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Eerika, the little girl no one loved enough to save?

September 3, 2012

Warning: I have gleaned what facts I can from the case I am about to discuss from Finnish media websites. Information in English is sparse and hard to come by. The details of this entry are disturbing and continuing to unfold.

Child abuse is abhorrent and despicable. The last few days in Finland has seen a case come to light that has caused an uproar across the country.

In Helsinki in May of this year, a little girl suffocated to death after being bound with her hands behind her back, tied up in a sheet and physically assaulted. She died a slow and painful death. And it was not the first time she had been abused this way. She had visible bruises, patches of hair missing, was often bound and beaten, force-fed and verbally and psychologically abused. She was the subject of numerous child protection reports and had in fact been removed from her home prior to her death. Yet for some reason she was released back into the care of her 35 year-old father and his 47 year-old girlfriend.

The pair has been detained since their arrest in May and they have been charged with aggravated assault, deprivation of liberty and aggravated murder. The female party has also been charged with providing false information because she identified herself as a medical doctor during the call to emergency services. They even had the gall to photograph the humiliating treatment of the child. The photographs are being used as evidence. They are currently on trial in Helsinki. The District Prosecutor (Ms.) Eija Velitski has called it the most horrible case of child abuse this country has seen.

There is now talk that child protection services officials may be subject to a criminal investigation on suspicion of breach of duty.

Eerika was eight years old and she died on Mother’s Day.

Responsible adults around her knew she was being abused. Eerika’s biological mother knew she was being abused and begged child protection officials to intervene on one of her last supervised visits with her daughter. Neighbours have reported to media outlets (anonymously) that they too had complained to the authorities. Eerika herself had said she did not want to go return to her father’s residence. She had been taken into care and had responded well in her environment – free of bruises, scratches and other injuries that had been inflicted upon her. She was returned at her father’s request.

What the hell happened then? Why did child protection officials return Eerika to an abusive home, knowing full well that everyone around her knew she was being subject to cruel treatment at the hands of mean-spirited father and equally evil girlfriend? Why didn’t child protection officials just say NO?

Was Eerika’s treatment not deemed bad enough to remove her permanently? It really beggars belief. When I think about her cruel treatment and the circumstances of her death, all I can think is that Eerika died because no one loved her enough to save her.

The Ombudsman for Children, Maria Kaisa Aula has called for an inquiry into the death of Eerika calling her murder a major disaster. I applaud this call.

What is troubling under the current legislation in Finland is that medical doctors cannot report cases of suspected physical abuse to the police. Doctors are bound by law to report cases of physical abuse to child protections services – and not the police. As reported by one health care professional from the Helsinki University Children’s Hospital, “We can have a clear cut case of physical abuse of a baby, who is lying in intensive care, but we have to cycle the complaint through child protection services.” (Paraphrased from a story in the August 31 edition of Iltasanomat.)

On the other hand doctors must report cases of suspected sexual abuse to the police. For many doctors this must be incredibly maddening, knowing that they could intervene to save a child from additional abuse at the hands of a parent or caregiver.

The other ridiculous thing in this country when it comes to child protection is the system is basically crying out for people to become foster parents, yet the criteria to meet those requirements are so strict it is nearly impossible to become a foster parent. Surely many of the people who would like to help can do a much better job than the many abusive and unfit parents in this country that are allowed to continue abusing their children.

A big problem in Finland (and around the world) is while people hate child abuse and believe more should be done to stamp it out, they refuse to talk about it. For some it is such a distressing issue that they can’t even bring themselves to talk about it, shutting down the conversation just as it is started. Well folks, the reality is child abuse does exist and we do need to talk about it. I agree wholeheartedly with Finnish child psychiatrist Jari Sinkkonen that “it is time to change the culture of non-involvement and not noticing.”

Unfortunately for poor Eerika and other children who suffer the same unimaginable fate, this will likely get swept aside, the uproar will die down and everyone in Finnish society will go back to their cozy lives – not saying a word about the suspected abuse of a child.

The silence on this issue among the general public of this country is deafening. I’m writing about it because people need to know about it – and do something about it.

I’m pessimistic and believe the laws will never change meaning that the perpetrators of abuse will do their pitifully short stints in jail and get to walk free in just a few years. The victims suffer for a lifetime.

Children deserve better. If you think a child is being abused – report it!

In Finland you can report suspected child abuse to local child welfare authorities, which are run on a municipal level. They have a crisis line open to handle crisis situations. So – find the number on the internet – and call. You can do it anonymously.

I’d be rather inclined to call the police first…

RIP Eerika, you deserved better.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 3, 2012 11:41 am

    Reblogged this on Action Against Abuse.

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