Shocking new research published in the SA Medical Journal has exposed the physical and emotional violence that children face in intimate relationships at school.
The research, at 41 public schools in Western Cape, surveyed almost 3000 Grade 8 pupils with an average age of 13.65 years. Experts believe the problem is likely to exist at schools throughout the country.
The startling findings include:
• 10% of pupils reported being perpetrators of physical violence against an intimate partner, including hitting, pushing, kicking, choking and burning;
• 15.8% of pupils were victims or survivors of physical intimate-partner violence;
• 5.9% reported forcing an intimate partner to have sex;
• 7.3% reported being victims of sexual intimate-partner violence; and
• More than one in five of the children had to repeat Grade 8.
The findings were particularly “alarming” considering that the mean age of the children questioned was only 13.
Researchers said a higher number of boys admitted perpetrating intimate-partner violence but some had experienced it.
“It is extremely concerning that adolescents this young are experiencing intimate-partner violence,” said Anika Gevers, a clinical psychologist who has been studying the problem for more than eight years.
“There is research to suggest that these experiences during formative relationships might carry through to later relationships and further compound the negative effects.”
A teacher at a Western Cape intermediate school said violent intimate relationships were becoming a “trend”.
He said one 13-year-old girl, who had a relationship with an older man, came from a poor background.
“They started having a relationship.She would come to school with a black eye or bruises on her body,” he said. The girl’s injuries did not shock other pupils because they saw this “every day”.
“Kids are getting into relationships with older guys because they don’t have money.These days kids want cellphones. They are young and do what they want.”
He said some boys start relationships with older girls for “money and status”.
“Boyfriends are much older than [the girls] and expect from them things that they cannot handle, such as a sexual relationship. They [the girls] talk about sexual positions and watching [porn] movies,” he said.
Shaheda Omar, of the Teddy Bear Clinic for abused children, in Johannesburg, said she had noticed a trend of physical assaults.
“Children are sexually active and experimenting and when the victim decides to end the relationship it can lead to physical assault.
“[Violence] becomes assimilated into a repertoire of behaviour. Victims become perpetrators.”
Gevers said a number of factors fuelled the problem, including emotional abuse and neglect during childhood, as well as witnessing domestic violence at home, which made intimate-partner violence “part of a cycle of violence”.
“This constant exposure to and living with violence means that people begin to see it as normal and as a legitimate way to deal with conflict or arguments or dissatisfaction,” said Gevers.
YOUNG PEOPLE AT RISK FROM UNSAFE SEX
A worldwide study into adolescent health says the fastest-growing risk factor for people aged 10 to 24 is unsafe sex.
A report published last week by The Lancet said two-thirds of young people were growing up in countries where preventable and treatable health problems were threatening their wellbeing.
These included HIV/Aids, early pregnancy, unsafe sex, depression, injury and violence. Other problems young people face are obesity, mental health disorders, high unemployment and the risk of radicalisation.
The report said the findings should be a wake-up call about the plight of 1.8billion adolescents worldwide.
“The single best investment we can make is guaranteeing access to free, quality secondary education,” said lead author Professor George Patton. – Staff reporter
Source: Times Live