28 June 2005 – Violence in institutional settings and alternative care

Summary: Presentations on violence in institutional
settings and alternative care.
Hani Jahshan, Physician/Forensic Pathologist and ASPCAN Coordinator,
Jordan, said that the family is often the safe place for all its members, big
and small, male and female. But some families face challenges such as
violence, disintegration, etc., and the first victim is the child. The child will
be pushed to the streets, into social care centers, or other institutions.
The definition of institutions within the settings of the study include:
hospitals, mental institutions, daycare centres, suspension and detention
centres, courts, refugee camps, centers for separated children, camping,
military camps, and alternative families.

The magnitude of violence is not well known as there is little evidence, and
institutions are often isolated places. According to the concluding remarks
of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, there is a big gap in policies
and mechanisms in dealing with children in institutions, children are
suffering from physical and sexual exploitation, staff sometimes play a role
in prostitution. The CRC also commented that children are put in detention
with adults, there are no juvenile courts, girls are sometimes being
detained with boys, there is no training for social workers, police, and
medical staff, and there is an absence of independent and clear
mechanisms for children to report their cases.

Other remarks by the Committee include the fact that capital punishment is
still widespread in the Arab region, including for children. Children are
frequently tortured, isolated, or kept locked up for long periods of time.
Most countries place juvenile penalty on children under the age of 7.

The treatment of disabled children is appalling as well, and sometimes
even legalised such as electrocuting children with mental illnesses to
exorcise them.

Mohamed Adib Essali, President or Syrian Arab Association of Psychiatrists
explained that there was little research available on the psychological
impacts of violence on children, however some research had been done in
Syria, which did not necessarily focus on violence in institutions, but
general consequences of violence against children.

Psychological repercussions to violence include: fear, anxiety, sleep
disorder, aggression, social disorder, low self esteem. He explained that in
some cases, repercussions are moderate, and with appropriate therapy
they could be treated, however, sometimes they are severe and need
hospitalisation or even lead to death.

Consequences of physical abuse: children become moody, or difficult to
deal with, resulting in parents pursuing beating the child regularly, leading
to long term damage, may lead to learning difficulties, high instance of
juvenile delinquency, rebelling against parental authority.

Consequences of neglect: the child feels helpless, passive, failure to
thrive, hard to cope, lacking problem-solving skills, language inabilities,
aggression, delinquency.

Sexual abuse make up 20 per cent of reported cases, but reported cases
are few compared to the actual size. The cases reported are only the tip of
the iceberg.


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