Protecting the victims

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Protecting the victims

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“My son panics and turns pale when he hears the voices of his assailants. It doesn’t make sense that the victims and assailants receive psychological therapy at the same site.”

The mother of a school violence victim was shaking. In addition to the violence that her son had suffered, she is more frustrated that the assailants remain in school after beating her son while the victim has to get therapy.

Most schools recommend the Wee Center, a youth psychological consultation center operated by the Ministry of Education, to provide therapy for the victims of school violence. However, the victims are often reluctant to use the Wee Center because they fear they might run into the assailants. The Wee Center operates the psychological therapy programs for both the victims and assailants of school violence. Therefore, many victims prefer private providers.

For any type of violence, the victims and assailants need to be strictly separated after the incidents. However, in case of school violence, this principle of protecting the victims is not observed.

According to a Ministry of Education press release in late 2015, the students who became victims of school violence decreased from 8.5 percent in the secondary survey in 2012 to 0.9 percent in the secondary survey in 2015. The ministry claimed that the school violence prevention measures were effective. Moreover, youth psychological consultation centers, such as the Wee Center, are expanding to help victims and assailants. However, the families of victims are skeptical. They think victims will not seek help from the Wee Center, where further risks of encountering the assailants exist.

There are only four providers exclusively serving victims in Seoul and 31 nationwide. The Haemalgeum Center in Daejeon is the only boarding facility where victims can study and get therapy without running into assailants. In contrast, there are over 400 rehabilitation centers for students who have committed violence. The Ministry of Education responded that the municipal and provincial education offices are in charge of services for victims.

Maintaining the medical records of victims is also problematic. The victims often refuse psychological therapy out of concern that a history of such help could be seen unfavorably in the future. A bill that prevents the assailants from accessing victims’ medical records has been pending in the National Assembly for several years. Now that the general election is approaching, the bill is likely to be discarded in this session.

Currently, elementary, middle and high schools are surveying school violence conditions. The survey is necessary to make preventative plans. However, it is doubtful that it reflects the voices of school violence victims and their families.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 25, Page 33


*The author is a Metro G Team reporter at the JoongAng Ilbo.

BY JEONG HYEON-JIN
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