Karabo Mokoena
Content producer
2 minute read
27 Nov 2019
9:30 am

The effects of gender-based violence on children

Karabo Mokoena

As we enter the third day of the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, we must ask how GBV affects our children.

Gender-based violence.

While the country mourns another brutal death of a woman, Precious Ramabulana, who was stabbed 52 times in the ‘safety’ of her own home and 16 Days of Activism is upon us, what type of kids are we raising in this society?

Do we stop and consider the young minds of children that witness this horror?

A lot of mothers are subjected to violence in their homes, and their children are exposed to this and watch their parents being violated. Violence is a traumatic experience not only to the one experiencing it, but also the child witnessing it. Such trauma may lead to psycho-social issues, according to clinical psychologist Anele Siswana.

“This relates directly to how the child will relate to people socially due to the trauma. If this trauma is not managed, children start developing ineffective ways of dealing with social issues.”

Siswana added that children would develop their own ways of dealing with their trauma which were ineffective and toxic. Kids develop unresolved anger and resentment towards the perpetrator. This is why we have a society full of angry young people who are traumatised and don’t even realize it.

Abuse is a vicious cycle. Kids are most likely to repeat the behaviour they have observed. Abusers are breeding other abusers. They either become bullies at school or grow up to be abusive towards their partners as they become adults. Bullies are known to attempt to regain the power that they lose at home. Watching your mother getting beaten is the perfect example of being powerless. Hurting others at school is a way of them trying to get this power back.

Kids cannot thoroughly comprehend the true nature of abuse, its purpose, or its effects. So watching this constantly will normalise this behaviour.

Psychologically and physically, a child’s brain development can be hindered by exposure to violence. Not only does it affect the nervous system, but it also damages the circulatory, reproductive and immune systems of the child. Children can also be affected by abuse cognitively, which may result in them underperforming at school.

Children will also pick up bad and unhealthy habits to cope with the trauma. These are the kids that are most likely to smoke, misuse alcohol, use drugs and engage in unhealthy sexual relationships. Their potential to experience anxiety and other mental health issues is higher.

This is why we need to be the generation that puts an end to this pandemic. Not only is it killing our girls and mothers, but it is also destroying our children and creating a very dark future for them.

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