russia:
In September 2008 the Vagaisky regional court in the Tyumen region sentenced 39-year-old Chulpan Ishbulayev to three years in prison for torturing her adoptive daughter over the course of five months. The woman left the six-year-old girl home alone, tying her hands to a bed, and beat her for the smallest wrongdoing, forced her to do push-ups and stand on one leg, and sent her outside barefoot. One form of punishment was burning various body parts with burning hot items. Experts found a total of 12 burn marks on the girl’s body.
In October 2008 in Kamensk-Uralsk in the Sverdlovskaya region a six-year-old girl was severely beaten in her foster family. Christina ended up in the hospital with a concussion, and her whole body was covered in cuts and bruises. The incident is currently being investigated. The girl’s relatives face up to seven years in prison if convicted.
In November 2008 in the Prokhorovsky region the Belgorod city court declared guilty a 29-year-old man who beat his adoptive son to death. The man, together with his wife, had two biological children, and in February 2008 they took a four-year-old boy in as foster parents. At the end of June, after a fight between the children, the father beat and kicked the child repeatedly, inflicting at least 17 blows on the child. Doctors were unable to save the child, and the next day he died in the hospital of a bursting of the small intestine. The guilty party was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In January 2009 under a bridge outside of Moscow, the body of three-year-old Daniel Boiko was found. The boy was first starved, and then thrown alive into the river with a car battery tied to his neck. The child was killed by his foster parents. These same parents were accused of a death a few months earlier of another foster son. Numerous marks from blows were found on the body of 18-month-old Tolya, who choked on vomit during feeding. However the conclusion of the medical experts in this case went unnoticed by law enforcement agencies. The sadistic parents were only charged with a crime after they killed a second child.
Irina Lisichkina, Version
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