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 or link onto

Monday, November 9, 2009

Latest Domestic Violence Report Shows not enough has been done.

Denise Robinson, Shadow Minister of Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities - 4.11.2009

   Women reporting domestic violence incidents are being failed by police because they are not capturing the details of cases adequately. Police are failing victims by not noting incidents in the Domestic Violence Register, not obtaining witness statements or advising complainants of options, such as the availability of protection orders or their rights in laying criminal charges, and the list goes on. The cases have been outlined in the Domestic Violence Report tabled in parliament by the Independent Complaints Directorate.

   These failings go against the legislation of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) which has been operational for nearly a decade, since 15 December 1999, and which the South African Police Service (SAPS) is meant to uphold.

   The SAPS should be protecting the victims and upholding the DVA. Failure to uphold the act will merely hold us back in achieving justice for the vulnerable victims of violence.

   The report shows that during the period of July – December 2008 there were a total of 66 allegations of non compliance matters by members of the SAPS received by the ICD.

   The highest number of non-compliance matters were reported in KwaZulu-Natal with 14, followed by the Free State with 9; the Western Cape and North West with 7 cases each, Northern Cape and Limpopo with 5, Mpumalanga with 3 and Eastern Cape with none. During July – December 2007, 57 cases of non-compliance were reported to the ICD so it is evident that non-compliance is on the increase.

   This is shocking considering that domestic violence is so rife in South Africa. According to the SAPS’s Annual Report (2008/2009) the number of crimes committed against women totals 188,425 - that’s 516 crimes against women per day.

  Further there appears to be a total lack of commitment from the government to fight domestic violence on the ground.

   The government removed the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit (FCS). But it has since realised its mistake and has said it will re-establish the FCS. The DA welcomes this move, but in a reply given by the Minister of Police last month we learned there has been no specific date set for the re-establishment of the FCS.

   There are not enough domestic violence shelters for victims of domestic violence. Only 96 shelters exist in South Africa and accessing these shelters is often difficult.

   This month will mark the beginning of “16 Days of Activism and 365 Days of No Violence Against Women and Children”. It is an international campaign originating from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute and runs from 25 November till 10 December each year. But it is clearly not enough that the issue of Domestic Violence is raised just once a year. This issue needs far more and constant attention.

   The DA will be asking the Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa what steps he is taking to ensure that a national FCS unit is established quickly. There are FCS units and specialized individuals at cluster or station level but the DA feels this is not yet adequate. We will also ask what steps and training will be introduced to ensure that more SAPS stations are compliant with the DVA
    Questions have been asked of Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, the Minister of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities about the SAPS Trauma counselling centres. They were sent in June this year but we are still awaiting a reply. The questions have been attached below.

(a) As at the latest date for which information is available, how many SAPS Trauma Counselling centres currently exist at Police Stations per province;
(b) How many of these are fully functional;
(c) What are their hours of operation;
(d) How many counsellors are assigned to each of the centres;
(e) what qualifications and experience does each of these counsellors have;
(f) whether all members of the public who have been traumatized either through assault or abuse, are referred to counsellors; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details;
(g) whether there are specialized counselling for adults and children who have been abused; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details;
(h) whether there are any counselling for the parents of children who have suffered abuse; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details;
(i) what monitoring systems are in place to ensure that these counselling services are properly implemented; (j) whether there are any systems are in place to give police officers counselling on a regular basis, bearing in mind that they are exposed to violence and trauma themselves in the course of their duty; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details;
(k) whether counsellors are paid a stipend or is this purely voluntary work;
(l) whether any Trauma Centres have been closed down over each of the past 3 years; if so, which centres and why?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Child Sexual Abuse - Who is doing this to our children?

Who is doing this to our children?
   There are various definitions for the type of person who would sexually abuse our children. Most commonly, they are referred to as paedophiles or child molesters.
   Important to know that once an adult or older youth has committed the crime of child sexual abuse, they cannot be rehabilitated. Although there are programs where they try to rehabilitate these predators, most of them concentrate on removing the prey [your child] from the perpetrator [the paedophile]. Like an alcoholic with alcohol, if these predators are in the presence of our children, the temptation is always there for them to molest and rape again and again. Most often, paedophiles and molesters are known to their victims or to their families.

