1.1 Traumatic experiences
As a result of her mother’s commitment to her marriage, Tina may experience a wide range of traumatic experiences. As a teenage girl she is predisposed to being violated by the ‘step’ male relatives that she’s living with. In this sense, she faces emotional, physical and psychological abuse at the hands of extended family (Finkerlhor & Browne; 1985). The type of foreseen traumatic experiences is mostly aggravated by Tina’s profile and situation in the family.
Being a step daughter, whose mother constantly wants to make an effort to embrace the union places her in a disadvantaged angle where either one of her step family members may find her either as a threat or an accessory that can be utilised to his advantage. Looking at this scenario, one cannot rule out the huge possibility being of a sexual nature, this is due to the contemporary social behaviour within family units, where children have become ‘accessories’ to utilise for adults pleasure.
Tina’s mother and her new union could be the beginning of Tina’s worst nightmare. A chain of traumatic events could arise from just one form of abuse, for arguments sake let’s take sexual abuse and unpack it to its worst possible chain of events. After being sexually abused by either one of her step family members, Tina’s could contract a sexually transmitted disease; she could fall pregnant and maybe be forced to go through an abortion because of fear of stigma and lack of support from her mother and extended family. Alternatively, Tina could end up deciding to commit suicide due to
feeling trapped, alone and depressed.
1.2.1 Effects of Child Abuse
Child abuse has been conceptualised by a lot of scholars in various ways, this has either distorted or diminished the intensity of its effects in children. I feel that how one conceptualises child abuse should capture the exact effects and aggravated meaning it holds for its sufferers. This is a broad concept that when narrowed gives birth to various other concepts that encompass children’s victimization. Hence, for the purpose of Tina’s case, I have adopted the meaning that was captured in a study conducted within the Nigerian region. This not only gives Tina’s story relevance but it also engages with the same factors that affect an African teenager within the boundaries of a family unit is subjected to. Hence Akhilomen sees child abuse as ‘an intentional or neglectful physical or emotional injury imposed on a child’ (2006).
As mentioned above, Tina could be perceived as a threat or an outsider by either one of her ‘step’ family members and that could lead to emotional and physical abuse such as neglect, she could be rejected and side-lined by her family members. As culture dictates, women are expected to leave their ‘a bustard” child with their families when they start new families, Tina is then automatically subjected to such unspoken discrimination within the family. She may be at a disadvantage of favourism of the brother because he is the husband’s son; this making it an emotional injury and also the possibility of verbal and physical abuse arises.
Children who suffer abuse within families are said to show certain behavioural traits in society or any other groups they were initially involved in before the abuse. Suffering from the above-mentioned forms of abuse could raise feelings of sadness, anger, betrayal, unworthiness and children will soon be withdrawn from social scene (Finkerlhor & Browne; 1985).
1.2.2 Effects of Sexual abuse
“The National Centre on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN) describes sexual abuse as contacts or interactions between a child and an adult when the child is being used for the sexual stimulation of the adult” (Kempe & Kempe; 1987 in Schoeman; 2013: 63). This conceptualisation finds relevance in Tina’s case as she is used for her step brother’s stimulation and benefit for sexual pleasure.
Sexual abuse has four traumatic impacts in a child’s life; these are discussed from a clinical and socio-cultural view. Finkelhor and Browne (1985) came up with a conceptualization that could be used in research and treatment of sexual abuse victims. This is targeting people in pastoral roles away from the family unit where children are exposed to these stressors; in this case Tina confiding in her teacher is the first step to acknowledging teachers as social activists.
These are labelled as the four traumagenic dynamics and they are impacts that alter children’s cognitive and emotional orientation to the world and create trauma by distorting children’s self-concept, world view and effective capacities (1985).
• Traumatic sexualisation
Refers to a process in which a child’s sexuality is shaped in a developmentally inappropriate and interpersonally dysfunctional fashion as a result of sexual abuse. This stage consists of feelings towards the offender; it affects the ‘trust’ aspect of the relationship as this case is an intra-familial encounter. This is where more behavioural signs are seen, Tina will feel a disruption in her normal mental functioning. She will seem sad, confused and eventually she will withdraw from her ‘normal’ self. This is the first sign that people close to her will be able to notice a disruption in her life.
