45,000 calls to hotline for children: why Ukrainian children seek help

International Women’s Rights Center “La Strada-Ukraine” has been working in Ukraine since 1997. It is engaged in trafficking prevention and elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence in society, and protection of children. Since 2013, the organization opened a children’s hotline, the only national children hotline in Ukraine. The line is free and anonymous, and is included with other hotlines from 140 countries into the Child Helpline International.

Why in 2016 the number of calls from children increased and how they were responded: the representative of “La Strada” explains this during a briefing at UCMC.

In 2016, the number of calls to child hotline “La Strada Ukraine” substantially increased. “We received 45,000 calls. This is more than in previous years,” – said Kateryna Levchenko, President of NGO “La Strada-Ukraine”, during a press briefing in the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center. For comparison, in 2015 there were only 38, 500 calls.

Who calls and from where?

Of those who sought for help, the number of boys and girls is about the same: 45% and 55% respectively. 15% of calls came from adults: parents, teachers, and school psychologists. Most calls came from Kiev region. This year the increased number of calls from Luhansk and Donetsk region, including the temporarily occupied territories, increased considerably.

86.7% of calls were regarding informative consultations, 10.3% sought psychological counseling, 3.3% were seeking legal advice.

28.6% of calls were related to mental health. 14.9% of callers asked about sexuality and health, 8.6% asked for advice on how to deal with peers. 6.2% reported various kinds of violence.

War and child abuse

According to Aliona Kryvulyak, coordinator of the National hotlines of NGO “La Strada-Ukraine”, there is an increase in the number of calls about child abuse in areas outside the control of Ukraine and in calls from children who witnessed violence or were victims of violence in families of demobilized soldiers and families of IDPs. There was also a very large number of calls from parents, mostly from mothers who are abused by their teenage children, usually sons.

The number of calls for information regarding how to obtain child benefits and child support payments. IDPs manifested many complaints about problems with the departure of children to free territory if the birth certificate was issued by the so-called “DPR-LPR”.

There is a tendency for the reduction of age of children complaining about suicidal thoughts, many of them only 10-12 years old. Typical reasons are unrequited love, harassment at school, violence in the family.

Forced domestic work, forced begging and the “publics of death”

Also, there were calls on enforcement of domestic labor, forced begging (from Kyiv, most recently), on forced marriage of minors. Aliona Kryvulyak explained that usually it is a situation where a minor girl became pregnant by her partner and they are actively encouraged to get married to avoid public condemnation. There is also an increase in number of complaints from children who ran away from home because of quarrels in the family.

In late 2016 and early 2017 there was a surge of calls with questions of how to protect children from the effects of so-called “publics of death”. “Usually, these were the calls from parents or friends who care,” – said Aliona Kryvulyak.