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

Friday, December 18, 2009

Kids2Kids 2009 - What a Success! thank you

Without YOU guys, this could not be possible. We managed to donate 218 gifts for children this Christmas, covering 5 children's homes and safe houses. Kids2Kids started out as a pilot project and we have accomplished an amazing feat this year.

It could not have been done without your dedication to finding the uniqueness and identifying the individuality of children who are less privileged than our own.

A Sincere thank you and well done.

For more detials and pictures, please log on to http://www.informationempowers.org.za/index_files/Page701.htm

Sunday, December 13, 2009

South Africa tackles World Cup Child Trafficking Fears

By Courtney Brooks (AFP)

JOHANNESBURG — Lesotho-born Thato was brought to South Africa at age three, by a woman she knew simply as "granny". Five years later, her "granny" sold her into sexual slavery. The woman who bought her was running a sex ring that police are still investigating to find out how many children were involved.

   It's a scenario that South African authorities and child welfare campaigners are already working to prevent during the football World Cup next year, which authorities fear could draw in child traffickers hoping to cash in on the fanfare around the games.

   Thato, now 10, was rescued just three months ago by a social worker who brought her to Amazing Grace Children's Home, which houses 79 children outside Johannesburg.

   The home's founder Grace Mashaba, who explained Thato's story, said her parents probably had no idea that the "granny" would sell their daughter.
   "That 'granny' doesn't have children, so she keeps asking people, 'Can you give me your child so she can stay with me?' She has a good house, so people trust in her," Mashaba said.

   Thato at least was able to speak about her abuse. Another 10-year-old Lesotho girl rescued from the sex ring is too traumatised to talk, Mashaba said.

An estimated 247,000 children in South Africa now work in exploitive labour, including prostitution, according to the Child Protection Action Plan for the World Cup, created by government?s department of social development.

Campaigners worry that the problem will grow with the influx of tourists next year, especially as South African schools will be closed during the World Cup, which runs from June 11 to July 11, meaning many children could be left unattended during the day.

   "Child trafficking is a big concern because of the big economic pull of the event," said Stephen Blight, the head of child protection in South Africa for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

"All the fans and visitors spending money will create a whole network that criminal networks will want to benefit from."

The government worries that child trafficking could increase as poor South Africans struggle for a slice of the four billion dollars the World Cup is expected to generate.

Parliament is due to consider a trafficking law early next year, aiming to prevent children from getting recruited to beg or hawk souvenirs on the streets, or more worryingly forced into prostitution.

Rebecca Pursell, a social worker for Kholisa Management Services, a child advocacy group, said the school holidays could add to the problem for children.
   "They will be loitering around without much activity, which places them at high risk not only of trafficking but of sexual exploitation," she said.

In addition to cross-border trafficking from Zimbabwe, Mozambique or Lesotho, many poor South Africans will leave rural areas to look for work in the cities during the games, she said.

   Mariam Khokhar, of the UN's International Organization for Migration, said prevention campaigns are already underway, including theatre programmes in rural areas to educate people about the danger of trafficking.

   "Criminal elements often tend to exploit such events, and there will be an increase in criminality which could possibly include trafficking," she told AFP.

For Thato, she will live at the Amazing Grace home for now. Many of children stay at the home until they finish high school, Mashaba said. Most of them have been abandoned, orphaned or abused. Those who have been trafficked from other countries can be repatriated, but often choose to stay, Mashaba said.
   "Even their own families, they do sell those girls. It's the people that you know that traffic the children."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cops to set up DNA database for missing kids - by Caryn Dolley - Cape Times 11 December 2009

In a desperate attempt to help find youngsters who go missing, provincial police are trying to set up a national DNA database of children. Officers are also trying to get all cinemas and banks in the Western Cape to air a short video clip showing pictures and details of the 114 children who, as of yesterday, were missing in the province.

And they are also planning to approach all mall managers as well as train and taxi operators to try to get them to distribute pamphlets with the details of those missing.

Police announced these plans as officers continued searching for six-year-old Okuhle and three-year-old Mabaxole Maqhubela, the latest additions to the province's list of missing children. They disappeared in Laingsburg last week on their way from East London to Cape Town by taxi.

Yesterday, during the police's weekly press briefing, provincial visible policing head Robbie Roberts, said missing children were one of the "biggest concerns" in the province.

