‘Relationships will grow kids’

2017-07-04 06:02

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Relationships hold the key to changing violence against and abuse of children.

This was the message behind a talk given by Claudia Burger, a social worker and programme director of Activists Networking against the Exploitation of Children (Anex), a children’s rights organisation with the aim to combat all forms of exploitation of children such as human trafficking.

She was addressing Fish Hoek residents last Wednesday.

The talk was hosted by the Safe House, which provides a haven for abused women and children in the south peninsula.

Safe House director Kathy Cronje says the talk aimed to address more affluent communities who often turn a blind eye to domestic violence and abuse. She says many of the women seeking help at the Safe House come from more affluent areas.

The talk aimed to build relationships within the community between residents, teachers and neighbourhood watches to encourage them “to start looking after each other and communicate”, adds Cronje.

Burger has worked in a variety of settings, such as the South African National Defence Force, Cape Town Child Welfare Society and Pollsmoor prison and she managed a child and youth care centre for abused girls for nine years.

While managing the centre, Burger realised that punitive behaviour towards these girls would not improve their lives or their view of themselves.

This led her to research trauma. She has since developed her own trauma informed training manual.

At Anex, Burger provides training on human trafficking and trauma. She teaches that people are born to be connected to and be in relationships with others.

“We all need attachment – that is how children learn to connect and self-regulate. If they do not receive that they will always search for that attachment somewhere else and be vulnerable. We need to get back to the basics of relationships and stop letting our children be soothed and comforted by social media. That is where the traffickers are waiting for their next victims,” she says.

Look everywhere to connect“In today’s society we need healthy relationships more than ever. If core strengths are not developed in a baby’s life, life starts as a survival obstacle course at an early stage. Unless we receive secure attachment from even pre-birth, we will search for it in all different places: Relationships, things (such as drugs and food) ... until we find it. Where we find it might not be what we need but might serve a purpose in our lives at that particular point, such as in a trafficking relationship, a substance abuse habit, crime, sexual abuse and domestic ­violence.”

Burger believes relationships are the agents of change in a community.

“We live in a relational-impoverished society today. Our human brains are not made for this modern society.

“All of us need other human beings and connection to fully develop to healthy human beings and therefore for the society to be healthy.”

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