Serving the needs of children and adolescents who have experienced sexual violence

Guest blog post by Marcy Levy, Senior Technical Advisor, JSI Research and Training Institute, Inc

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Responding to the comprehensive needs of children and adolescents who have experienced sexual violence can be daunting. Survey data from eight countries show that approximately one in four girls and one in seven boys experience sexual violence as children.

There is growing consensus on the need for integrated services – clinical, social, and community— and for clear referral pathways between these services to meet the complete needs of the child/adolescent beyond the clinical exam. These linkages are critical to meet the short and long-term medical, psychosocial, safety/protection, legal/justice, and other social needs of children and adolescents who have experienced sexual violence.

However, there is limited global guidance on how a referral system for children and adolescents who have experienced sexual violence should function, and/or what follow-up such a system should include.

How do we respond to something so sensitive that requires multi-sectoral support and funding, in environments that have few resources?

The AIDSFree project developed a new toolkit, Strengthening Linkages between Clinical and Social/Community Services for Children and Adolescents who Have Experienced Sexual Violence: A Companion Guide, which provides inspiration for even the small “next steps” that a program can take to better serve the needs of children, adolescents, and their families.

The full version of the companion guide can be found here. Here are some of the highlights:

The Companion Guide

The companion guide provides a basic framework, examples, resources, and contact information for health providers and managers to:

  • Better understand and facilitate linkages with critical social and community services for comprehensive care of children and adolescents who have experienced sexual violence and exploitation beyond the clinical exam
  • Take additional steps to help children and adolescents receive the information and support they need
  • Contribute to changes in sociocultural norms that perpetuate a culture of violence and silence that can also increase HIV risk and vulnerability.

Among other topics, the Guide:

  • Includes an overview of the minimum services children and adolescents who have experienced sexual violence and exploitation need
  • Describes the major service providers for children and adolescents who have experienced sexual violence and their coordinating roles; offers detailed guidance on setting up a referral pathway and facilitating coordination between communities and facilities
  • Presents program highlights from around the world on efforts to address sexual violence.

Children and adolescents who experience and seek services for care, treatment, and support for sexual violence may enter the system at any number of points: a lower-level health facility, a hospital, a nongovernmental organization office, a police station, a school, a church or mosque, another community point or by reporting a violation to a community leader or traditional court mechanisms.

To ensure that children and adolescents receive the services they need, all stakeholders in this system must coordinate their service provision and should be aware of what resources are available in their communities.

About the author:

Marcy Levy is a senior technical advisor for JSI and the AIDSFree Project. The Strengthening High Impact Interventions for an AIDS-free Generation project is managed by a consortium of partners including JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., Abt Associates Inc., EGPAF, EnCompass, LLC, IMA World Health, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, Jhpiego Corporation, and PATH.

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