So now down to the facts I have learnt about the rape and sexual abuse of children during my latest crusade around South Africa, Namibia and Botswana and what desperate steps need to be put into action in order to bring a stop to this scourge sweeping across our country, and how I intend making every effort in order to achieve this on my next crusade/project.
After hundreds, in fact more like thousands of discussions with mothers and other individuals in the form of NGO’s etc, it is blatantly obvious that in spite of tremendous laws having been promulgated and no matter what punishments are handed down by our courts, we will never stop the rape and sexual abuse of children if the mothers do not report the rape of their children. Secondly there is a desperate need for a proper and professionally managed and trained support structure for the victim and her/his mother and the family in order to encourage them to report the rape particularly in instances where the rapist is the father, step-father, uncle etc. The statistics provided to me by NGO’s and social workers around South Africa prove that at least 90% of child rape cases, and by “child rape cases” I am referring to children below the age of 12 years of age are, perpetrated by direct family members in the form of biological fathers, step-fathers, uncles and even grandfathers.
The ‘Sexual Offences Act-32 of 2007’ includes a section which states that “Any person who is made aware of the fact that a child has been raped or sexually abused and fails to report it, is guilty of an offence”. I believe this is a tremendous piece of legislation, however, unfortunately my discussions with police officials as well as court officials all over South Africa reveals that not one single person has ever been charged, not to mention convicted, under this section since its inception in November 2007, in spite of the fact that South Africa is currently experiencing, on average, 580 ‘child’ rape cases on a daily basis with only an estimated 15-18% of them being reported.
In my ‘Proposal to the President’ on what I believe needs to be done to stop the rape and sexual abuse of children, which can be seen on the link on this website, I identified six factors which need to be properly applied in order to stop the rape of children and identified how these six factors need to function in order to achieve it, and I am more than confident that the starting point of stopping the rape and sexual abuse of children lies in the formation and proper establishment of ‘factor one’, which is the immediate establishment of ‘One-Stop-Shop’ care centres providing the essential ‘on site’ services need by child rape victims.
‘One-Stop-Shop’ support facility
And so based on these facts, my focus on the next project will be on what I believe needs to be done to stop the rape and sexual abuse of children and how I believe the “One-Stop-Shop” support facility should be functioning with regard to the services they provide and where they should be established.
During the many lonely hours while driving Buddy around Africa, I formulated in my mind what I came to regard as the “One-Stop-Shop” facility for providing victims of child rape, as well as victims of domestic violence, with a support structure which would be provided at a facility all under one roof. I was amazed, to put it mildly, when on visiting Kuruman I was introduced to the Thuthuzela Care Centre based at the provincial hospital there and realised that this is, or rather could be, the “One-Stop-Shop” support facility which I had been formulating in my mind over the past couple of years.
I have subsequently come to establish that the Thuthuzela initiative was started way back in 2000 and was the brain child of the NPA (National prosecuting Authority) with stakeholders including the Department of Health, South African Police Services, and the Department of Social Development. Funding of the centres as far as I have been able to establish, is via the stake holders I have mentioned as well as assistance from UNICEF and USAID and private fund raising. The word “Thuthuzela” is a Xhosa word meaning “Comfort”.
I commend the NPA and the South African Government for their initiative in coming up with the concept of the Thuthuzela Care Centres and I believe that the Thuthuzela initiative is an absolutely fantastic one and if it was implemented and the services mentioned in the brochures and other documentation provided as they claims it is, it would be a major step in the right direction to eradicating child rape from our society.
The problems currently being experienced by mothers wanting to report the rape and sexual abuse of their children is the fact that the child has to be taken to a police station where the mother and child must wait amongst other complainants and be subjected to secondary trauma and humiliation in the form of a ‘male’ police officer (a member of the same species that has just destroyed her life and subjected her to pain and suffering) taking her statement.
My discussions with police officials appointed to take these statements have revealed that in almost every instance the policeman or woman are sadly lacking the qualifications and or experience needed to extract the necessary and vital information from the child in order to secure an arrest and conviction of the culprit. This statement has been verified by many court officials in the form of prosecutors I have met during my travels around the country, and they have confirmed that it is this very fact which has led to the totally unacceptably low conviction rate of 4%.
