News24

Sex abuse victims 'turned away'

2009-08-26 14:23

Cape Town - The police are turning away "numerous" sexual abuse victims as reports of physical abuse soar, parliamentarians heard on Wednesday.

Joan van Niekerk, the manager of advocacy and training at Childline, told Parliament's portfolio committee on women and children that the organisation had received numerous reports of children and adults being turned away by the police.

"For the past three years Childline has had numerous reports of children and adults with children attempting to report sexual abuse to police stations turned away," she said.

Van Niekerk, who made her remarks in the presence of a contingent of senior police officers, said she was once astounded to be told by a provincial police commissioner that the only way to reduce rape statistics was to turn away victims.

Target

"As one provincial police commissioner noted to me in a meeting - the target of seven to 10% reduction in rapes is impossible to achieve - the only way we can do it is to turn victims away.

"This is what some police stations have been doing - telling parents that their children will be traumatised by the criminal justice system process, that they can do nothing if the child is too young to testify."

A report released to the committee said Childline had received 3 428 calls related to physical abuse in 2008, up from 1 775 in 2006 and 2 538 in 2007.

Van Niekerk said legislation for children was "simply not being implemented".

Legislation

"South Africa has some of the best legislation in the world, but it is simply not being implemented.

"The Children's Act number 38 was passed four years ago but only 30 sections of 300 have been implemented, leaving children very unprotected and without preventive and remedial services," she said.

Committee chairperson Barbara Thomson said she was shocked at the report.

"It is supposed to be us who question you to get clarity on issues, but in some instances you who should be questioning us," Thomson said.

"Everything you said hits right into our faces."