Protecting the most vulnerable children of SA

2019-12-04 06:00
photo: sourcedChildren with disabilities are at high risk of becoming victims of abuse.

photo: sourcedChildren with disabilities are at high risk of becoming victims of abuse.

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“CHILDREN with disabilities are at a high risk of becoming victims of abuse due to their vulnerability.”

This is according to the centre manager of the Umvoti Aids Centre, Dumi Magwevana, who said: “It is true children with disabilities face a lot of challenges reporting any form of abuse and it also becomes difficult for them to receive vital services designed to meet their needs.

“Without receiving support, these children suffer long-term after-effects; including post­-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, and an increased risk of victimisation in adulthood.

“As we all know, there are different natures of disability which have different, specific needs, so you will find that if a child is physically challenged (for example is deaf or blind) their mental state is working in most cases.

“Any form of abuse, whether sexual or physical, drastically changes emotions therefore, whether a child is disabled or not disabled, they will never lie about their emotions, sad or happy.”

Magwevana advised the community, caregivers and parents to know their children so they will be able to recognise signs of abuse.

“If a child is showing any signs of sadness or withdrawal from their daily routine, or a parent is suspecting any form of abuse, they should seek professional help. We have to report these suspicions to the professionals or experts in our local institutions — at the Department of Social Development, Department of Health and local NGOs.

“Sadly, in most cases, perpetrators are very close to victims, which makes everything worse but, to anyone who suspects any form of abuse of a child, you must report it. Remember: your child is our child and is a nation’s child,” Magwevana said.

The clinical director of the Teddy Bear Foundation, Shaheda Omar, told the Greytown Gazette that a child with a disability will manifest the same symptoms as a child without a disability.

She said children with disabilities who have been abused often suffer in silence as they are unable to express themselves, adding: “It is important for a primary health care-giver of a child with a disability to be knowledgeable of behavioural changes in a child.

This knowledge will allow them to better identity behavioural changes.

“For example, if a child becomes aggressive, unable to concentrate, not willing to play, and is shouting and screaming — it should raise a red flag that something is wrong because children with disabilities often cannot verbalise what is happening to them.”

Omar said cognitively challenged children are also vulnerable because they “might instinctively know that they are powerless to stop the abuse or to articulate their feelings.”

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