Secondly, the child is from the police station to a hospital for the necessary J88 examination form to be completed by a doctor. It has been told to me by many social workers in various parts of South Africa, that victims are usually transported to hospitals by way of a police van and this in itself is a form of secondary trauma with the child victim believing that she/he is the guilty party.
In many areas I have visited, following my visit to a Thuthuzela Care Centre, I have asked woman/mothers in the community if they know of the Thuthuzela Care Centre and have been shocked to be told that they have never heard of the Thuthuzela Care Centre in-spite of it having been ‘established’ in the area for a few years.
In almost every instance during discussions with police officials the response to my question of “What is the biggest factor attributed to the pathetically low 4% conviction rate our country is experiencing?” is “The qualifications and experience of the prosecutors allocated to the case is very low compared to the qualifications and experience of the defence council appointed and paid for by the State in the majority of cases”.
After posing the same question to the prosecutors in the courts, the response has been, “If you look at the pathetic statement obtained at the time of the report of the rape by inexperienced police officials and the total lack of evidence, and this is basic evidence in the form of the child’s panties and other items of clothing, you will appreciate why our conviction rate is so low”.
It is for these reasons that I believe that it is essential that Thuthuzela Care Centres are established on the following basis:
- They must be established at every provincial hospital around South Africa
Every centre must have the following personal based at the centre:
- A qualified policewoman dressed in civilian clothes, trained in the art of; child psychology, the taking of statements and evidence gathering.
- A doctor
- A forensic nurse
- Social workers
- Welfare officer
- Support in the form of a prosecutor to train the police in the art of statement taking and evidence gathering as well as being available to assist the investigating officer (FCS unit) in the investigation of the case and to keep the victim (survivor) up to date with regard to the progress of the case.
- Human resources (To be discussed in this document in depth later)
The brochures I have been provided with from the Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCC) I have visited, states that the following services are provided at the centres, unfortunately not one of the centres I have visited provides the essential services listed in the brochure:
- A nurse in the examination room (Not provided at any TCC)
- An ‘explanation’ of how the medical examination will be conducted and what clothing might be taken for evidence
- A consent form to be signed, that allows the doctor to conduct the medical examination
- A bath or shower at the centre after the medical examination
- An investigating officer will interview the survivor and take her/his statement (Not provided at any TCC)
- A social worker or nurse will offer counselling (Only in one instance was a social worker based at the Centre)
- A nurse arranges for follow-up visits, treatment and medication for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s), HIV and AIDS. (Not provided at anyTCC)
- A referral letter or appointment will be made for long-term, counselling
- The survivor is offered transportation home by an ambulance or the investigating officer (I was informed by a senior official of EMS that the ambulance service ‘EMS’ are not permitted/allowed to transport rape victims in an ambulance)
- Arrangements will be made for the survivor to go to a place of safety if necessary (This is contrary to the ‘Sexual offences Act 32-2007)
- Consultations with a specialist prosecutor before the case goes to court (Not provided at any TCC)
- An explanation of the trial process (Not provided at any TCC)
- Access to information on the case (Not available at any TCC)
You will note that no mention is made of a doctor performing the crucial examination of the victim at the centre
Unfortunately not one of the centres I have visited around South Africa has a police official, doctor, nurse or social worker based at the centre. In all instances in-spite of the fact that the centre is based on the hospital premises it can still take hours for a doctor to be summonsed and released from his duties in the hospital to attend to a rape victim and the same goes for the police. In this regard I have been told by many staff members based in the Thuthuzela Centres I have visited, that it can take hours for a police official to arrive at a centre after being summonsed by the staff of a centre.
The primary reason for mothers failing to report the rape of their children
Based on the fact that it is believed that 90% of child rape in South Africa is being perpetrated by fathers, step-fathers and uncles, discussions with women/mothers in the townships and rural areas where the far majority of child rape cases are being perpetrated, reveals that the main reason for them not reporting the rape of their children is due to the financial factor. They openly confirm that due to the financial implications the family is faced with should a father/husband, the “bread winner” be sent to jail, they, the mothers, will not report the rape of the child.
