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.