Statistics show that in Bulgaria every fourth woman is a victim of domestic violence. Last year, more than 1,500 women and children were victims of domestic violence, compared to the 1,300 in 2017.
According to the Social Assistance Agency, in 2019 the hotline for children 116 111 received more than 1,100 signals of violence against children in their family environment. Of these, 387 were confirmed cases, and for 285 children a measure of placement outside the family was taken.
Organizations operating violence hotlines report a sharp rise in alerts since the beginning of this year, with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic being a major factor in raising alarming statistics. According to experts, the cases for which help is sought now are much more severe than before. In just one month, calls to domestic violence on the Children’s Hotline have jumped by 370.
I met Adriana in the fall of 2019. She came to the Community support center St. Sophia, looking for support to rebuild her life. She needed help so that she and her four daughters, separated from her, could live together again as a happy family.
I will never forget our first meeting. I remember the fear in her eyes, the gestures with which she tried to hide her tears, the bitterness in her voice as she told me about the night when, after hours of physical and mental abuse by her husband, she and her children left home forever.
Leaving her family home to save her and her children’s lives, Adriana seeks help from the Child Protection Department. As there is currently no suitable housing for the family to stay for a longer period of time, her four girls are accommodated in a Crisis Center and then in a Family-Type Accommodation Center.
The inability to provide their children with suitable conditions, as well as the lack of housing to live in after fleeing their abuser, are one of the main reasons why many mothers who have been victims of violence have been forced to live with their abuser for years and suffer daily physical and mental harassment.
When she came to us, there were many uncertainties in front of Adriana, she did not know how she would cope with the difficulties ahead of her, whether she would be able to find a suitable home for her and the children, whether she would cover the expenses for her family of five. She said that over the years she had repeatedly decided to end their relationship, but she hesitated because she did not believe that she would manage on her own.
This time she was absolutely adamant that she would not continue to live in fear and would do the impossible to be with her daughters and be happy again.
I started regular meetings with her, during which we discussed the needs of children for security, love, care, support, stimulating their development. We talked for a long time about how she feels after the final separation from the father of her children, what worries her and how to deal with the challenges she faces.
Over time, she gradually became more confident, able to balance work and meetings with children. He got along well with his colleagues and began to build a new circle of friends. She felt financially independent and soon found a suitable home.
Adriana began to talk much more openly about her experiences, as well as her future plans.
Regular meetings with her children were a major factor in her strong motivation to do everything possible to ensure a better future for them.
My work with Adriana ended earlier this year. A month later, as a result of the great progress we had made together, with a decision from the Child Protection Department, three of her daughters were returned to their mother. Very soon her fourth daughter will return to the family to live happily ever after, having turned her back on previous misfortunes.
Senior social worker
Hagia Sophia Community Support Center