Nirengi Association (Nirengi Derneği) aims to prevent child abuse, peer bullying, and dating violence with a systematic, holistic and multidisciplinary understanding and to contribute to their solution with applicable policy recommendations. The association received a grant from our Children’s Fund to implement the Helpline Against Child Abuse project which aimed to provide psychosocial and legal support to abused children and their caregivers.
Read below our interview:
Can you tell us about the different types and symptoms of child abuse?
The childhood period, covering the 0-18 age range, is when people are most prone to development and learning. However, it is also when we are most vulnerable to physical, emotional, and social risks, and to other children, and adults. Abuse can be physical, emotional, economic, and sexual. In some cases, these occur together and sometimes appear as separate phenomena. The characteristics of different types of abuse are below:
- Physical abuse is the non-accidental physical harm to the child and disruption of his/her bodily integrity. Examples of physical abuse include slapping, punching or kicking, biting, burning, pulling hair and ears, shaking the child, harming the child with certain objects (knife, belt, etc.), and throwing objects at the child.
- Emotional abuse is any behaviour that harms the emotional integrity and personality development of the child, depriving the child of the attention, love, and care that he/she needs.
- Sexual abuse is the use of a child by an adult or sexually mature adolescent for sexual stimulation and gratification. Examples of non-contact sexual abuse include verbal harassment, voyeurism, exhibitionism, showing pornographic photos/videos, taking sexually explicit photos/videos of the child, or using them for pornographic purposes. Sexual abuse involving contact includes sexual touching/any behaviour involving contact with private parts, sexual exploitation through pornography and prostitution, and rape.
- Economic abuse is the employment of children in jobs that hinder their development and violate their rights. It is the exploitation of child labour. It is forbidden to employ children who have not completed primary education and have not reached the age of 14.
Although there are positive achievements in terms of these boundary-setting concepts of consent and bodily autonomy, there is still much to be done.
The following are some examples of the symptoms that teachers/social workers/parents and caregivers can notice:
- Feelings of extreme sadness, worthlessness, loss of energy, reluctance
- Self-harming, suicidal thoughts and/or attempts, or making plans to exhibit these behaviours
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (anxiety, panic, guilt, embarrassment, hypervigilance, etc.)
- Not being able to focus and maintain attention, experiencing learning difficulties
- Excessive or no sleep
- Eating disorders
- Having obsessive thoughts about weight/body appearance, bulimia, excessive sports, and drug use for weight control
- Dissociative disorders (forgetfulness, memory loss, excessive daydreaming, disconnection from the moment)
- Alcohol or drug/substance addiction, smoking
- Tendency to commit crimes, increase in risky behaviour
Do you think children and their caregivers in Turkey have awareness and knowledge about concepts such as consent and bodily autonomy? What is being done to prevent child abuse?
Although there are positive achievements in terms of these boundary-setting concepts of consent and bodily autonomy, there is still much to be done. The theoretical background of our work in child protection is based on the socio-ecology model. According to this model, the child is in the central core ring, the school and family are just above this ring, the society in the surrounding ring, institutions and organisations in the next ring, and policies and laws are in the last ring. We carry out our work in the field of child protection under three main headings: protective-preventive activities, monitoring and evaluation, and intervention activities to strengthen these five rings and provide holistic protection.
By organising the trainings Stop Child Abuse Before It’s Too Late, and Positive Youth Development, which include the topics of consent, bodily autonomy, and awareness of personal space, we meet with professionals working in the field of education and social work, caregivers, and anyone interested in the field. Until the end of 2021, we have delivered these trainings to more than 15,000 people. In addition, we continue to produce informative content and share it on social media. You can reach our content on our website, Youtube and Instagram accounts. Our advocacy activities and policy reports also contribute to the strengthening of national and international legislation with a child protection perspective.
The protection of children against all forms of violence is a fundamental right guaranteed by international human rights treaties and standards.
You have completed the Helpline Against Child Abuse project, which you implemented with our grant support. Can you tell us about the purpose and activities of the project?
The protection of children against all forms of violence is a fundamental right guaranteed by international human rights treaties and standards. Yet violence remains an all too real part of life, with immediate and long-term consequences for children, regardless of their economic and social status, culture, religion, or ethnicity.
In Turkey, there is no systematic mechanism that provides both legal and psychosocial support to children exposed to violence and their caregivers. They need counselling on where and how to apply for legal and psychosocial support, and how the process will continue. In addition, the need for psychosocial support becomes very evident to empower the children and their families to stand firm against the difficulties they face, especially in the judicial process.
We believe that the sooner legal and psychosocial support can be provided to a child and the caregiver, the more it is possible to minimise the damage to the child’s physical and mental integrity. This way, it will be possible to remedy the negative effects of abuse and break the cycle of violence. In this context, we established the Helpline Against Child Abuse, which is the only helpline in Turkey where both legal counselling and psychosocial support are offered simultaneously and free of charge.
With this grant support, we provided free counselling to 20 abused children and their caregivers. We produced and disseminated various informational content to create awareness in society about child abuse and violence. We also promoted the helpline in media (newspaper, radio, social media, etc.) to inform all children and caregivers.
We believe that the sooner legal and psychosocial support can be provided to a child and the caregiver, the more it is possible to minimise the damage to the child’s physical and mental integrity.
How has the grant provided by the Children’s Fund supported your association and your work? Is there a message you would like to share with our donors?
The grant support contributed to the visibility of our work on child protection and the design and implementation of a replicable helpline for abused children and their caregivers. We increased public interest in combating child abuse. We also improved the capacity of our staff to assess changing conditions and needs and to develop a multi-sectoral referral mechanism.
First, we would like to thank the donors of the Fund for enabling us to reach 20 abused children and their caregivers. We believe that there is a gap in children’s and their caregivers’ access to justice, psychological support and other services. As an association that proposes a viable model to fill these gaps, we need financial support. Therefore, we hope to receive donor support to continue providing the services we offer as part of the project.
About Nirengi Association
Nirengi Association aims to prevent child abuse, peer bullying and violence with a systematic, holistic and multidisciplinary approach and to contribute to the solution of these problems with applicable policy recommendations. The association has developed a school-based model that includes protection-prevention, notification, intervention and treatment stages, and aims to incorporate this model into the national education system to achieve a sustainable solution.