Why do they do it?
   Paedophiles and molesters are attracted to our children sexually and they receive gratification by their actions. They often seduce our children with attention and gifts – this is called grooming.
   There are those predators who hurt our children because their motivation is more an issue of power than sexual desire.
   Then there are those who hurt our children through pornography and child prostitution because they seek financial gain.
   These predators do it because in most cases they have the power of control over our children and they have the privacy and opportunity to do it. It should become the life mission of anyone who has a child or who knows a child, to remove the opportunity, power, control and privacy from these predators.

   Paedophiles and molesters look for opportunities where they can abuse our children – they also create opportunities – in the privacy of the location that they have chosen, at their own time and on their own terms. We need to ensure that we know what situations and behaviours to look for in people who could potentially
sexually abuse our children.

   It is important to know that these predators are con-men. They will tell you anything to make you believe them and to go with them. They will look you in the eye and convince you that their intentions are good.

How do they do it?
   Paedophiles have various ways of ensuring that they have control over your child in order for them to sexually abuse them. Examples of grooming tactics and lures used by paedophiles to sexually abuse our children
Affection – pretending they care for the victim and their family
Assistance – asking for help from the victim
Bribery – age related items like sweets, toys, food, alcohol, money.
Authority – using their position as coach, scout leader for example, to lower the victim’s guard and defences.
False Emergency – they state there is an emergency at home
Fun and Games – that allows touching
Ego/Fame/Jobs – modelling jobs, beauty contests, private auditions; where they are told to keep it secret.
Name recognition – uses names of victims displayed on personal property like books, school bags, jackets, etc to make victim feel comfortable.
Threats/Fear – threatens the victim into not telling
Heroes – dresses up like Father Christmas or a clown to win kids over.
Magic and rituals – preys on victim’s innocence.
Pornography – uses pornographic material to lower inhibitions and then to make them feel ashamed and unworthy of the love of those who really care for them.

Who do they target as their victims?
   This is a broad description and not necessarily characteristics of victims. Children from birth age to those on the brink of puberty can be victims of child sexual abusers. Children who lack affection and physical and emotional attention at home. Children who lack confidence. Children who are left alone or left to look after
themselves. Children who are situations where there are no responsible adults to look after them. Children who live in homes where there are substance abuse.

Any child - Our children…

What can we do right now, to stop this from happening to our children?
   Remove your children from situations where paedophiles have opportunity, privacy and control over your child, where they can do what they want, where they want and on their own terms.

We need to teach our children daily from the youngest age, the following in an age-appropriate and non-fearful way…

That he or she has to check with you before they go anywhere with someone other than yourself.

To run away from danger.

To shout and make as much noise as possible when someone tries to forcibly take them away or tries to lure them away from the public eye.

To have a safety plan – if you are not home when they come from school, give them a safe alternative place to where they can go.

It is okay to say NO! to an adult.

Which strangers are okay to ask for help, for example, another mom with children, or the teller at the shop; if they are ever separated from you.

An adult or older child asking for directions or help is usually a sign of danger – adults should ask other adults for help or directions.

If an adult or older child takes something from them that belongs to them; and your child needs to get closer in order to get the thing back, they must rather turn around and run away and tell you.

You can handle anything they may wish to tell you. There should be no secrets kept from you – even if someone has told them that they would hurt them if they told.

Their body belongs to them. Any part of their bodies which is covered by a bathing suit is private – this means, that nobody must touch it. And nobody must ask them to show this private body to them for any reason.

To tell you or another adult if someone does something that makes them feel uncomfortable, scared or confused. They must tell until someone listens.

To listen to their inside voice [instinct]. Usually, if something feels wrong, it is. They must pay attention to this and get away from the situation.

To know their telephone number, address and full name.

Children are taught to obey adults, but if they’re feeling unsafe, uncomfortable or confused, they should get away from that adult and tell you about it a.s.a.p.

About basic sex education, using age-appropriate language and information.

