Children’s voice in Sexual Violence Research and Programming: For how long will they remain silent?

[Photo: Carol Ajema]

To follow is the SVRI Forum 2017 Blog Series – Perspectives from participants

Carol Ajema and Nelly Muturi (LVCT Heath)

Nearly 1 in 5 girls (approximately 20%) are sexually abused at least once in their life globally. Child sexual abuse remains a pressing public health concern in Kenya with three out of every ten women and nearly two out of every ten men aged 18-24 years having reported at least one experience of sexual violence prior to the of age 18 years.  Child survivors constitute over 60% of sexual violence cases reported in Kenyan public health facilities.

Several program initiatives have been rolled out globally respond to the needs of child survivors, in addition to research studies that seek to understand the impact of child sexual violence on children. However, very few of these programs and research interventions involve the children in project design and implementation.  

For how long shall we continue to exclude children and infringe on their right to be heard?

As rightfully put by Brisa De Angulo, a survivor of child sexual abuse attending the #SVRIForum2017, child sexual violence cannot be addressed effectively without establishing the needs of these children. Brisa clearly explained the difficulties child survivors of sexual violence face. “Going through this trauma was horrible, but going through the process of trying to seek help was even more horrible.”

During the SVRI Forum 2017 held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 18th to 21st September 2017, LVCT Health shared an innovative approach to responding to the health needs of child survivors of sexual violence developed as part of a research study. Child survivors of sexual violence involved in this study indicated their displeasure with the health facility set up and provider attitudes in responding to their needs (Available at:  http://bit.ly/2w6yWUx). The involvement of children in this study informed development of child- friendly literacy materials for child survivors in Kenya.

Moving forward...

For stakeholders to effectively and holistically prevent and/or respond to child sexual violence, the following critical considerations should be adhered to:

  • Response to children who have been sexually abused ought be child led & should give them choice, control and safety
  • We need to give child survivors a voice to be ambassadors in the fight against sexual violence; 'Nothing about Us, Without Us!’
  • We can no longer continue doing research or implement programs to address needs of child survivors of sexual violence without capturing their voices. “Children understand their needs best!”
  • It is important to ask survivors what they want, and what works for them
  • Child involvement in design of research and intervention programmes for sexual violence is critical
  • We must invest in addressing the health system gaps to address programming for sexual violence especially for children

#BeingHeard

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