Shaheda Omar, the director of the Teddy Bear Clinic, and Itumeleng Mamabolo, a clinical psychologist, speak about the challenges facing children who are the victims of domestic violence and femicide
According to Africa Check, a non-profit fact-checking organisation, one woman is murdered by her partner in SA every 8 hours.
Shaheda Omar, who is the director of the Teddy Bear Clinic, revealed that children who are affected by femicide suffer from PTSD ( Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) which manifests in different ways. The child is at risk of depression, aggression, anxiety as well as a sense of isolation..
“You would, for example, find them having startle responses, avoidance of situations or settings that would remind them of the trauma as well as avoidance of certain individuals. They would also be plagued by intrusive symptoms, such as recurrent flashbacks and nightmares.”
The child may also lose interest in things they used to enjoy as well as doing poorly at school. They may also have an ‘ excessive fear without sometimes being able to identify where that source of fear is coming from’.
The director also added that it is not uncommon for the child to suffer from psychosomatic symptoms.
“There would maybe be unexplained headaches or stomach aches. When a child is being attended to by a medical doctor and there isn’t a medical diagnosis for that physical complaint. But if one goes and unpacks it with a psychiatrist or psychologist, it makes perfect sense why the child is presenting with these kinds of symptoms.”
Along with these symptoms children also suffer from social withdrawal and isolation which comes from a ‘sense of hopelessness and helplessness’. But these are actually a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.
Omar went on to reveal that males and females react differently in this situations.
“Generally, males externalize it, while females internalize,” she explained.
Itumeleng Mamabolo, a clinical psychologist, says that the situation is complicated for kids who are affected by femicide, as the often find it hard to open up about what happened. The psychologist explain that, in general, the child feels that the parents are a reflection of themselves and feel a great shame for something they were actually not responsible for.
Omar agreed with this, saying that the child takes on a huge responsibility. As a result of this when something doesn’t work out, either in the family or home situation, they feel responsible.
Omar went on to say that children who had been exposed to violence often repeat their experience, either by becoming a victim or a perpetrator of violence.
However both individuals feel that social media campaigns as well as awareness-raising initiatives are providing some relief. People are becoming more and more aware that not all relationships work like that.
Opportunities are being created for children to react differently and giving them power to change their situations.
“It’s about the availability of resources both internally and externally. It’s about what support structures they have, and what access they have to support that would make an impact and shift the trajectory of that child.”
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