Violence produces traumatised, desensitised generation - child counsellor

2016-05-26 16:52


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Cape Town - Domestic violence victims are becoming younger by the year, with mothers aged only 16 seeking assistance to escape abusive situations, the Saartjie Baartman Centre said on Thursday.

But the person bearing the brunt of the cruelty is not the only victim, it was pointed out at a panel discussion held as part of Child Protection Week. 

Children were directly and indirectly impacted by violence, both in the home and the surrounding community, said child counsellor Zeenat Osman.

"Exposure to high levels of violence produces a traumatised and often desensitised generation, particularly when children lack the skills and space to process their experiences," she explained.

"Children are expected to concentrate on school work in order to build a better life. This is difficult to achieve when one is wired to be on alert for threats to personal safety, or dealing with intrusive memories of physical and sexual assault."

Learners perpetrating violence

Heideveld Primary principal Rosdien Desai said the behaviour of children in school reflected what they saw in society.

"When a child comes from a background where they experienced violence, they take out their inner anger on other learners and teachers," he said.

"Ninety percent of violence in school is where the perpetrators are learners themselves."

Lisa*, 44, has been living at the Manenberg shelter for the past three months after she fled her emotionally abusive husband. She also spoke at the event on Thursday.

She put up with the torture for almost 20 years until she saw how her home environment was affecting her son and daughter, aged 12 and 11.

Lack of parenting skills

"They saw their father as a role model and were influenced by him. They weren't being children anymore, and they were seeing what he was doing.

"I needed to get help and make them realise that this was not okay. I did not want this type of behaviour to be repeated. The cycle had to stop."

Young, first-time parents often lacked responsible parenting skills, social worker Dorothea Gertse said.

"That mother is inexperienced to deal with the issue of raising a child and protecting him or her from violence. Often when we look at her childhood, we find that those skills were lacking from her own mother, and it has becomes a cycle."

Healthy and positive role models were required, especially in gang-ridden communities, where youngsters often looked up to those who were terrorising their streets, said Manenberg police's Lieutenant Ian Bennett.

"Parents need to remember that a child's first role model is mommy and daddy. Be a positive influence."

*Not her real name.

Read more on:    cape town  |  child abuse  |  human rights

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