‘Secondary abuse’ less

2018-05-09 06:02
At the opening of the first child-friendly facility at the Phakamile Mabija Police Station, where children who were sexually abused, can go for help, are from the left Monique Strydom (founder of the Matla A Bana charity organisation), Renee Palmer (Old Mutual Trust Fund volunteer), Capt. Nadia Kika (head of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences unit), Brig. Charlotte Makgare (manager of the Kimberley Police Station) and Kenneth Japhta (Old Mutual area manager in the Northern Cape). Photo: Christiaan Cloete

At the opening of the first child-friendly facility at the Phakamile Mabija Police Station, where children who were sexually abused, can go for help, are from the left Monique Strydom (founder of the Matla A Bana charity organisation), Renee Palmer (Old Mutual Trust Fund volunteer), Capt. Nadia Kika (head of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences unit), Brig. Charlotte Makgare (manager of the Kimberley Police Station) and Kenneth Japhta (Old Mutual area manager in the Northern Cape). Photo: Christiaan Cloete

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Victims of child abuse, many of them little girls aged four to 12 years who have been raped, will now suffer minimal secondary abuse when they report crimes to the South African Police Service (SAPS) in the Northern Cape.

This comes after the successful launch of the first child-friendly facility at the Phakamile Mabija Police Station on Friday (04/05) by Matla A Bana.

The facility is situated at the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) unit, designed to be a safe room where statements can be taken from children and assessments done by the SAPS’s forensic social workers.

The Matla A Bana charity is the brainchild of Monique Strydom, who survived a four month hostage ordeal in the hands of Al Qaeda terrorists in 2000.

On the morning of her release, Strydom vowed to dedicate her life to help fellow South Africans in need and founded Matla A Bana as “a voice against child abuse” in 2001 after the terrible rape cases of Baby Lerato and Baby Tshepang in South Africa.

More than 30 of these Matla A Bana facilities are reported to have been implemented across the country, reaching more than 30 000 victims of child abuse.

In the Kimberley region alone, Matla A Bana trained 30 FCS detec­tives in a three-day soft skills course.

A total of 30 more detectives will get further training in the Upington region.

These projects have been made possible by an Old Mutual staff donation as part of a four year project by Old Mutual to assist vulnerable children in rural areas.

According to Strydom, she first started an organisation in which she tried unsuccessfully to determine why children are being raped.

She said she was later approached by a police officer of the FCS who asked her to assist at the place which the kids called “a terrible place.”

“I said no for a very long time until I just could not say no anymore. That was when Matla A Bana was born, 16 years ago,” said Strydom.

It started in a small office with only two staff members at her house, but has grown to a national award winning charity, helping thousands of children every year.

The organisation, aimed at minimising the secondary abuse that children suffer during court cases, only has to left a final footprint in Limpopo as the last of the nine provinces to reach.

Elaborating on the challenges she stumbled upon within this province, she mentioned the long distances to and from home by the officers and victims, the unavailability of doctors for forensic tests, and the opening and closing hours of Thuthuzela Care Centres and the tremendous pressure on the investigators. The Thuthuzela programme is led by the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs unit of the National Prosecu­ting Authority.

Excited about the opening of the room at the Phakamile Mabija Police Station, Capt. Nadia Kika, head of the FCS, revealed the challenge that the police officers experience when taking the victims for forensic medical examination after their traumatic ordeals.

Giving a short overview of the procedures she highlighted the difficulty of having to parade the victims through an already full government hospital. According to her, limiting the amount of trauma on the victims is the ideal as the children – boys and girls – are already suffe­ring.

“When you enter the ward with this little child and you have to walk her through that full ward, while she has been through trauma number one, getting there is trauma number two.

“Going through the forensic medical facility is trauma number three.

“Going out of there, where I take a statement, is trauma number four.

“I cannot tell you how many more traumas happen after that, like the consultation with the court, and eventually testifying,” Kika said.

Admitting the challenges of her unit, she said they are trying to lessen the trauma as is done at the Thuthuzela Care Centres countrywide, of which the one in Kimberley only operates until 16:00.

According to her it is due to the lack of funds that the Thuthuzela Care Centres cannot operate 24 hours within the province.

This leads to child victims being exposed to police stations, where there is lack of privacy – a challenge elaborated on at the launch.

“You cannot make a police station child-friendly as it services all communities.”

“Giving us this room, minimises a few of the levels of trauma.

“I cannot tell you how much it means to us to have been given this little haven, despite the many challenges we have.

“It will allow the children to trust us more easily, because that is the first thing we have to do, which is a process.

“It will assist us so much in our investigations by fast-tracking it in many ways.

“Bringing a raped child into a friendly room, is already breaking so many barriers.”

She further added that the room will limit the amount of time that officials have to engage with the victims as it will make it easier.

According to Kika, her FCS unit will now start queueing to utilise the room as the 18 investigators have their own amount of cases that they have to do.

She said through the assistance of rooms such as these, life sentences and long jail sentences will be passed on the guilty persons, removing them from society.

I said no for a very long time until I just could not say no anymore.

– Monique Strydom

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