Graduate Beats Cancer, Focuses on Child Sexual Abuse in Study
Ms Linda Naidoo, former director of Childline KZN managed to beat cancer and subsequently graduate with her PhD in Social Work from UKZN recently. She dedicated her PhD, which looks at child sexual abuse, to the team who helped make it possible and to all the silent victims of child sexual abuse.
Being in the child protection field for many years, Naidoo felt that she needed to contribute more to the protection of children. However, she was diagnosed with cancer at the end of July 2014, whilst studying for her PhD.
‘I felt that time had come to a standstill - and I was indecisive on how to move forward. My consultancy required that I travel extensively and my oncologist advised me not to travel - for fear of infections that would compromise my immunity- so I stopped working for a period of time.’
‘The treatment and symptoms is every bit as horrific as it is made out to be by survivors. When I was on my chemotherapy – I was unable to focus on any studying as I was too weak for the first nine days after the session of chemo. But felt stronger for the 12/13 days thereafter before the next chemo session. I was functional during the sessions of radiation which only commenced in December – but my dissertation had to be submitted during my period of chemotherapy until the end of November.’
Speaking about how she coped through it all, Naidoo said: ‘Despite the disillusionment and the burden of the treatment, my friends and family rallied around to be a shining light of support, and my faith became a rock that gave me strength and focus to move past the pain.’
‘I held an image that gave me strength – in the midst of the storm be still and keep your focus on what lies ahead and not behind or in the present - keep your focus- rely on others if you need to and walk in faith. In the midst of the most turbulent storms – it’s amazing how we turn to God and strengthen our selves spiritually.’
Naidoo’s study addressed two polarities: the one involving understanding the mind-set and modus operandi of the sex offenders who sexually abuse children and the second involving understanding the entrapment and vulnerability of the victim. ‘Understanding of these polarities had been synthesized to discern their implications for the prevention of child sexual abuse.’
The first phase of the research entailed analysing the characteristics and the life experiences of twelve child sex offenders. In phase two, the testimonies of the child sex offenders were assimilated in the production of a DVD, on the mind-set and strategies adopted in sexually abusing children.
In phase three the DVD was screened and various service providers and parents of sexually abused children, reflected on and assessed the lessons associated with understanding the offenders methods in selecting, grooming children, ensuring compliance, non-disclosure, desensitisation, maintaining them as victims and avoiding detection.
Naidoo hopes that the research would be used positively to enhance strategies to protect children. ‘Legal and policy frameworks need to be supplemented with a broader proactive prevention that addresses both victim vulnerability and offender opportunity. All sectors working as a team give maximum promise of effective recovery for the victim, rehabilitation of the offender and survival of the family.’
‘Much more attention needs to be given to the public and parents, as an informed public will advocate for the prevention of child sexual abuse. Providing psycho-education to parents not only provides support and education to protect and prevent abuse, but also capacitates them to support their children during disclosure and to help children overcome psychological trauma and secondary victimisation.’
Naidoo is grateful to her family, friends and supervisor Professor Vishanthie Sewpaul. ‘I am grateful not only for your support during my cancer and PhD but I know that I have authentic people in my life that care and will never abandon me in the face of adversity and my pity parties.’
Her hopes for the future include making society a better one for children. ‘It is too painful to allow yet another powerless child suffer with the ordeal of abuse.’