Powerlessness impairs a child sense of efficacy, a reaction to this stage will be fear and anxiety and total loss of control in situations that resemble the abuse (Finkerlhor & Browne; 1985) & (Schoeman; 2012-2014). As noted in the scenario, Tina already feels like going back home is like being
in a trapped hole where she has no control over what happens to her. She fears for her life, she feels more like an object to her brother than a family member
This refers to a stage in a victim’s life where a number of reactions are noted, during this stage, they suffer feelings of grief and depression. This is coupled with feelings of hostility and anger in young girls of Tina’s age. Distrust may manifest itself in isolation and fear and resentment of males which at a later stage affects their ability to engage in healthy heterosexual relationships (Finkerlhor & Browne; 1985). Tina’s feelings towards her mother; as the person that subjected her to this; she feels
Lastly, given the feelings her mother has towards Tina and their previous experience with her father, Tina will most definitely be stigmatised by the family and initially her mother as she has dismissed her attempts to report the case. This will affect Tina’s ability to trust and depend on her mother as she has deliberately failed to protect her (Schoeman; 2012-2014). She will have feelings of resentment towards her mother as she will feel she subjected her to this; by constantly forcing her to make effort to accept her new family.
This is validated by my initial statement about cultural expectations with bustard children; Tina will not get support from anyone in her circle of family as her mother will be accused of bringing this misfortune to herself. These negative connotations will not only affect the mother but Tina as well as these feelings are associated with suicide attempts and other self-destruction behaviours.
1.3 Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs
Fig 1.3.1 [pic]
• Safety Needs
Tina’s sexual abuse has distorted her normal view and perception of the world and the people in it. This has ‘burst her safety bubble’ she no longer feels safe in anyone’s company because her mother, being the one person to protect her has failed to do so. This has crashed her emotional and psychological link to the mother and world she looks up to.
Feelings of powerlessness and betrayal have left her feeling that she does not belong anywhere in the world. People whose love needs have been destroyed lose their sense of being worthy and belonging to society and hence the sky rocketing statistics of suicide amongst teenagers of Tina’s age (McLeod; 2007).
Tina may feel that her mother’s pressure to make an effort to the family has caused her all this pain and trauma and she may conclude that she does not love her or she chooses her new family instead of her. This eventually leads to rejection and feelings of worthlessness. This will affect her ability to engage in healthy heterosexual intimate relationships as she grows older, her ability to establish and maintain friendships will also be affected as she loses trust in people.
• Esteem Needs
A child whose esteem needs have been destroyed will find difficulty perceiving herself as a normal worthy and valued individual. It affects person from obtaining a higher level of self-esteem or self-respect (McLeod; 2007).Children who are sexually abused usually turn to worse measures to deal with the inadequacy they feel inside.
2.1 Counselling versus Support for Learning Problems
Defined as a facilitative process where the counsellor uses specific skills to help young people help themselves more effectively (Gillis; 1997). This facilitative process entails giving ‘common sense’ advice and it extends the teacher-learner, parent-child relationship. Counselling is a more emotional than logical process of problem solving, in this sense, the counsellor has to be more aware of the children’s’ perspective of things and be able to come up with an interactive plan to help that child cope and solve the problem at hand. Counselling provides the child with a chance for growth and change. In this instance, Tina needs her teachers, peer educators and mostly her mother to help her find a way to address and deal with the abuse in her life.
• Counselling versus Learning Problem
Learning problems refer to the difficulty faced by children in partaking to academic/educational activities. These may be unpacked as limitations to comprehension of study content as well as reading and writing (Schoeman; 2012-14). This is characterised by the inability to engage in class activities or carry out academic tasks like other children, these are then regarded as learning problems which; given the availability of professional help, the teachers may have to intervene and help.
Counselling is a facilitative process where the counsellor uses specific skills to help young people help themselves more effectively (Gillis; 1997). This facilitative process entails giving ‘common sense’ advice and it extends the teacher-learner, parent-child relationship. Counselling is a more emotional than logical process of problem solving, in this sense, the counsellor has to be more aware of the children’s’ perspective of things and be able to come up with an interactive plan to help that child cope and solve the problem at hand.
➢ Order/Method of Practice
The approach or method of addressing these two roles differs regarding the needs of the child as well expectation of performance from the person in the pastoral role.
Counselling entails the use of emotional relations into facilitation to helping the children become better problem solvers. There are certain skills that are required from the person who takes on the counselling role. This then dictates the order or manner in which the counsellor can create a condusive environment for the children. In these one may include the categories for counselling responses. These are namely; evaluating, interpreting, supporting/reassuring, questioning/probing, advice, communication, verbal and non-verbal responses and silence. These are all broken down to give a scope of the ‘know how’ of counselling.
