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It is a par­ent’s nat­u­ral in­stinct to pro­tect their child from harm. This is es­pe­cially be­cause chil­dren tend to in­no­cently trust adults, mak­ing them vul­ner­a­ble to sex­ual preda­tors. A 2016 re­search re­port by the Cen­tre for Jus­tice and Crime Preven­tion to­gether with the Uni­ver­sity of Cape Town and the Gen­der, Health and Jus­tice Re­search Unit found that one in three South African chil­dren have ex­pe­ri­enced some form of sex­ual abuse. There­fore, it is im­por­tant that you know what to do to help your child should the worst-case sce­nario oc­cur. Zama Xulu* still re­calls her par­ents’ re­ac­tion when she told them that she had been raped. She was 13 years old at the time. “My mother cried, and then told me to keep it a se­cret. My fa­ther stabbed the rapist, and got ar­rested. I had to go and live with my grand­mother be­cause my par­ents feared that the rapist’s fam­ily would seek re­venge,” she says. The trauma from the or­deal still haunts Zama, and she wishes that her par­ents had han­dled this bet­ter, per­haps by talk­ing to trained pro­fes­sion­als or lay­ing a charge against the rapist.


Once your child tells you that they have been sex­u­ally abused, you need to im­me­di­ately re­port the mat­ter to the po­lice and a so­cial worker. It is im­por­tant to get a trained pro­fes­sional in­volved as they have the skills and ex­per­tise to han­dle this. “Do not im­pli­cate or ac­cuse any­one pub­licly; han­dle the mat­ter sen­si­tively and pri­vately,” ad­vises Vin­cen­tia Dlamini, the op­er­a­tions direc­tor for Women & Men Against Child Abuse, a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion based in Rand­burg, Jo­han­nes­burg. Fur­ther­more, she cau­tions against speak­ing to the ac­cused. Gather in­for­ma­tion from your child and doc­u­ment it. They don’t need to re­live the abuse by talk­ing about it over and over again. Take them to a med­i­cal fa­cil­ity for a check-up and med­i­cal re­port, keep a record of all the de­tails and store it safely. You and your child need to go for coun­selling as this will help both of you to cope, and pre­pare for the le­gal as­pects.

Child sex­ual abuse in South Africa is high. As a par­ent, do you know the signs to look out for should your child be abused? And if so, what should you do? By Fundiswa Nk­wanyana


Un­like Zama, not all vic­tims tell their par­ents about the abuse be­cause

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