New comic helps sexually abused children find help

2009-07-28 00:00

A LOCAL NGO has launched a publication to help children who have been sexually abused to get help.

The Cindi (Children in Distress) Network has produced an interactive children’s comic published in English and isiZulu called Ntombi’s Song — I Can Ask for Help! It is accompanied by a facilitator’s guide for adults who work with children.

Rachel Rozentals-Thresher of the Rob Smetherham Bereavement Service for Children (Robs) and chairman of Cindi’s psycho-social support cluster explained that the comic and guide contain practical advice about “what to do when there has been sexual abuse”.

“The first step to recovery from sexual abuse is to tell someone who can help you. This series is designed to take children through the process of disclosing, getting help and ultimately healing from sexual abuse.

“We found that many people working in organisations in the Cindi Network needed help with how to refer affected children to the right services. The publications contain steps that people working with children need to follow that are safe for them and the children involved.

“We found that it was not enough to make people aware of the problem of sexual abuse, we needed to provide information about where to get help.” The children’s comic includes a list of state and NGO services in Pietermaritzburg where children can go for help.

“There are important things that victims and people working with children need to know about the process for disclosure. For example, ensuring the safety and security of the child, attending to any health or counselling needs and making sure they have accurate information needed if a legal case is to be opened.

“We have been careful not to overload either publication with too much detail — there is enough information to get people to the right place to do the right things. The publications are also advocacy tools that should help to get adults to engage with children’s experiences.”

She said there were also “significant challenges” involved in trying to get help from the relevant services. “For example, people take a child to the police or hospital, but are not helped or are sent elsewhere, so they give up and stop trying to get help. The message of these publications is ‘Keep trying till you get help’.

“The message we also want to send to people is that even if the abuse happened many years ago, there are places where children can still go to get help and regain their lives,” Rozentals-Thresher said.

Local company Jive Media developed the series in consultation with Cindi members experienced in working with children. They tested two groups of children’s responses to the publication and incorporated some of their feedback. Jive Media’s Robert Inglis said: “We have tried to create a product that children will want to read by using a compelling story that dramatises the role of children. The characters are simple and abstract, encouraging children to identify with them. There are also activities and space for children to respond to the story that should also help to draw them in.”

With the help of foreign donor funding, Cindi has been able to publish 6 000 comics. They will be disseminated through the Cindi Network.

Organisations interested in obtaining the publications should contact Cindi at 033 345 7994.

juliadd@witness.co.za

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