– written by Bianca Louw

Not too long ago South African citizens were shocked  to hear that a six year old girl was raped in the bathroom of a popular family restaurant. There was an outcry on social media, South Africans were angry and mourned what happened to an innocent little girl. Suddenly rape wasn’t a statistic or something that happened in another neighbourhood far away. Suddenly rape real, and too close for comfort.

The reality is that 7 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. During the past year 40,035 sexual assault cases were reported at the South African Police Service. The Economist estimates that 9 out of 10 cases of sexual assault goes unreported in South Africa. If this is true it means that 400 350 persons were sexually assaulted during the past year. The statistics are upsetting, and leaves us with the question: “How do we protect those most vulnerable?”

Lebogang Godzwana is one of Badisa’s social workers who lives and works in Beaufort West. She has first hand experience working with child victims of rape and sexual exploitation, and she gives some excellent advice to parents and care givers on how to protect your children from sexual predators.

Child grooming

When a child regularly receives gifts from a stranger or well-known persons take note. Ask why this person is giving so much attention to your child. Sexual predators often use gifts to establish an emotional connection with a child, to lower the child’s inhibitions with the objective of sexual abuse.

Monitor internet access

Children should be monitored on how they use their mobile phones. Access to internet can lead children to the exposure of videos with adult or sexual content. It is the parents’ responsibility to switch on the parental control settings on their children’s mobile phones, to prevent access to these sites. These days’ parents have access to applications like Spyzie, Bark, Family Time, ESET, and much more.

Friends

You have to know your child’s friends. Not all influences are positive, and we should guide our children and help them grow into responsible youth and adults.

Change in Mood

Sudden mood changes can be a sign that a child is groomed into sexual activities. We have to have open relationships with our children, offering a safe and nurturing space where we can share our emotions.

Raise concerns

If you feel concerned about your child’s safety, talk to your child in a calm and friendly atmosphere. If you find it difficult to discus sexual abuse and rape with your child, please arrange a session with your local social worker for support and guidance.

Be truthful

Children need to learn about different types of abuse. As a parent it is your duty to be truthful and to encourage a safe and open environment where your child can share their emotions and concerns. Teach your children to talk freely to you about everything in their lives. Communication is vital.

What do you do when your child has been a victim of sexual assault?

Sexual assault or rape is a form of sexual penetration carried out against a person without that person’s consent. Children under the age of 18 cannot give consent. In most cases the perpetrators are known to the children, such as stepfathers, biological fathers, uncles, friends of the family, etc. On very rare incidents perpetrators are strangers.

Here is what you need to do if your loved one was a victim of sexual assault:

Always believe the victim

Always believe the victim, until you know with out a doubt that it is not true. Often victims will only talk the first time.

Do not wash or change

Place the clothes in a bag and accompany your child to your nearest clinic or health practitioner. At the clinic an examination will be done, this is necessary to find traces of semen and other DNA. These samples will be tested in order to trace the suspect.

File a report

An adult must accompany a child victim to the nearest police station. Here a case will be opened on behalf of the child.

Counseling

An adult must accompany a child victim to see a counsellor or social worker at the clinic or nearest social services office. Counselling, therapeutic and support services must be provided to the family and victim.

Why?

Do not ask Why. Do not ask the victim questions such as why were you with the perpetrator, or why the victim was at the place of incident. Often children are manipulated and threatened by the perpetrator to keep quiet. Your loved one just needs your support and unconditional love.

 

Fact box:

 Name and Surname: Lebogang Winnie Godzwana

Job Title:  Social Worker

Program: Badisa Social Services, Beaufort West

Motto: ‘ Be your best ‘self’ no matter what experience you have been through’

As a social worker what is your greatest challenge when working with victims of sexual assault?

Witnessing the pain and trauma that the victims of rape and sexual abuse go through when having to testify at court about their case.

Image found on: pexels.com

Statistics found on: SAPS Crime Stats

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