Family For Every Child have been supporting young people affected by sexual abuse to campaign for better prevention and recovery programmes. But this work hasn’t only helped them to make themselves heard – it has also provided an opportunity to heal from trauma.
In many countries around the world, child sexual abuse continues to be an issue that needs addressing. Governments play a major role in this, and their performance is assessed by the ‘Out of the Shadows Index’ – or ‘OOSI’ – which is published every year. The index examines how stakeholders are preventing and responding to child sexual exploitation and abuse in 60 countries. It was developed by Economist Impact, is funded by the Oak Foundation, and implemented by Ignite Philanthropy; and analyses government performance in a range of areas such as legislation, support services and the justice process. In the last year, Family for Every Child was supported by OOSI to undertake a small project to tackle this complex issue. The work focused on how we can improve protection from and response to childhood sexual abuse, by engaging young people in the process.
Making the invisible, visible
The project has enabled us to strengthen previous work on caring for boys affected by sexual violence with our member organisations in five countries in Latin America – Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Paraguay and Brazil. One such organisation is Taller de Vida, who provide developmental and psychosocial support to children and young people in Colombia – a country where it is estimated that a child is sexually abused every 30 minutes. “It is essential to make the situation visible,” says Hector, a team member involved in the work, “Boys don’t speak out because of social, cultural and political factors.”
The team worked with a group of young people who were able to outline what would help to create a safe environment in which they could share openly, and to talk about the psychological support they might need. This initial phase was followed up with several days of creative workshops, through which the group used discussion, photography, and music to express themselves and develop campaign material. The results were showcased in an exhibition, attended by a number of invitees, including representatives of the police force, teachers and government officials.
By providing a supportive space in which sexual abuse could be discussed, the project has helped these young survivors to overcome feelings of stigma and discrimination, enabling them to play a part in building a better future for other young people by influencing government policy. Yeifer, one of the project participants, said, “We are trying to communicate a message to people – one that makes an impact and creates change.”
Help to heal
At Family for Every Child, we believe that working with children so they can fully participate in calling for positive change is valuable in lots of different ways. As well as playing a role in making change happen, the experience can also help in processing trauma. As team member Pedro says, “Through these creative processes, young people can really heal.”
Learn more about Taller de Vida, our member organisation in Colombia, over here. You can also learn about our annual day that raises awareness of sexual violence affecting boys at blueumbrelladay.org.
Photograph taken by one of the Out Of The Shadow participants.