Mentally ill teen allegedly raped at camp

2008-10-08 00:00

A Pietermaritzburg family is battling to come to terms with the alleged rape of their 18-year-old mentally ill daughter at a camp during the July holidays this year, and say they can’t get anyone to answer for how it was allowed to happen.

The parents said they received a letter from the teen’s school in May encouraging them to allow their children to go on a five-day excursion to Eston.

Although they knew that the camp was organised by Higher Ground, a non-profit organisation that provides therapeutic holidays to children and adults with disabilities, they said they sent their daughter with the understanding that the school was involved and would be sending three of its teachers with the pupils.

However, they later found out that not only were there no teachers present, but pupils from various schools around Durban and Pietermaritzburg also attended the camp under the watch of volunteers, who were mostly made up of university students, both male and female.

The parents said they are seriously considering taking the matter to court now that the school is denying any involvement with the camp, stating that the letter was signed by the principal, who is currently working overseas.

“That is absolute rubbish. The point is, the school was the middle-man; we would not have known about this camp had it not been for them. For the Department of Education to say that they cannot do anything because we signed indemnity forms is absurd. We did not sign for this to happen,” said the girl’s father.

The couple claim to have found out about the alleged rape after their daughter collapsed at school shortly after returning from the camp.

They said they found their daughter hysterical after being “dumped home alone”.

When the mother went to inquire about this, after visits to the clinic and hospital had given no evidence of what was wrong, she said a teacher at the school told her that a pupil who was their daughter’s roommate at the camp was spreading rumours about the rape.

Speaking to The Witness, Higher Ground director Emma Roos said she did not believe that such an incident could have happened at one of their camps, since the safety of their campers is of utmost concern. She said the organisation empathises with the parents and wants the truth to come out, but she would not comment further on questions posed by The Witness wecause police were still investigating the matter.

“Police have been in contact with us and we are open to assist in every way. We exist to benefit and uplift the lives of people with disabilities,” said Roos.

Police spokeswoman Inspector Joey Jeevan said the case is of a sensitive nature and confirmed that police are taking statements and looking at circumstances surrounding the investigation.

Jeevan said that although, according to the parents, the district surgeon confirmed the rape, the doctor’s report will be sent to forensics and all police findings will then be forwarded to the senior public prosecutor for a decision.

For the parents, however, the truth remains that their daughter, who was healthy, vibrant and independent before the camp, now relies on her mother for everything. “As a mother it is devastating to see your child in this condition. She was a prefect at school, did art and was very independent. But now it is like having a toddler in the house. I have to bath her, and even help her to the toilet.”

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