Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The secret crime of sex abuse - by Ilse Paul, Health 24

An Unreported Crime
south Africa is one of the countries with the highest incidence of sexual abuse in the world. However, the exact number of cases is hard to pinpoint as sexual abuse goes largely unreported.

According to a counsellor at Rape Crises, it can take several years before survivors of sexual abuse decide to report the crime.

Young children may not understand what is happening, especially when the perpetrator is an adult and someone they trust. They may sense that it is wrong but because of the power imbalance and age difference, they feel helpless to do anything to stop it.

A Secret Crime
Sexual abuse is a secretive crime, often involving bribery and threats. If there is a big age discrepancy between the perpetrator and the victim, the chances are great that the victim will believe the threats and therefore keep quiet about what is happening. Many also fear that they will not be believed.

It is common for survivors to blame themselves for what had happened. "If only I did this or that, it wouldn't have happened or I could have stopped it" are common thoughts and it may take years before people start to accept that they are not to blame.

In order to survive, people often deny that the abuse had taken place and try to block out memories of the events. Without help, some survivors struggle to come to terms with what had happened and may develop problems such as eating disorders, deprssion or substance abuse.

Sexual abuse has a huge effect on people's ability to trust others and some survivors may find it difficult to form relationships later in life.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Questions parents are afraid to ask, but should be...

   We live in a society where offence is easily taken, and where we don’t want to be seen as being paranoid or overly protective of the children in our care. We all want to be easy-going parents with a happy demeanour.

   We find out from other parents how things work, or only talk to the class teacher – specifically when our children go to new schools. We are happy with the pleasant answers because pleasant questions have been asked.

   We leave our children in the care of people who are employed to teach and look after them, but how certain are we really of the fact that our children are truly safe?

   These are some questions that parents and care-givers should be asking schools, crèches, day care and after care facilities, but are afraid to.

1.  Who has access to my children while they are on these premises?

2.  What age groups share playgrounds and bathrooms? Children with an age difference of minimum 4 years
      between them, should not be on the same playground and should not share bathroom facilities.

3.  Who are the staff employed to work with my children and have they received police clearance?

4.  Is there anyone employed by you who has had a conviction against them?

5.  Who are the parents who have access to my children? [helpers, volunteers, sports coaches]

6.  What is the school or facility’s protocol on safety for the children? Can I have a copy?

7.  Upon leaving school grounds, does anyone check with whom the children leave?

8.  Maintenance and Service providers – what access do they have to the children? Do you have a 
     copy of their Identity Books? [You don’t want a copy, you just want to know that someone
     responsible has taken this precaution.]

These are a couple of basic questions.

Sit down now and think of those niggling things that bother you about this.

   Be sure to know that you will get strange looks or comments when asking some of these questions. You may be diplomatically labelled as being ‘more intense than most parents’, or not so diplomatically, as “crazy or paranoid”. But also know that you’ll feel better about the safety of your children, knowing that you have checked these important issues.

   When in doubt, act on your instinct and intuition. You are responsible for the safety of your children.

Instinct and intuition is often ignored but it is one of the first lines of defence when it comes to personal safety – yours and that of your children.

By Norah Papanicolaou

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