26/11/2012 – Half a Million of SA’s children are abused each year – ACDP



KwaZulu-Natal, November 26, 2012 – An estimated 500 000 children fall victim to sexual crimes in South Africa each year. This is shocking number requiring urgent intervention says the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP). The party calls on all South Africans to join the Vikiela (isiZulu for protect) movement during the 16 Days of Activism against Woman and Child Abuse campaign. The movement addresses the 16 different issues addressed during the 16 day campaign.


“Child abuse robs our children of a future and we view this as a crime against our country, tantamount to treason,” said Jo-Ann Downs, Member of the Provincial Legislature in KZN, chairman of the ACDP and an ardent campaigner against child abuse.


While the Constitution affords children the right the care and protection, South Africa has one of the highest levels of violence against children in the world. The South African Police Service (SAPS) recorded more than 54,225 crimes against children during the years 2010/11. Taking into account the fact that the Solidarity Helping Hand’s research estimates that 88 percent of child abuse cases go unreported, this means the actual figure is closer to 451 000, or roughly half a million.


With social workers dealing with over 200 cases a year each (the global maximum is supposed to be 50), most victims have no solace for the heinous crimes committed against them, and no hope for healing and restitution.


What’s more, some 52 percent (28 128) of these were sexual crimes – with 30 percent of these crimes perpetrated against children under the age of 10 – putting young children at risk of catching HIV and psychological damage. Unreported cases mean that many victims do not receive post HIV exposure prophylaxis, counselling or any other intervention.


“This means that these children are not only at risk of contracting HIV, but also have no hope of healing,” Downs said.


“The growing reports of teen on teen violence and rape, as well as teen on child rape and sometimes brutal gang rapes speaks to the fact that our children are being damaged,” Downs added. “Many perpetrators of sexual crimes report being abused themselves, making this a potentially exponential problem.”


Another consequence of child rape is an increased number of girls dropping out of school due to pregnancy, some of them as young as eight years old.


The psychological damage to children witnessing domestic abuse is also serioius and in many cases, the child starts to view this as normal behavior. “School intervention programs are needed as drastic measures to change these views and identify children who are at risk or have been exposed to child abuse,” said Downs. “In order to rebuild their future, children and non-offending family members need counseling.”


With only one in nine cases of child abuse being reported, and only a dismal six or seven percent chance of conviction, Downs questioned how the Judiciary and Social Services plan to reach abused children, and provide them with the justice and aftercare that they so desperately need to rebuild their hope of a future, especially since the country is short of social workers.


“How can the police say they are here to serve and protect, when there are even reports of children being raped in police custody. Rape kits are also not being collected from hospitals and post mortems reveal that child homicides are not being followed up,” Downs asked.


Other forms of child abuse include physical abuse and neglect. The latest report on child homicide by the South African Medical Research Council found that three children are murdered per day, mostly younger girl children. A high percentage of perpetrators of these crimes is the children’s mothers.


“This in itself is shocking and needs to be researched further,” said Downs. “If social services were adequate and teachers, neighbours and health staff reported problems adequately, many of these cases of child abuse could be detected before becoming fatal.”


Downs reiterated calls made earlier this year – including a question raised in parliament – for government to prioritise research into the social, cultural, legal and economic factors leading to sexual crimes, especially against children, and to follow this up with primary prevention measures.


The ACDP has also called for the establishment of specialised police units dedicated to attending to cases of violence against women and children and for police response and training, and knowledge of the justice system to be enhanced to improve conviction rates.


Crimes against children can be reported to Child Welfare on 0861 4 CHILD (24453).




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