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Testimony

“We have no education”

Leros

The child began to attend sessions with the psychologist of the Community Centre in Leros from December 2017 to Late May 2018, with the exception of January due to a health issue that the mother faced. She seemed very shy at first, but gradually began to express a greater desire to come and talk.

I didn’t have any contact with her apart from the brief time I saw her in the waiting room. When she first came here at the Community Centre, I knew she was coming out of a case handled by the State Prosecutor in Kos. Even if there was any suspicion of something going on, there was nothing that could be done. No one could approach the State Prosecutor, since the case had already been examined and they had decided to send the child back to Leros.

When the father came to me in May 2018 without an appointment, he asked for the psychologist but she was away. He said “my daughter is not feeling well”. He was worried. He told me she is waiting outside in the car. I went there and the girl was almost fainted in the back seat. I helped her stand up so that we could talk and asked her what was going on, if there was something happening at home. Exams were coming up at school and we knew she was anxious. She said nothing happened. I told the parents not to put any pressure on her about school and send them away.

The next day, they came back. “She is not feeling well, she’s not eating or drinking water”. I didn’t even go to the car this time. I told the father to take her to the pediatrician right away who was close to the Centre. He claimed the headmistress at school had supposedly told him to give the child some pills for her mental state – I know the headmistress and there is no way she told them that. He left in a hurry and they ended up in the Infirmary.

I still don’t know what the truth is. There’s a mental health history that runs through the family. When the children were taken to “Agia Sofia” in Athens for the first time, both parents had also been examined by a psychiatrist and they were found to be in a good mental state.

Over the summer of 2018, after the incident, the Labour Inspectorate began an investigation on all services involved in the case, to see if they performed their duties adequately. We filed our report as a Community Centre in writing. There was a social worker that came here to inform us on the possible indicators of abuse on a person.

If we had known earlier about the things she taught us, there is a small chance we might have caught something earlier. I have to tell you, though, that if you ask me now what these signs are, I won’t remember. I read the Guide she gave us on child abuse once and never dealt with it again. I’d like to have gone deeper into them, but I’m not sure if I can do anything to turn the guidelines into action.

We have no education. At present, I must be a member of many Groups on Child Abuse on paper. But I don’t know the subject. The Ministry’s orders always urge the City to form such Groups, and there have been people that were appointed in them over the years. But we send the list of people back and then nothing happens. No seminar on Child Abuse has ever taken place.

Vaso Evaggelou was a social worker at the Municipal Community Centre of Leros. The testimony is edited from a longer interview that took place in October 2018.