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Signs that your child could have been molested

By Faeza
25 September 2016

Nomhle and Sandile Jack* have recently moved to Klerksdorp in the North West with their five-year old daughter Zandi. Both Nomhle and Sandile work as security guards and ever since they moved, they have been struggling to get someone to look after Zandi, especially when they both work night shift. They have tried to talk to their boss about putting them in separate shifts, but they did not succeed. The only option they have is to leave Zandi with their new neighbours. However, Nomhle has noticed a change of attitude in Zandi when she is giving her a bath.

SIGNS OF MOLESTATION

Nomhle asked Zandi why she was acting this way, but the only thing Zandi did was cry. Out of great concern, Nomhle ended up opening up to a colleague at work, who referred her to a social worker. Mandisa Muruge, a counselling social worker at Family Life Centre in Joburg, says Zandi could be a victim of molestation. Mandisa says a child of any age, be it a boy or girl, can be a victim of this kind of abuse. Loyiso Dumako, a social worker from Cape Town, explains what is molestation.She says molestation is the act of touching a child in a sexual manner, including touching them on their private parts, and sexually exploiting and exposing a child to inappropriate sexual behaviours.

Mandisa says there are signs a parent should look out for if they suspect their child is being molested. “If your child is being molested, they will lose interest in the things that they used to do with other children. For example, if your child's molester is not living in the same house, the child will prefer to play indoors to avoid the abuser. However, if the child lives with the abuser in the same house, they will be very scared to be left alone with the molester. And if the molester is around, the child will show signs of not being happy to be around the molester,” says Mandisa.

“If the child is still very young and still needs help when bathing, they will avoid being touched on their private parts and they will show signs of mistrust. The child will also cling to the person who makes them happy and gives them love instead of hurting them,” she says. She adds that, “Children who are being molested become loners; they will always prefer their own company. They do this to shield and protect themselves from being harmed. The child will sometimes struggle to sleep and they will also wet their bed when asleep. These are sudden habits that the child will develop because of the trauma they have experienced.” Mandisa says your child will sometimes lose their appetite or change from being bubbly and will be depressed or feel scared.

WHO COULD MOLEST YOUR CHILD

Mandisa goes on to say that anyone can molest your child. “Crimes of this nature have escalated and it’s not easy to trust people with your child. The painful thing about this is that family, friends or relatives are capable of doing this. Child molesters will make it difficult to even trust the coolest person around you,” she says. “This means you need to always be vigilant around your children. Always listen to a child, don’t ignore what they tell you no matter how you think it’s not possible for someone to do such a thing.”

WHY YOUR CHILD WILL KEEP QUITE ABOUT THE ABUSE

According to Mandisa, it is not always easy for the child to open up about being molested or abused. “The molester always threatens the child or their family. For instance, they will tell the child that if they tell anyone about their secret, they will kill them or their family. They also convince a child that it’s not wrong to do what they are doing to them. The abuser will often intimidate the child to make sure the child doesn’t reveal their secret,” she says. “It’s not easy for a child to talk about being abused or molested. The abuser is usually older and in a position of power. This makes the child believe what they are being told by their molester. They believe that the worst could happen to them if they talk.”

THERE IS HELP FOR YOUR CHILD

“The first thing that you as the parent should do when you see these signs or find out that your child is being molested is to take the child to a doctor for an examination. If the doctor confirms that the child is being abused in any way, you should immediately open a case with the police,” advices Mandisa. Loyiso agrees with Mandisa and adds that the parents can help their child by immediately reporting the perpetrator to the police.

"The child then needs to see a counsellor for a counselling session to help them deal with the trauma of being molested. However, they might need ongoing counselling," says Mandisa. “As parents, you also need to go to these counselling sessions. Taking the child to a counsellor often helps because there are techniques that the counsellor uses for the child to open up. That is why the child needs to be taken to a professional who is trained and equipped to deal with the problem. Both psychologists and social workers can help,” she says. *Not their real names.

GET HELP

¯ FAMSA: 011 975 7106/6

¯ CHILDLINE SA: 08000 55 5555

¯ SAPS: 10 111