Child safety is always a priority
THE number of murders and rapes is increasing daily in South Africa, with about 110 children raped daily and 49 killed daily in the country.
These shocking revelations emerged during the murder trial of a seven-year-old child who was raped and murdered in Waterloo. Captain Bonginkosi Zulu, testifying in court, said that the statistics in the country reveal that children are becoming soft targets for criminals.
There have been more than five rapes in Verulam this year alone. This has prompted local organisations to ask the justice system to strengthen the law when dealing with perpetrators of crime against children.
The social work manager at Tongaat Child and Family Welfare Society, Jo Moodley, said rape and sexual abuse have been increasing at an alarming rate.
“This tragedy should be considered a community problem. It is imperative that the community acknowledge these situations and take action by protecting our children. Local media reports have highlighted these atrocious incidents recently.
“The Tongaat Child and Family Welfare Society receives reports such as these on a daily basis and most of the children are below the age of 10 years. Cases of abuse occur in all areas of Tongaat and have increased the spread of HIV,” Moodley said.
Moodley said sexual assault of any nature impacts and affects a child physically, emotionally and psychologically. “Many children who do not receive the necessary therapy after this traumatic incident experience numerous problems throughout their lives,” she said.
She appealed to parents to educate children and have supervision over their children all the time.
“Parents must make sure that they always know the whereabouts of their children. Most often children are abused by those who are closest to them. Therefore, screen your child’s caregiver carefully. Watch your children carefully for symptoms of abuse, such as withdrawal, mood swings and changes in behaviour pattern, not paying attention or not being attentive to you.
“Many rapes also occur when children walk alone from school or near bushes, thus increasing their vulnerability. Arrange groups for them to walk with or arrange transport,” she added.
According to the welfare society, only one in 10 children report the abuse themselves. “Those children who keep the abuse a secret or who tell and are not believed, are far more likely to suffer psychological, emotional, social, and/or physical problems that will most likely follow them into adulthood. If you find physical signs that you suspect are as a result of sexual abuse, have the child examined immediately by a doctor,” Moodley said.
The society also revealed that many young children are abused by other children. The society is making an appeal to the community to safe guard all the children before another rape occurs.
WAYS TO SAFEGUARD AGAINST CHILD ABUSE
• Always look for group situations to involve your child in rather than place your child alone with one adult.
• Strongly encourage policies limiting one-adult, one-child situations in all youth-related activities such as in faith groups, sports teams and school clubs. Make sure parents/caregivers can observe or interrupt activities at any time. Also make sure that background checks have been done on all volunteers and others working directly with children.
• Drop in unexpectedly when your child is alone with any adult.
• Monitor your child’s Internet use. The Internet has become the playground for paedophiles to interact with children. Their goal is to lure them into physical contact after gaining their trust.
• Talk about it — children often keep abuse a secret, but barriers can be broken down by talking openly about it.
• Know how children communicate. Children who do disclose sexual abuse often tell a trusted adult other than a parent.
• Talk openly with your child. Teach your child that it is your job to protect him or her.
• Teach your child that it is not his or her responsibility to protect others.
• Demonstrate daily that you will not be angry, no matter what your child tells you about any aspect of his or her life.
• Listen quietly. Children have a hard time telling parents about troubling events.
• Teach your child about their body, about what abuse is and, as age-appropriate, about sex. Teach words that will help them discuss sex comfortably with you.
• Teach your child that it is against the “rules” for adults to act in a sexual way with children and use examples.
• Start early and talk often. Use everyday opportunities to talk about sexual abuse.
• Learn the signs. Physical signs of sexual abuse are not common, although redness, rashes or swelling in the genital area, urinary tract infections or other such symptoms should be investigated carefully. Also, physical problems associated with anxiety, such as chronic stomach pain or headaches, may occur.
• Emotional or behavioural signals are more common. These can run from “too perfect” behaviour to withdrawal and depression and unexplained anger and rebellion.
• Notice a child’s fear of going home.
• Notice if a child is expressing inappropriate knowledge of sexual relations. If a child is a victim of sexual abuse, he or she may exhibit overly sexual behaviour or use explicit sexual language.
• Notice if there is an unexplained drop in a child’s attendance at school. Children may be unable to attend school due to injuries from their abuse or are intentionally kept out of school to cover up visible signs of abuse.
• Notice if a child is stealing or begging for food from fellow classmates or members of the community. Children who do not get enough to eat may try to obtain food in whatever way they can.
• Notice a child’s lack of personal care or hygiene. Young children who have been neglected or abused may appear dirty or uncared for, or have unsuitable clothing for the weather conditions.
• Notice if there is a decline in a child’s performance in school. Abuse may affect all aspects of a child’s life, including their grades. Tongaat Child and Family Welfare Society can be contacted at 032 944 1514 or 032 944 1123.