Raped, and preg­nant at 12: dou­ble trauma

Two months from giv­ing birth and scarred for life

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - TOBY NGOMANE

AJOBURG woman thought her 12-year-old daugh­ter’s dis­tended ab­domen was bloated due to con­sti­pa­tion, only to find that she was in fact seven months preg­nant.

She made this shock­ing dis­cov­ery after the lax­a­tives she had given the child failed to work, be­cause the big belly re­mained. It was only when she took the child to a hospi­tal that it was con­firmed that the girl was preg­nant, and two months away from giv­ing birth.

The child had been re­peat­edly raped by her un­cle while the mother was away in Cape Town on busi­ness. The un­cle was handed down a life sen­tence last week for rap­ing and later im­preg­nat­ing his niece, but clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Linda Pera said the trauma the child en­dured would last a life­time.

“It’s not just some­thing you over­come and for­get,” she said.

Pera pointed out that this event will al­most cer­tainly im­pact the emo­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal growth of the child.

“The emo­tional mat­u­ra­tion of the child is sig­nif­i­cantly stunted; they can’t ma­ture emo­tion­ally as they should and as they would have,” she added.

The mother of the child had gone to Cape Town on busi­ness and left her daugh­ter at home in May­fair with her two brothers.

Joburg po­lice spokesper­son Cap­tain Xoli Mbele was not able to con­firm the du­ra­tion of her trip.

The un­cle, who was un­em­ployed at the time, raped the child in the af­ter­noon when she re­turned from school and while his brother was at work.

As time went by, the mother thought her daugh­ter was just suf­fer­ing from a bout of con­sti­pa­tion and took her to a clinic, where she was given med­i­ca­tion. Ac­cord­ing to Mbele, upon see­ing no re­sults from the med­i­ca­tion, the child was trans­ferred to a hospi­tal, where it was dis­cov­ered and con­firmed that she was preg­nant.

The 12-year-old was said to have been al­ready in her sev­enth month of ges­ta­tion when her preg­nancy was dis­cov­ered.

Although fear­ful at first, the child even­tu­ally dis­closed that it was in fact her un­cle who had raped and im­preg­nated her.

Pera said what hap­pened to the girl would have an im­pact on her fu­ture re­la­tion­ships, as well as the way she might grow to view those around her.

“Trust is so badly bro­ken and it’s such a dif­fi­cult thing to re­pair… The trust that the child has with all in­di­vid­u­als in her fu­ture life will not be easy for her to es­tab­lish, and so it in­ter­feres with the con­nec­tions she makes with peo­ple.

“Her un­cle’s ac­tions have also jeop­ar­dised the re­la­tion­ship that had pre­vi­ously ex­isted be­tween her and her mother. She may feel very an­gry with her mother and could end up blam­ing her for putting her in harm’s way; of course, not that the mother in­tended that.”

Pera said it would also be dif­fi­cult for the girl to deal with be­ing a par­ent.

“It’s so dif­fi­cult for the child to deal with an adult sit­u­a­tion in a child ca­pac­ity. She still has the men­tal and emo­tional ca­pac­ity of a 12-year-old and is only de­vel­oped to that stage, and now she has to deal with that adult ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It could have dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences and the girl could think of sui­cide and ways to get out of it,” she warned.

Clin­i­cal child psy­chol­o­gist Cris­tine Sco­lari said the girl un­der­went a dou­ble trauma – the rape, and that a known and trusted adult was the per­pe­tra­tor.

“To move for­ward, the girl will need ex­ten­sive sup­port from her fam­ily and other adults, such as teach­ers, as well as pro­fes­sional coun­selling.”

Nh­lanhla Mok­wena, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Powa (Peo­ple Op­pos­ing Women Abuse), said her or­gan­i­sa­tion wel­comed the sen­tence meted out to the un­cle, be­cause rape was a trauma that af­fected girls and women for life.

She said her or­gan­i­sa­tion hoped that the un­cle serves most of his sen­tence in prison and is not re­leased early on pa­role.

“Giv­ing peo­ple long sen­tences should not be the only so­lu­tion in terms of deal­ing with vi­o­lence against women, es­pe­cially sex­ual vi­o­lence,” Mok­wena added.

Just four weeks ago, a 47- year-old Joburg man was also handed a life sen­tence after rap­ing and im­preg­nat­ing his 16-year-old daugh­ter, who he had also ex­posed to porn.

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