Learning support is a different ball game when it comes to going about it. Here the teacher has to take into consideration the state of being of the child, have full understanding of the problem and its dynamics. Schoeman (2012-2014) provides a list of guidelines that teachers are to follow in order to effectively assist children with learning problems. These guidelines are as follows: keep sessions short, meet regularly with the learner, sessions should be highly structured, keep anxiety levels at minimum, focus on specific issues being addressed and keep morale high.
2.2 Trauma and its Effects on Tina’s life
Trauma implies intense emotional wounding that may comprise of bodily wounds, it entails the wounding of a person’s emotion, spirit, will to live, beliefs about themselves and the world, dignity and sense of security (Matsakis; 1996 in Schoeman; 2012-2014). It refers to “any negative event that causes an individual to re-experience an earlier traumatic event so that the current event somehow becomes as traumatic as, or at least strongly reminiscent of, the earlier event must itself be regarded as traumatic” (Urman, Funk & Elliot; 2001:403-4).
The trauma suffered by Tina is unpacked to various stages of response and
feelings, amongst these, one has noticed recurring processes as to those described for the purposes of sexual abuse, and as a result, this section will only address the retaliation feelings from Tina. In this sense, Tina’s story will be addressed according to Lewis’ three traumatic phases of response (1995:15-16). These are namely the impact phase, the recoil phase and the re-integration phase.
• Impact Phase
This stage can last from a few seconds to days immediately after the trauma, Matsakis continues to state that the victim may appear emotionally disorientated, confused irrational and disorganised (1996:34-5). At this point Tina will need comfort and reassurance from her adult figures and pastoral actors such as her teachers. At this stage assurance, comfort and love are the key things she needs from people around her.
• Recoil Phase
According to Lewis, this is the reality phase (1995:15). Tina will experience feelings of sadness, guilt and anger. At this point in her life, Tina will have developed feelings of post-traumatic stress resulting from a constant reminder or reality and flashbacks from her sexual incident.
This phase holds Tina captivated in her own mental and psychological body as she eventually assimilates this horrible experience as part of her life. She however slowly learns to reintegrate herself with people, this is her body’s way of trying to heal and overcome the traumatic experience. Here she will show enthusiasm to reconnect with people the way she did before the trauma (Lewis; 1999:16).
2.3 Parental Involvement versus Parental Counselling
It has been established that children who suffer any form of abuse need the
support of their elderly people to overcome the effects of the traumatic experiences. Amongst the people who can provide this form of support are parents and teachers. As a result it is important to note the angle in which parents can be included in the programs for assisting children.
➢ Parental Counselling
This form of support is addressed to the parents as primary caregivers to the children with learning difficulties. In this support programme parents are taught how to handle and give support to their children as a form of partnership with the teachers in managing the problem a child may be facing. The focal point lies in this form of problem being intrinsic and more emotional for both the parent and child. In some cases parents suffer from ignorance and fail to understand or even identify the problem (Schoeman; 2012-2014). It is in this sense that parental counselling becomes useful.
➢ Parental Involvement
Parental involvement need not only to be for the formal meetings with the school authorities but Schoeman (2012-2014) notes that parents should be involved in all that involves their children within the school. Amongst these activities; school learning and intervention programmes, they should be involved in teaching their children in particular skills that can be useful to their development. Their involvement in cultural and sport activities not only benefits the child but the entire school benefits from an involved parent.
2.4 Tina’s Intervention
It is important for school teachers to be familiar with the mandated reporting laws and know to what agency they should report suspected sexual abuse (most often, Child Protective Services). To prevent Tina from feeling betrayed after she has confided sexual abuse, teachers must first get approval from the child to get the authorities and other institutions involved to resolve the matter.
Remedial intervention comprises of six principles of practice (Schoeman; 2012-2014). In these the teacher will have to design a detailed and proper planned learning strategy for Tina. Tina needs patience as a result; I find it relevant to employ attention to basic skill, motivation and evaluation principles into practice. In this I feel helping Tina will require more time in between school breaks and maybe after classes to establish a proper workable strategy for individual treatment.
The first step to reporting this incident will be to alert the school support system and the governing body of this situation. This will happen with Tina’s consent. The school governing body and committee will then summon Tina’s mother to school to make her aware of the problem as well as of Tina’s attempts to report the abuse. After this meeting, a decision to further report the police will be tabled and a decision will be reached to act in the benefit of the victim. After the formalities have been dealt with, Tina and her mother will be taken to a community wellness centre for children and get counselling as they have to get help with living beyond this abuse. Tina will continue to get remedial treatment in class until she shows signs of reintegration.
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