Trauma is a distressing event in which an individual feels severely threatened emotionally, psychologically or physically. Most people experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives, such as a car accident, death of a loved one, sexual assault or rape, abuse or neglect, an act of violence or exposure to a severely violent environment. Many people bounce back from trauma with the help and support of friends and family. For others, the effects of trauma are longstanding and often repressed. This may result in feelings of deep emotional pain, fear, confusion, or posttraumatic stress far after the event has passed. Trauma therapy supports, guides, and assists individuals to heal from the trauma they have had to endure.
Child sexual abuse is a serious and widespread problem. A study conducted by the University of Cape Town found that one in three children report a sexually abusive experience in their lifetime. Moreover, a total of 784 967 South Africans have been abused sexually at least once by the age of 17. Child sexual abuse is defined as any exposure to sexual content or activities that are age-inappropriate. This includes, but is not limited to: rape, molestation, prostitution, incest and exposure to pornographic material.
Sexual trauma can have a severe impact on the normal childhood development processes, typically exhibited by behavioural and/or emotional signs of distress, as well as a change in academic performance. Children often attempt to deal with the effects of sexual trauma through e.g. avoidance, attempts at memory repression, distraction, addictive behaviours and cognitive efforts at coping. Professor Pretorius uses child friendly approaches which is suited to each child’s needs to help facilitate healing and growth from trauma. Art and play therapy aids in the therapeutic process for children to express themselves and be comfortable in a therapeutic environment.