NAMIBIA Demographic Health Survey 2013 (DHS) has indicated that 31,5% of girls aged between 15 and 19 have experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
While other research indicates that one fifth of all learners reported to have been physically forced to have sexual intercourse, one out of every 10 to 14-year-olds has experienced one or more forms of sexual abuse.
According to the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, there is evidence-based tools to prevent violence that all countries should implement to protect the health and well-being of children, but that many have largely ignored.
Half of the world’s children are each year affected by physical, sexual or psychological violence, suffering injuries, disabilities and death because countries have failed to follow established strategies to protect them.
“There is never any excuse for violence against children,” said Dr Ghebreyesus.
This is according to a reported published this month by the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, UNESCO, the Special Representatives of the United Nations Secretary-General on violence against children and the End Violence Partnership in New York.
The reported, titled ‘Global Status on Preventing Violence Against Children 2020,’ is the first of its kind and charters progress in 155 countries against the INSPIRE framework – a set of seven strategies for preventing and responding to violence against children.
The report also signals a clear need in all countries to scale up efforts to implement them.
WHO has noted that while nearly all countries (88%) have key laws in place to protect children against violence, less than half of the countries (47%) said these were being strongly enforced.
In its findings, in 2017, it was noted that around 40,000 children were victims of homicide.
“Violence against children has always been pervasive, and now things could be getting much worse,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, who added that “Lockdowns, school closures and movement restrictions have left too many children stuck with their abusers, without the safe space that school would normally offer. It is urgent to scale up efforts to protect children during these times and beyond, including by designating social service workers as essential and strengthening child helplines.”
Psychological Counsellor, Dr Charleze Beukes, says children who have experienced violence need to undergo counselling, otherwise it is likely that the child will develop post-traumatic stress reactions.
“Unfortunately, children have developed a lack of trust in adults. The sexual trauma may linger long into the child’s adulthood. However, children who have the necessary love and support and effective treatment may recover from the long-term effects,” said Dr Beukes.
Dr Beukes added that children who experience violence are less likely to trust adults, and that the effects of that is that while going through life, will not build meaningful and lasting relationships.
“Family members need to speak up about the rape and address it properly without putting the child to shame. Often times in family, they keep it quiet and the child goes untreated and the perpetrator goes on to the next victim,” said Dr Beukes.
Beukes further noted that children should also feel safe again within their familial environment and through speaking up in the family, the child can learn to trust again.
Supporting the child through such a painful process is absolutely important, she said.
“Many children are quite resilient, and with a combination of effective counselling and support from their parents or caregivers, children can and do recover from such experiences. Children may blame themselves or hold other unrealistic ideas or beliefs about the abuse that need to be corrected,” she advised.
Finally, she noted that parents may also benefit from talking to a professional who can assist them in overcoming the distress naturally associated with discovering that their child has been sexually abused.
“There is increasing evidence that, with support from a caring adult and high-quality treatment, many children and parents effectively recover and may feel stronger and closer as a family in the aftermath of a traumatic experience,” concluded Dr Beukes.