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Feature: Teddy Bear Clinic Fights for the Rights of Abused Children
Source: Bua News
Source Date: Thursday, November 25, 2010
Focus: Institution and HR Management
Country: South Africa
Created: Nov 29, 2010

With the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children campaign in full swing, organisations like TTBC are on a mission to have their voices heard about the plight of victims of sexual and physical abuse.

 

TTBC deals with 160 to 200 new cases of suspected abuse every month and according to Errington, their statistics are higher than those of the police, something she attributes to the under reporting of cases by victims.

 

“A lot of our clients do not report cases to the police, mainly because the abuse is based on suspicion and has not yet been confirmed, or because they are unable to recognize the signs of abuse” says Errington, who adds that not being able to recognise abuse is often due to a lack of education and awareness, especially among children.

 

Thirty percent of children throughout the world are either physically or sexually abused, with South Africa following the same trend, says Errington. Two thirds of their clients are girls and only a third are boys.

 

“Girls are more vulnerable than boys,” she says. “Boys are not easily recognisable as abuse victims. They are also brought up in a society where they are not supposed to be victims so the stigma for them is much bigger,” she adds.

 

TTBC supports abused child through the criminal justice system to ensure psychological healing takes place and to ensure that the child is able to fulfill their role as a valuable member of society without the scarring that may perpetuate child abuse in the future. They are able to do this through forensic medical examinations, supportive therapy, forensic evaluations, psychological testing and a court programme for children and parents, for cases that go to court.

 

“We offer a holistic range of services that deal with every aspect of child abuse. We are able to manage all aspects of the case, support the client from every angle,” says Errington. “We are able to prepare them for court  using role plays to try to ease the anxiety and let them know that the outcome is not a reflection of whether we believe them or not.”

 

With the organisation celebrating 25 years of existence in 2011, Errington says they will be advocating for perpetrators to serve a sentence of 25 years to life in prison for severe cases of child abuse.

 

“A lot of variations in sentencing occur in court when abuse cases are heard. Some perpetrators get 6 months and others 12 years for example. So we need to see some consistency.”

 

While South Africa may have an excellent constitution and progressive legislation pertaining to children, Errington says implementing that legislation is a problem.

 

“The problem is the lack of capacity and resources needed in implementing that legislation” she says.

 

“The lack of resources is holding us back at the moment, but there are a number of people in various sectors dedicated to making it work. The Child Justice and Children’s Acts have the child’s best interest at heart, but we need more social workers and probation officers.” 

 

She adds that the 16 Days of Activism provides an excellent platform for organisations to create awareness about the rights of the abused.

 

“Organisations such as ours are advocating 365 days a year, but the campaign provides a good opportunity for us to create awareness and promote the services that we provide. Awareness is definitely raised and it gives NGOs an opportunity to share information about abuse; what it is and how it happens. ”

 

TTBC also conducts outreach programmes, where they give talks to schools and offer training to educators, police, prosecutors, magistrates and other service providers.

 

“When we go to schools and talk to kids about safe and unsafe touches, it is then that they realise that they [are being] abused, they just never knew who to tell and how to disclose,” she explains.

 

According to Errington, abuse can be stopped if caught early.

 

“If we intervene early we can prevent what is happening and we can break the cycle of abuse,” she says. - BuaNews

 

More info:

 

The Teddy Bear Clinic’s primary objective is the implementation of Holistic Child Protection Services including Kids Court Support; Victim Empowerment; Counseling; Forensic Assessments; Support Programme for Abuse Reactive Children; Medical Examinations; Psychological Assessments and Training.

 

Objectives:

Provide services, treatment and support to victims & families affected by child abuse.

·         To assist the child protection network including justice, health, social services, education and SAPS.

·         To prevent further victimisation of children and stop the cycle of abuse.

·         To offer training and conduct research in the field of Child abuse

 

Most of their clients come from families that have either no income or a limited income. To ensure that all children have access to services, the TTBC does not charge for services rendered.

 

Its 2009 statistics show that 73 percent of their clients are black, 17 percent white, eight coloured and two percent are Asian.

 

TTBC is a child centered organization; 90 percent of their clients are 18-years-old and below.

 

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