He said "on a daily basis a lot of children are reported missing" and as of yesterday the provincial total stood at 114 children.  Roberts warned parents not to leave their children alone or let them out of their sight.

"And ask yourself when you put your children in the care of somebody, do you really know that person? Do you really trust that person?"

Roberts urged parents to tag their children, including on the tag the child's name and the parents' contact details, especially when taking their children to a large public area like a beach. "It's unbelievable how many children get lost on a beach in one day," he said.

Roberts said children needed to be taught their home address and parents' cellphone or landline number. "Once recovered, we find it difficult to get this information from children."

He also urged parents to take photographs of their children so they would always have a recent one.

Provincial Police Commissioner Mzwandile Petros had therefore tasked Roberts, with the help of a number of NGOs, to come up with a more effective plan to tackle the problem.

In the most recent missing children case, Roberts said officers had been unable to find recent photographs of Okuhle Maqhubela and her brother, Mabaxole. The brother and sister went missing from a petrol station in Laingsburg at midnight last week during a trip from East London to Cape Town, where they would have been reunited with their mother.

Roberts said police in the province would approach the national office to have an identity kit they had created for children, to be distributed in the Western Cape and the rest of the country, approved.
Once filled out and completed, the kit would include details of the child, a recent photograph, his or her fingerprints, a DNA sample, his or her blood type and details of his or her parents.

If approved, Roberts said the kits would be distributed at all cr232ches and schools in the province early next year.

Parents would not have to pay for it and could fill it in voluntarily.

Roberts said a number of organisations were "making money out of missing children" as they were selling identity kits to parents and telling them their child would be put on a database.

"But we don't want the community to pay for us to search for a missing child. It's our job," he said.

Dessie Rechner, founder of the NGO Pink Ladies which helps police with search operations, said she was "extremely excited" about the identity kit and proposed database.

Roberts said "top priority areas" in terms of missing children included Cape Town, George, Nyanga and Claremont.

During the festive season, Roberts said at least 500 extra police officers would be deployed in the province.
When they conducted road- blocks and searched cars they would also hand out missing children pamphlets.


This article was originally published on page 1 of The Cape Times on December 11, 2009

How to keep track of your children - by Mary-Anne Gontsana

Cape Times - 25 November 2009
    "My daughter went missing for one minute, I panicked and when asked to identify her, I went completely blank," says Norah Papanicolaou, founder of a community-based organisation Information Empowers.

   Information Empowers was established in 2001 with the aim of distributing information about child sexual abuse and ways to safeguard children.

   Papanicolaou said: "Not everyone has access to the Internet or can afford books. We are developing workshops and a workbook for children, called CIA Kids because confident, informed and assertive children are less likely to become victims of child predators."

   She said a recent project, the "Smart Kids' Kit" derived from a US-based organisation devoted to preventing crimes against children and assisting in the recovery of missing children.

   The kit is distributed free of charge and guides caregivers on how to keep important information about their children. It includes space for details such as birthmarks, height, age, and photographs.

This article was originally published on page 7 of The Cape Times on November 25, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Marathino Christiaan Ohlsson - missing 20-month old - since end October 2009

I have read about Marathino Christiaan Ohlsson who has gone missing [Cape Times, Friday 20 November 2009] but find it difficult to understand why a clear and precise description of the 20-month old toddler has not been widely circulated.

He was wearing ‘ a blue and red long-sleeved shirt and a pair of green, brown and black trousers’, but what
about what he looks like? What about distinguishing marks, such as a birthmark or his eye-colour, hair and size.

All families should have a file with a detailed description of their child[ren] at hand.

Photographs of [especially small children] should be taken at least every 6 weeks for the eventuality of the
child going missing. Fingerprints and DNA samples can be easily taken and stored correctly.

We don’t want to recognize the fact that the possibility exists that our children could disappear, but we need
to be pro-active.

With the help and permission of the Polly Klaas © Foundation in the States, we have made a Smart Kids’ Kit available which we are distributing free of charge to anyone who would like to keep information of their children at hand.

If anyone would like a Smart Kids’ Kit, they can contact Information Empowers! via email at norah@xsinet.co.za or link onto http://www.informationempowers.org.za/

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