However when asked “If there was a department that would ensure that you have food on the table and your kids are clothed and can continue with their education and you can continue to maintain the same standard of living, AND there is a department or person who will assist you in obtaining employment to ensure that you can provide for your own family, what then?” and the response has always been, “Then he must go to jail” or “Then he must die”. So this then leads to my inclusion and the necessity of an HR person at all Thuthuzela Centres.
During my travels and discussions on child rape around South Africa, I have had the privilege of meeting some very high powered businessmen and women in all forms of business; these include large, medium and small business’s and after providing them with what I believe is a solution to encouraging mothers to report the rape and sexual abuse of their children by fathers, step-fathers and uncles, they have all confirmed that they would gladly commit their business’s to the initiative in order to encourage mothers to report the rape of their children and to ensure that the culprits face the full extent of the law and justice system.
My proposal is based on an HR person being included in the personal appointed to all Thuthuzela Centres. This individuals function would be, to be in constant contact with all businesses in the area covered by the Thuthuzela Care Centre and to maintain a record of all businesses committed to the initiative and immediately on being presented with a situation where a father or uncle etc has been arrested for the rape or sexual abuse of a child, ensure that the mother obtains employment as fast as possible.
However it is imperative that while securing employment for the mother, the welfare officer must ensure that the family is fed and clothed and this can similarly be achieved by securing the support of other business’s in the area in the form of supermarket outlets and large chain stores who I am confident through my discussions with such businesses will fully support such an initiative in order to stop the rape and sexual abuse of children.
In conclusion, I must re-iterate the fact that no matter what laws are promulgated and what punishments are implemented, we will never stop the rape and sexual abuse of children if the mothers do not do the right thing and report the matter to the authorities and allow the law and justice system to take it’s course.
However it is, I believe, the duty of the government to ensure that everything is done to encourage mothers to report the rape of their children and this can only be achieved by providing them and the victims with a professionally managed support structure in the form of the Thuthuzela Care Centres which must provide the services and staff as I have outlined in this document.
Further more, it is imperative that should these support structures be in place, individuals failing to report the rape and sexual abuse of children, and this includes mothers, must be taken to task and face the full extent of the law as well, other wise there is no point in spending the millions of Rands in promulgating the law in the first place.
These then are the main points I will be raising and making the public aware of in my next project, and of course another devastating aspect of this disgusting and unforgivable crime which I will be focusing on is to make the mothers aware of the extreme mental stress associated with toddler and child rape. I was made aware of this aspect of child and toddle rape by a psychologist who informed me that he believes that up to 80% of, in particular woman, who are institutionalised in the centres for mentally handicapped people in South Africa were not born that way, but are creations of the severe mental stress related to child and toddler rape.
I was told that in cases where a child is forced by the mother/parents to keep quiet about the fact that he or she was raped and is forced to live with the stress associated with this despicable crime, will at some later stage suffer the effects of it and when this occurs and the individual is institutionalised, the reason is initially put down to the stress’s associated with ‘peer pressure’, ‘hectic life styles’ and stress associated with work pressure etc. However after being institutionalised, it becomes apparent to the psychologist that the cause of the breakdown is directly and actually related to the rape or sexual abuse the individual was exposed to many years previously.
After being provided with this shocking information I have since visited a number of institutions around South Africa and this fact has been confirmed to me by many psychologists. In one case I met a lady who although was not herself sexually abused but had walked in on her husband while he was in the process of raping their 4 year old daughter and due to the severe mental stress related with this was institutionalised.
So there is still much work for ‘Buddy and Me’ to do and I will be using whatever means are at my disposal to ensure that the Thuthuzela Care Centres are implemented and provide the victims of child rape with the best possible support and that mother are encouraged to report the rape and sexual abuse of their children.
So until we meet again, keep well, stay safe and please KEEP ALL CHILDREN SAFE, it’s their right, and it’s our duty!
Please support the organisations identified on my website that provide essential support to victims of child rape, namely:The Teddy Bear Clinic (Gauteng)
Bobbi Bear Foundation (KwaZulu-Natal)
The TygerBear Foundation (Western Cape)
By clicking on their link which provides details of the organisation and clicking on ‘donations’. They and the victims of this horrible and despicable crime desperately need your support, for this they thank you.
Caring regards from
‘Buddy and Me’ (Steve Heath)
Comments and opinions to: firstname.lastname@example.org