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.
TAKE ACTION IMMEDIATELY
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
WHEN YOU HAVE A SUSPICION
Unlike Zama, not all victims tell their parents about the abuse because