The gender advisor of the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), Chiara Tagliani, gave an interview to Radio K4 on sexual violence and the Mission’s “Speak Up On Time” campaign.
A transcript of the original interview can be found below. Any subsequent reporting using quotes from the interview should refer to the original source – Radio K4.
RADIO K4: Can you tell us about the achievements of the ‘Speak up on time’ campaign since the beginning of 2019?
CHIARA TAGLIANI: First, let me thank you for the opportunity to be here and address such a sensitive topic. EULEX together with the Institute of Forensic Medicine have launched the 'Speak up on time' campaign in 2019 to raise awareness among children and the wider community about the topic of sexual violence and how to act in case sexual violence happens. The main achievement of the campaign is the way it is designed, because it has had great outreach in schools. Thirteen schools and about 700 children were part of the campaign until the start of the pandemic and then unfortunately we had to stop this activity to continue with 'online' activities, which are still ongoing achieving double outreach and maximizing the impact of this campaign. Therefore, we are here today to talk about such an important topic, where the campaign aimed to raise awareness among citizens and encourage inter-institutional discussion. This campaign has enabled relevant institutions and service providers of this nature to come together, discuss and increase their cooperation and support for survivors of sexual violence. I would like to add that the reason we aimed to target schools was based on statistical data from the Kosovo Institute of Forensic Medicine, which showed that most victims of sexual violence are between 11 and 16 years old. That is why we have found it necessary to go to the youngest, mainly in schools, bringing them together to discuss this topic.
RADIO K4: Educational lectures as part of the 'Speak up on time' campaign against sexual violence were organized in schools. What were the impressions of the targeted audience, namely the children?
CHIARA TAGLIANI: We noticed a very good reaction from the children, who were very interested in talking about this topic and understanding more about what sexual violence is, and then to see how different mechanisms would help to protect and respond to cases of sexual violence. Therefore, part of the lectures was attended by the Police, who explained what steps they take in these cases, as well as representatives of the Institute of Forensic Medicine, who explained what they do with biological evidence and why this evidence is important. This aspect has resulted in success and attention from children, but also from parents who told us that children have discussed this topic at home as well as with teachers, who said that this is the right topic to discuss in schools.
RADIO K4: Please give us a simple definition of what sexual violence is?
CHIARA TAGLIANI: Simply put, sexual violence is a sexual act, without consent and without desire. Regardless of the connection between the victim and the perpetrator, it is important to know that having an intimate relationship with the possible perpetrator does not justify a sexual act that comes without consent.
RADIO K4: Biological evidence is mentioned as essential in all cases of sexual violence. What is biological evidence and why are they important?
CHIARA TAGLIANI: The best biological evidence may be body fluids (saliva, blood, sperm, hair, epithelial cells) that the victim or perpetrator leave to each other, or that are present at the crime scene, and this evidence is the only way to prove the offense and connection to the perpetrator of such violence. So, when it comes to finding out who committed an act and judging cases of this nature, having proper biological evidence is the only means to finally convicting someone and delivering justice to the survivors.
RADIO K4: According to the statistics of the Institute of Forensic Medicine regarding sexual violence, most victims are between 11 and 16 years old, and in 81% of these cases the perpetrators are known to the victim. Knowing this, how can we protect ourselves?
CHIARA TAGLIANI: Our campaign refers to the many practical steps that can be taken to protect ourselves. For example, we have used social media and made children and young people especially aware that, when they go out, they should be careful if someone puts something in their drink, especially alcoholic ones because it makes them more vulnerable. The campaign also includes all the practical steps. But also effective protection comes if we know more about what an act of sexual violence is, if we know how to denounce it and help change the culture, which is a culture that somehow protects these acts. Therefore, our campaign summarizes a mix of these steps that help avoid the occurrence of such acts, but also teaches us how to protect ourselves and the society from the act of sexual violence.
RADIO K4: What should a victim of sexual violence do and how can he or she report such a crime?
CHIARA TAGLIANI: Our campaign refers to some very specific steps and practices that the victims need to follow. First of all, they should not take a shower, not brush their teeth, not change clothes, not eat or drink. All of these are essential steps in preserving biological evidence. We encourage the victims to report the case as soon as possible, to the nearest police station or by dialing 192. Also, if victims need help, they should call the victim’s protection office on toll-free lines: 0800 11112 or legal aid offices at: 0800 11777.
RADIO K4: Does stigma or fear of this issue affect the reporting of cases of sexual violence?
CHIARA TAGLIANI: The fact that sexual violence is an act of deep traumatic violence and often what comes out of this act is an unspoken issue. We often talk about this also in the cultural aspect of how violence is defined in a culture that has sexism, harmful masculinity and a patriarchal system. The reason I am emphasizing this is because often blaming the victim is part of a culture and often because of the culture the victim is not supported and does not have the courage to speak up and report what has happened to them. This is not only unfair, but it disables people to change this culture and deprives victims of empowerment and courage to speak out and consequently recover from this condition. Therefore, it is important to talk about this topic and have campaigns to raise the awareness and engage the whole society in this aspect, not only women and girls, but also boys and men, because we need to make this radical change. To develop a society that will not tolerate such actions, the society must empower the victim.
RADIO K4: Given that most victims are minors, how is their anonymity and privacy protected when reporting a crime of this nature?
CHIARA TAGLIANI: There are provisions in place that protect and allow the identity of survivors of sexual violence in the case of minors to be concealed, and these measures are enforced by the police, the prosecution and the courts. Let me add that in such cases there are additional protection measures in the courts or proceedings. Therefore, there are mechanisms in place to protect and conceal the identity of all victims but in particular of minors.
RADIO K4: When we talk about crimes of sexual violence, we tend to believe more that only women/girls are affected, is this true?
CHIARA TAGLIANI: No, it is not true that only women or girls are affected, but the truth is that women and girls make up the vast majority or 90% of victims of sexual violence. What is definitely truth is that also men and boys may have been affected by sexual violence, especially boys, and because of their vulnerability it links me to scope a bit more on the vulnerability of survivors affected by sexual violence crimes. This is also due to the structure of the nature of this type of criminal offense and the fact that it is often an act of abuse of force and power by the perpetrator. This is why men are, indeed, also affected and especially boys, who are of course the most vulnerable category.
RADIO K4: What is your message to KFOR Radio listeners and our readers on social networks?
CHIARA TAGLIANI: The victims are not alone; we are all together! Speak up on time! I would also like to add that since September 2021 the 'Istanbul Convention' is applicable in Kosovo as well, and we as EULEX warmly welcome this important step of the Assembly of Kosovo and we stand firm to assist the Kosovo institutions, as also requested by President Osmani, who along this challenging path, that has as ultimate aim the elimination of violence against women including sexual violence.