Immediate Access to Gesell Dome for Children and Adolescents who Report Being Victims of Crimes Against their Sexual Integrity Committed by Either Parent

The Superior Court of Justice of the Province of Cordoba recently issued  Regulatory Agreement Number 1595 laying down the protocol to be followed when crimes against sexual integrity are reported,  the victims are minors under the age of 16 and the alleged perpetrator is one or both parents.

The main objective is to expedite the process of taking victims’ statements in a Gesell Dome so that the judicial response to these cases is fast, effective and comprehensive. This quick response would allow public officials to count on an official statement as soon as possible, which, in turn, would help Judges at the Childhood, Adolescence and Gender and Family Violence Courts to take quick protective measures – as stated in Art 21 of the Provincial Family Violence Law Number 9283 – such as restraining orders.

The protocol states that once a report has been received, the Prosecutor’s Office Specialized in Crimes Against Sexual Integrity will instruct the Technical Team of the Judicial Services Department to immediately take the victim’s statement in a Gesell Dome, provided the victim is a minor under the age of 16.  

The Technical Team for Dealing with Victims of Crimes against Sexual Integrity (ETIV) will set the nearest possible date for receiving the victim’s statement and designate the professional in charge. The statement should be taken in a period of no longer than 15 days. The Prosecutor’s Office will issue any pertinent notifications to the parents, as stated in Article 80 in the Penal Procedural Code, or formally accuse either or both parents.  

Besides this, the use of electronic communication and storage systems offers all the officials and professionals involved in the case easy and quick access to pertinent reports and documentation, thus allowing for prompt and timely treatment of these sensitive cases. This new protocol aims at providing an efficient approach to a growing problem that affects family bonds and impacts on society as a whole. By providing officials with better tools to expedite the treatment of these cases, suitable measures can be taken in time and when necessary, giving Judges enough grounds on which to base decisions such as restraining orders.

It is important to highlight that the use of the Gesell Dome allows officials to take one single statement from minor victims, thus minimizing the effects of secondary victimization and preventing the exposure of child or adolescent victims to institutional factors that re-enact the suffering originally inflicted on them while obtaining high quality, reliable and valid evidence.

The Superior Court of Justice has been working in line with “Diovisalvi”, S. n° 223, 27/06/2014; “Valente”, S. n° 234, 03/06/2016; “Acosta”, S. n° 484, 23/11/2018; “A.L.N”, S. n° 519, 12/12/18 stating that “child witnesses and victims should have a very specific treatment since children enjoy conventional and constitutional rights that must be respected and protected. These rights are human rights which deserve strong tutelage from the courts, without detriment to the respect for the rights of the accused , as stated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (19, 1) and 34, C.N., 75, 23°, International documents quoted here , and the 100 Brasilia Rules on access to justice for people in vulnerable conditions, number 5., 11”;  according to which  “when dealing with crimes against sexual integrity, the victim’s statement is decisive evidence given that these crimes are usually committed in the privacy of the home away from the eyes of third parties. ”

This proposal was the result of a comprehensive analysis of the victims’ needs and of observations made of the cases dealt with in the Family Violence Coordination Office

The protocol aims at protecting the rights of children and adolescents to keep their family bonds, to grow and develop in their birth family and to maintain regular and permanent direct personal contact with both parents, as stated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, National Law (Number 26061) on the Integral Protection of the Rights of Children and Adolescents and the Provincial Law of Integral Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children and  Adolescents (Law Number 9944).

This blog post was prepared by Dr. Agustina M. Olmedo, Superior Court of Justice Secretary, Province of Córdoba, Argentina. Family Violence Coordination Office.