why we do it
[A better society] will and must be measured by the happiness and welfare of the children, at once the most vulnerable citizens in any society and the greatest of our treasures.
– Nelson Mandela’s Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech,10 December 1993.
According to a Reuters report more than 64 000 sexual offences were reported in South Africa in the twelve months preceding April 2012. Of these, more than 25 000 involved child victims. Children in the Western Cape are especially at risk. In the first four months of 2014 a number of children under 12 were fatally injured during sexual attacks on the Cape Flats.
In many cases these children do not receive adequate material and emotional support, due to poverty and other social factors. Friends of Child Protection strives to reach out to them in a meaningful and tangible way. We strive to ‘make a difference’ when they need it most.
It is very difficult to explain the sheer number of children abused and the type of abuse they suffer.
The information below is our attempt to convey to you what we are dealing with and why we do what we do...
The 2010/11 statistics from the South Africa Police Service (SAPS) record a total of over 50 000 crimes against children for 2010/2011.
Systematic studies of the patterns of crimes against children are not readily available.
The Charts below give a profile of the types of crimes committed against children based on reported cases from a study conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council and the South African Police Service.
Chart 1 shows that cases are predominated by crimes of a sexual nature, and
Chart 2 shows that the majority of these cases involve rape and indecent assault.
In more than half of the cases (57.8 per cent), victims do not suffer a physical injury. But in cases that do involve violence, children are often subjected to despicable brutality that statistics simply do not convey.
Among the examples:
- The 7-year-old girl who was raped, stabbed and thrown on a fire, and who has since undergone three operations and countless skin grafts to recover
- The 3-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted by more than one abuser, and who then faced the possibility of contracting HIV/AIDS as a result
- The 5-year-old boy whose father stood on his back while beating him so severely with an electrical cord that his kidneys were damaged and he was unable to speak
These children, already victims of appalling crimes, then face what can only be described as “secondary victimization” should they enter the Child Protection System.
The report “Research Patterns of Crimes against Children” stated the following: “In most parts of the country, all components of the child protection system, including the social welfare system, police child protection units, the court system, residential care and hospitals are under-resourced and overstretched.
Child protection workers are daily walking into the brick-wall of no vacancies in places of safety, lack of specialized care, under-resourced child protection units, overloaded prosecutors, lack of funds to implement programs to prevent child abuse and neglect. The situation proves to be very demoralizing for all parties involved in the child protection system, especially as countless extra hours are being unselfishly spent in a genuine effort to help a child in need.
Then because of a failure in the system, nothing can be done and the perpetrator goes free while the child is punished by being removed from his or her home.
Despite the desperate situation faced by so many children, studies and data in South Africa have not yet fully illuminated the causes of this child abuse. We believe it is due to a combination of factors including: poverty and unemployment, a lack of education, a feeling of dis-empowerment and a disorganized family structure. Still worse, there seems to be a self-perpetuating societal acceptance of violence in South Africa. Furthermore, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has orphaned many children, making them vulnerable to abuse. The situation is also exacerbated by the mistaken belief that if you sleep with a virgin you will be cured of AIDS.
The most vulnerable children in South Africa are being failed by the people who should be able to help them. If these children are not adequately protected, counselled and supported, they will grow up to be maladjusted adults who, in turn, abuse themselves and others. In light of this urgent situation, it is crucial for us to do all we can to alleviate their suffering and help prevent their continued abuse.
Department of Social Development/Department of Women, Children and people with disabilities/UNICEF (2012) http://www.dgmt-community.co.
The Children’s Institute at UCT www.ci.org.za
Research on Human and Social Development in South Africa http://hsrc.ac.za
Access to South African Government Information and Services http://capegateway.gov.za/eng/directories/services/11457/9669
R.A.P.C.A.N: Resources aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect www.rapcan.org.za