“Impact of Child Detention: Occupied Palestinian Territory” is the title of a report launched at a workshop that I attended on March 12, 2012 in Ramallah. Save the Children and the YMCA have worked together since 2009 to document the psychological impact of child detention on children and their families. The study’s methodology includes focus group discussions and a desk review of background documents on currently and formerly detained children. Save the Children and the YMCA collected and analyzed those documents in order to evaluate their program, Post-Trauma Rehabilitation of Palestinian Ex-detainee Children in the West Bank. The baseline study for the project, which was conducted in June 2009, included 186 ex-detainee children, 104 families, and 58 members of community-based organizations. The second phase of the study was the post assessment survey performed in May 2010; its participants included 173 ex-detainee children, 89 families and 73 members of community-based organizations. The third phase was the Mid-term Evaluation Report in March 2011, and the final phase collected data in June 2011.
The results showed that 98% of the detained children were subjected to violence, and 90% of the children reported PTSD symptoms. For all of the children, the moment of arrest itself was one of the worst experiences of the whole ordeal. Traumatized by their own detention, the children were also impacted by seeing their family members’ helplessness as they were arrested. Adding to the trauma of their own detention, 70% of detained children had one or more family members arrested before, during, or after their own detentions. Hearing these results about the trauma of the arrests did not surprise me at all. Working extensively with children from the refugee camps around Nablus, I see many children whose fathers were arrested or remain in prison. These children always talk about the moment of home invasion, when they were forced to leave their homes in the middle of the night, sometimes in very cold weather. As a child, I myself experienced home invasions, and I am always scared to think that it could happen again in front of my own children.
Looking around in the workshop at the adults and professionals working so hard to help these children and their families cope with such crises, I realized that many of those adults had been arrested themselves or lost one of their relatives during the intifada. I was upset by the thought that this cycle would never end. I have participated in hundreds of workshops and trainings about helping families and children to cope with the trauma in their life, but while the cycle of violence still exists, more people will continue to be traumatized. The difference at this particular workshop was that people were more aware of human rights and children's rights as protected by international laws. As organizations, we will continue to work hard to offer these essential services, but we also need to think about prevention. How can we stop these bad experiences—the direct result of occupation—from occurring in the first place? People all around the world deserve to live peacefully and securely, especially our young children who have only just started their journeys to make change in their communities.
Suhad Jabi is TYO's Psychosocial Program Manager.