Protecting children in PMB

2016-11-23 06:01
PHOTO: sourced

PHOTO: sourced

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PROTECTING children against rape and abuse is the central focus this year for the upcoming 16 Days of Activism Against Women and Child Abuse which begins on Friday, 25 November.

Speaking to Maritzburg Fever, director f Lifeline Pietermaritzburg Sinikiwe Biyela, said that the aim this year is to sensitise the community about the increase of child rape and the effects thereof given that there has been a significant increase in cases reported in the UMgungundlovu area in 2016.

“The sad reality is that this year there has been increased cases reported of children being raped with the perpetrators mainly being people they know or are familiar with. There are, of course, a small percentage of victims who don’t know the perpetrators, however, it is mainly someone that they [the victim] feels safe with.

“We can only assume that the reason that children are being targeted is because they are most likely to keep quiet about the rape and this doesn’t look like it is changing,” she said.

According to Biyela, child rape cases have increased specifically in the Edendale area with children between the ages of two and 12 being the main ones targeted. Out of the 810 cases reported from January to October, 567 of these have been new child rape cases.

“Most of these cases are coming from France, Imbali unit 14, Sweetwaters, Mpumuza, and Mpophomeni.”

She added that a growing concern regarding these cases is the fact that most of the cases are reported after the 72- hour period, which inhibits the child from receiving the necessary treatment especially when it comes to HIV.

“Many people reported these cases far too late and with UMgungundlovu having the highest HIV rate in the province, this is something serious that needs to be addressed. Parents and family members need to know that it is important to report rape immediately so that the victim can get the necessary treatment and counselling,” said Biyela.

With the focus on children this year, Biyela said that there will be an opportunity for the community to hear directly from the children about how they feel about safety in their community and then hear their experiences which, she hopes, will educate families to be more aware of issues around safety for their children.

“This year we wanted the children to have a voice of their own, for the community to hear directly from them and to not have adults speaking on their behalf. We are looking forward to hearing what they have to say. We want to send a message to the community to protect their children,” said Biyela.

She added that the theme for this year was informed by the statistics that Lifeline have received throughout the year. “These ages seem to be neglected during the sensitisation during the 16 days however the numbers tell us that they need to be protected the most.”

Among various other statistics, there are increased cases that take place over weekends and during the school holidays when children are at home and often without supervision.

“We have found that the only time that children feel, and are, protected is when they are in school. A very harrowing reality is that people think that children are not protected when they are at home, and what gives them the right to think that,” she said.

Biyela said the long-term effects that a rape has on a child is very concerning.

“Often children get infected with HIV because they did not reported it within the required time frame. They are also more likely to contract other sexually transmitted diseases which can become so severe that they are not even able to walk.

“It affects their behaviour in school where teachers can see vast changes in their behaviours which, in turn, prevents them from becoming successful and has a severe impact on their futures. Mental impacts and consequences of their rape literally affect every aspect of their lives,” said Biyela.

She said that often parents and family members underestimate the importance of counselling and view going to a counsellor and talking about the rape as a weakness and would rather never speak about the incident again.

“Parents don’t understand counselling. They often ask how counselling is going to help them. It’s a new concept for them to grasp but the seriousness and importance of counselling can never be stressed enough. It needs to be taken seriously and while some adults view it as just talking, this is very therapeutic and helps the child through the rape,” said Biyela.

While child rape cases are mainly among girls, there have also been some reports of boys being raped.

Biyela also said that, because the children are so young, often they do not remember what happened to them and do not know that they were raped.

They simply remember that they were “hurt” by someone. “It is only when they become teenagers and learn about these things that they realise what happened to them and this is when the impacts of the rape surface. Some of the heartbreaking things that happen is when children visit our offices and have HIV tests and, while they know they are not sexually active, test positive.

“They are not shy to ask their parents how this happened and often parents will come into our offices and ask for their children to be excused and we are told that they were raped as children but never spoke of it or told their child,” she said.

According the Biyela the lack of convictions gives the perpetrators a sense of no fear because they think that they will never get caught.

“Until the law gets harsher perpetrators will continue to target the weakest group, the ones who cannot defend themselves.”

Support and counselling are the main ways to get a child through a rape.

“Talking about it is key,” said Biyela.

Lifeline Pietermaritzburg will be holding a march on Friday, 25 November beginning at Thandanani in Langalibalele Street and will be led by children from the city from the communities most affected by child rape. There will also be a debriefing session held at the KwaZulu-Natal Museum and the community is invited to join the event to hear directly from the children.

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