Abuse ‘seriously damages’ children

2015-05-26 06:00

The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children has raised the alarm around escalating levels of violence against children.

The Centre attributes the higher levels of violence to an increase in violence in general, with children being caught in the crosswire – be it gang-related or domestic violence.

“Despite all of the awareness raised, at least three children that we know of have gone missing over the past two weeks. The system is broken and sadly children, our most vulnerable members of society, are easy targets for predators,” says Shaheema McLeod, director of the Centre.

MotivateUsing Child Protection Week, which is this week, the Centre launched an anonymous postcard campaign, aimed at exploring the motivation for violence. The campaign, named “I deserve it”, tasked 600 Grade 10 pupils to describe the circumstances that would warrant domestic violence. Responses varied, from the unacceptability of violence, no matter the situation, to violence being deserved when dinner wasn’t ready or an expected (but unconfirmed) affair had taken place.

McLeod says they are not surprised by the findings of the campaign. She says often there is a disconnect between what people know to be wrong and how they behave.

“Our findings revealed that regardless of the community and the school, the pupil responses very much depended on the environment in which the child had been raised.”

Stories of child abuse are commonplace in South Africa; one out of four children are abused daily and it has been estimated that a child goes missing every five hours. Despite the country’s child protection laws, policies and programmes, high levels of abuse and violence are reported on a daily basis.

Damage“Children are not only affected when they themselves are the victims of violence – exposure to violence, for example towards the mother, can be seriously damaging to their emotional psyche,” says Zeenat Osman, child counsellor at the Centre.

“Children who have witnessed domestic violence may experience a variety of emotions ranging from guilt to helplessness, which in turn can lead to behavioural problems or social difficulties. The postcard campaign was very insightful in this regard; it provided an opportunity to explore the ramifications of violence through an anonymous platform.”

Help for abuseGrade 10 pupils from Sea Point High School, Leadership College, Gugulethu Comprehensive Secondary School and Norman Henshilwood High School took part in the postcard campaign.

Established in Manenberg in 1999, the Centre helps victims of violence and abuse.

Typical problems faced by the children who visit the Centre include abuse, neglect, displacement and behavioural problems

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