Child survivors of sexual violence
According to UNOCHA during the last civil conflict in Liberia, local media reported on a massive increase of sexual violence. Of the 658 rape survivors, nearly 50 per cent were between 5 and 12 years of age. In 90 per cent of the cases involving children, the perpetrator was someone known to the victim. This situation, we know, is not unique for Liberia.
In our work on and piloting of the training manual “Mental health and gender-based violence Helping survivors of sexual violence in conflict” we have been asked several times about how to approach child survivors of sexual violence. The manual we have developed refers primarily to women and girls as victims of sexual violence. However, we know that men and boys are also victims of rape and other sexual violence, what we have observed is that it tends to be especially difficult for them to overcome these experiences, to the point of avoiding in most of the cases, talk about it. In our manual we have introduced a number of bibliographic references related to gender violence that can be used to understand a little better the situation in which men and children are trying to overcome and although in the manual are not developed in detail its own needs, links and bibliographical references included there, can help answer the questions that may arise in relation to such support specifically to them.
When talking to child survivors the use of metaphors may be a useful tool. We have used the metaphor of the butterfly woman in order to speak of the trauma event. With children you might want to use another story where the child is the hero/heroine. The grounding exercises in our manual may also be suitable for older children. For younger children you will find some good grounding exercises here.
Nevertheless we believe this manual is suitable for work with male survivors of gender-based violence as well, provided it is adapted appropriately. But a separate training module would be required for working with children (boys and girls) who survive GBV.
When preparing the manual, we did a desk review study. When doing this we found that there is little written about how to assist, and how to heal children after sexual violence in war and conflict. We have seen that a majority of publications related to this topic is related to sexual violence in close relationships.
The importance now is to focus more clearly on the situation of children survivors of sexual violence in war and conflict, who in addition to sexual violence, usually have endured other traumatic experiences as well, in situations defined by insecurity and lack of basic needs All this may inflict strongly on the short as well as long term consequences of sexual violence.
A large part of the literature concerns children, sexual violation focus on legal protection, legal provision and legal measures. We have here listed a few publications, guidelines and websites that will say more about the mental health aspect and the difference in how children and grownups react to the traumatic experience of sexual violence.
Some of you have received the manual already. For others we would like to invite you to have a closer look at the manual. It can be downloaded directly from the webpage. Please let us know if you are interested in receiving a copy of the manual, free of charge by sending us an e-mail.
Articles, publications and websites that highlight different aspects of children and sexual violence.
- Caring for Child Survivor’s Resources Guidelines for health and psychosocial service providers in humanitarian settings
The Caring for Child Survivors (CCS) of Sexual Abuse Guidelines were developed to respond to the gap in global guidance for health and psychosocial staff providing care and treatment to child survivors of sexual abuse in humanitarian setting. The CCS Guidelines are based on global research and evidenced-based field practice, and bring a much-needed fresh and practical approach to helping child survivors, and their families, recover and heal from the oftentimes devastating impacts of sexual abuse. (International Rescue Committee 2012).
- Mapping of Psychosocial Support forgirls and boys affected by Child Sexual Abuse in Four Countries in South and Central Asia
Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is one of the most serious violations of children’s rights in the South and Central Asian region. The extent of the problem is not known exactly as it is difficult to obtain data on it. However, there are clear indications that the problem is widespread and that it takes place in all spheres of life: families, schools, workplaces, communities etc. It is a well-known fact that sexual abuse has severe consequences for the concerned children and that the violation affects them for the rest of their lives. (Save the children 2003)
- Helping families from war to Peace: trauma – stabilizing Principles for helpers, parents and children.
What are the implications of modern trauma theory for teachers, therapists, community health workers, youth workers and parents to support the healing processes after horrors of war? This article is intended as a translation of modern trauma theory into 10 practical principles for people working with war traumatized refugee families. Complex trauma exposure can be caused by war, and children exposed to complex trauma often experience lifelong problems. (Cecilie Kolflaath Larsen, Judith van der Weele 2011)
- Caring for Kids: What Parents Need to Know about Sexual Abuse
that research has repeatedly shown that child sexual abuse can have a very serious impact on physical and mental health, as well as later sexual adjustment. Depending on the severity of and number of traumas experienced, child sexual abuse can have wide-reaching and long-lasting effects on an individual’s physical and mental health. Sexual abuse also tends to occur in the presence of other forms of child maltreatment and life adversity. (National Child Traumatic Stress Network)
- Treatment for Abused and Neglected Children: Infancy to Age 18
Therapy is the art and science of helping children make sense of their feelings, thoughts, and behavior and learn how to control their behavior and improve interactions with others. It is art because it calls on the therapist’s creativity, intuition, and spontaneity. It is a science because therapy with abused and neglected children is based on theory, research, and clinical studies. The goals that need to be accomplished and the techniques or interventions that help children address and grow beyond the experience of abuse and neglect are gleaned from theory and clinical literature, research, and experience. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
- Exercises for Grounding, Emotional Regulation & Relaxation for children and their parents
Grounding is an important therapeutic approach for handling dissociation or flashbacks, and reducing the symptoms of anxiety and panic. It is important to practice the exercises until the skill becomes automatic and can be called on even during moments of distress. The aim of grounding is to take the survivor out of whatever traumatic moment that is remembered. (National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health)
- The national child traumatic stress network
The kit provides parents and caregivers with tools to help them support children who have been victims of sexual abuse, information on the importance of talking to children and youth about body safety, and guidance on how to respond when children disclose sexual abuse. Also included is advice on how to cope with the shock of intra-familial abuse and with the emotional impact of legal involvement in sexual abuse cases (both in English and in Spanish). (National Child Traumatic Stress Network)
- Qué Es el Abuso y la Negligencia de Menores? Reconociendo los Indicios y los Síntomas
Qué Es el Abuso y la Negligencia de Menores? Reconociendo los Indicios y los Síntomas El primer paso para ayudar a los niños que han sido abusados o descuidados es reconocer los indicios del maltrato de menores. La presencia de un solo indicio no necesariamente significa que haya ocurrido el maltrato en una familia, pero merecen tomarse en cuenta si estos indicios aparecen con frecuencia o en combinación. Esta hoja informativa está diseñada para ayudarle a entender mejor la definición legal de abuso y negligencia de menores, aprender sobre los diferentes tipos de abuso y negligencia y reconocer los indicios y síntomas de abuso y negligencia. También se incluyen recursos sobre el impacto del trauma al bienestar personal.
- Ayudando a Niños y Adolescentes a Superar la Violencia y los Desastres: Que Pueden Hacer los Padres
Los padres y demás miembros de la familia juegan papeles importantes. Ellos ayudan a aquellos niños que experimentan violencia o desastres. Ellos ayudan a los niños a superar el trauma. Ellos ayudan a proteger a los niños de traumas adicionales. Ellos ayudan a los niños a obtener atención médica y asistencia psicológica. Ellos también ayudan a los jóvenes a evitar o superar problemas emocionales. Estos problemas pueden ser resultado de un trauma.