The number of traumatised children and families within the economically disadvantaged Knysna Community has reached alarming proportions. Alcohol and drug abuse, exposure to violence (domestic and community), illness, poverty and lack of male role models often result in families who struggle to take adequate care of their children. In addition, children are increasingly exposed to pornographic and violent material via cell phones, dvd’s and internet, leading to desensitisation. The result is high levels of trauma in children caused by abuse (rape, sexual molestation, physical abuse and neglect), bereavement and exposure to violence within the home and community. Many children who are abused themselves become abusers if not given therapy.
After working in the communities for many years, it was evident that the traumatised children are often not adequately assisted by their families (which can lead to secondary trauma). Many parents do not have the skills or emotional knowledge to support and Heal their traumatised children and community support is usually lacking. Parents themselves may have experienced trauma which has not yet been resolved. It is therefore essential to work with both traumatised children and their families in order to Optimise outcomes.
The problem is exacerbated by a lack of resources which could potentially help traumatised children and their families. Welfare organisations are over-extended and many of these children therefore do not receive the assistance that is necessary. The HERO team recognised the need in the Knysna community for a professional service for traumatised children and their families and has registered an organisation (NPO No. 98511) to provide this service.