April is Child Abuse Prevention month. This is the month to raise awareness about preventing child abuse and neglect, take action to help children grow up safe, healthy and strong.
A child being mentally healthy means reaching developmental and emotional landmarks, learning healthy social skills and how to problem-solve. Mentally healthy children have a higher quality of life and function well at home, school and in the community. In Kenya, on average, four people take their lives daily due to mental-health issues.
Gender Based Violence is any harm or suffering perpetrated against a woman or girl, man or boy that harms a person’s physical, sexual or psychological health, development, or identity. The cause of the violence is gender-based power inequalities and gender-based discrimination.
“By developing a contaminated, stigmatized identity, the child victim takes the evil of the abuser into himself/herself and thereby preserves their primary attachments to their parents. Because the inner sense of wickedness preserves a relationship, it is not readily given up even after the abuse has stopped; rather, it becomes a stable part of the child’s personality structure,” says Judith Lewis Herman.
Gender-Based Violence (GBV) can have a profound and life-long impact on the mental health of child survivors who are at increased risk of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Children exposed to violence and abuse are at risk of experiencing and executing violence as adults. Child exposure to violence and growing up in a toxic environment deprives them of developing to their full potential. Children often become desensitized to suffering and may resort to violence as coping mechanism.
It is important to remember that all forms of gender-based violence violate the rights of a child. Growing up in such an environment affects them when they become adults, which affects society as a whole as it ends up being a cycle. Researchers recognize the generational cycle of violence and the relationship between traumatic exposures in childhood and perpetuating violence later in life.
Impact Of Child Abuse On Their education
Education is critical in empowering and transforming the lives of young people, yet widespread gender-based violence (GBV) in and around schools seriously undermines the achievement of high-quality, inclusive, and equitable education for all children. The 2019 Kenya Violence against Children Survey (VACS) found that 49% of girls and 48% of boys aged 13–17 years had experienced physical violence, and 11% of girls and 4% of boys indicated that they had experienced sexual violence.
Studies also show that even school pupils who were not the direct victims of violence appeared to have been affected by an atmosphere that undermines their learning and safety. Many children’s performance at school may suffer due to GBV distress, potentially leading them to stay away from school altogether.
The GBV consequences influence developmental-impacts on young children, spreading negativity
and harmful impacts on their education. The result of violence shows adverse impacts indirectly and directly on students’ health and their education. Anti-social and fearful behavior develop during domestic violence when children protect their mother during this action, so they develop low performance in school and decreased cognitive function due to all these factors.
Their attitude and behavior toward their peers become more aggressive, and people exposed during this violent experience are more aggressive and cruel in their personalities. Their academic performance is poorly affected, and they mentally remain disturbed. All these factors lose children’s confidence and put their educational condition at high risk.
Ending gender-based violence requires critical services for children that allow them to seek refuge, heal from trauma, and rebuild their lives. It also requires ongoing advocacy and education to help families get the support they need and stop the cycles of violence – sometimes before it starts.
Leading the fight against child abuse; gender-based violence is incredible organizations like St. Jerome’s Centre, Childline Kenya, Save the children, UNICEF that offer counseling, support, safe shelter, education, and much more. These services are vital for children to not only survive but thrive.
It’s for this cause that St. Jerome’s Centre is organizing a three-day fund drive to help create awareness in the fight against child abuse and neglect. The money raised is to improve the facility by building a vocational school, help support children’s medical care and attention, and facilitate rescue outreaches and rehabilitation. The fund walk is a sign to help better the lives of these children and the more to come in the future while supporting the overall mission & vision of St. Jerome’s Centre.
Click here for further information about the fund drive.