By Staff Reports
(DGIwire) — For many of us, the word “family” conjures up feelings of safety and stability, images of warm meals and holiday celebrations, and feeling supported during hard times. And while even the happiest of families may experience their fair share of conflict, if there’s a strong bond, reconciliation is usually possible.
Domestic and sexual abuse can force many children to run away from homes, thinking that having no family would be better than remaining in a violent one. A March 2015 article in The Independent recounted the story of a young girl from Nairobi, Kenya who fled her home due to an abusive father. This girl—referred to in the article as Abigail, though this is not her real name—bore physical scars from the very man who was supposed to protect her.
According to UNICEF’s “In Plain Sight,” a statistical analysis of violence against children, one in 10 girls under the age of 20 has been sexually abused at some point in their lives—equating to about 120 million girls worldwide. According to UNICEF, the effects of violence on children can last a lifetime, causing many victims of abuse to drop out of school, become less likely to be employed and more likely to have mental health difficulties. A recent UNICEF UK report revealed that the brain development of children who are victims of violence can be affected, with some experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Violence is a reality for orphaned children as well: the article in The Independent goes on to recount the story of Isaac, a seven-year-old orphan who lives with his four siblings in Nairobi’s largest slum, Kibera. His brother told the Independent that Isaac had been beaten with a stick by one of the city officials for selling groundnuts on the streets.
“My heart breaks for all the children who don’t have any place to call home and for those who feel unsafe in their own homes,” says Stephanie Fast, orphan advocate and author. “This is a systematic problem and one that deserves global attention. We can no longer sit by as children are being abused, taken advantage of and trafficked.”
Fast speaks from her own harrowing experiences as an orphan in war-torn Korea and has written an extraordinarily moving memoir titled She Is Mine. After being deserted by her mother when she was just four or five years old, she was left helpless and vulnerable, nearly succumbing to a premature death. Even when she did find shelter, she was abused by other children and so-called caretakers, and was routinely beaten by farmers for simply trying to get food from their gardens.
“I wrote this memoir to give a voice to all of the orphans around the world who have been silenced,” says Fast. “We need to come together as a global community to find loving homes and support for these children.”