What parents need to know and do right now and every day:
   Never leave your child unattended [playing in the front garden, or with the neighbour’s kids in the park, or in any situation where you cannot see them.] Not even for a minute – it takes seconds for someone to lure your child away, or to grab them by force. Remove the opportunity for predators to take your child away from you.

Ask yourself what motivation another adult or an older child would have to spend time alone with your child [always offering to baby sit, transport the child or be alone with your child].

Never let your child go places alone. Even 2 small children can be abducted together.

Know where your children are and with whom at all times.

Assume that what your child has to say is just as important as what you have to say – you are giving your child a voice.

Talk to your child, and listen to your child – really listen. Even 5 minutes of sincere listening to your child will ensure that your child knows that he or she matters and is important to you.

Try to identify situations and behaviours where your child may be at risk of being abducted, raped and murdered. Act on this. Don’t expose your child to that possibility.

Believe your child when they tell you that they have been hurt by someone, or shown something that has upset them or made them feel uncomfortable.

Listen to your children when they tell you they don’t want to go stay with someone with whom you want to leave them.

Love your child, and tell them that you love them as often as you can.

Can your child answer the following questions?

Can your child answer the following questions?

1. Do you know that it is okay to say “NO!” to an adult or an older child?

   Children are taught to always be polite and mind their manners and therefore, children would find it difficult to say no to an adult or older child when they feel uncomfortable or are unsure about what the adult or older child wants them to do. It is therefore important to realize that not all people have your child’s best intentions at heart. The reality is that there are people in this country who would harm your child for their own needs.

   Teach your child that it is okay to say no to an adult or older child when they expect them to do something that makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe or uncertain. Tell them that you will explain to this adult or older child that your child was being safe and trusted his instincts or inner voice. And make sure that you do back your child up when it comes to him/her following their instinct when it comes to matters of personal safety.

2. Do you know when to stop a conversation that makes you feel uncomfortable, unsafe or doubtful inside?
   Children are innocent and even though they are taught not to talk to strangers, situations exist where adults and older children talk to your child about things that are inappropriate.

   Your young child may feel uncomfortable and not know how to handle the information [which may be explicit] that is coming their way. Teach your child that if a conversation makes them feel uncomfortable, unsafe or doubtful inside, to walk or run away and to tell you or another trusted adult about it as soon as possible.

3. Do you know which person to go to for help if you get separated from mom or dad?
   Children are taught not to talk to strangers, but what if a stranger is the only one who could help them should they get separated from you? You want to ensure that your child knows which stranger to go to for help should this happen: the woman behind the till at a shopping centre, choose the pharmacist that you always go to for medication as a meeting point, or look for another mommy with children. These are some examples of ‘strangers’ who may assist your child should they get separated from you.

4. Do you know to run and yell… shout and tell, when someone tries to make you do something that you feel uncomfortable or scared about?
   A Child sexual predator tries to blend in and wants as little attention for himself as possible. Teach your child to scream and shout and make as much noise as they can when someone tries to make them do something that makes them feel uncomfortable or scared.

5. Do you know that you should take at least 2 adult step backwards [2 adult arm-lengths] when someone tries to get close to you in order for them to get within their reach?
   A person who wants to forcefully grab your child will try anything to get your child to get close to them in order for them to do that - from stopping in a car to ask for directions to taking their favourite toy and asking your child to come and fetch it from them. You need to teach your child that for example, adults stopping to ask children for directions is always a danger sign – they need to turn around and run in the opposite direction that the car is facing; and should someone take their favourite toy and ask them to get closer to get it back, to rather leave the toy and tell a trusted adult. Their lives are more important than any toy could ever be.

6. Do you know to stay in the public eye when you ask someone for help when you are away from your parents/care-givers?
    Staying in the public eye means staying where other people are too. Should your child need to ask for help from a stranger in for example a shopping centre, they need to know not to go anywhere else with that stranger – they must stay where other people are too. Where they can be seen. An opportunistic child sexual predator will hone in on your child and may ask him/her to go with him to find his parents.

7. Do you know that if you are 50% uncertain about a situation or about the behaviour of a person, to rather run away and tell and be safe, than to stay?
   Instinct is something you’re born with, intuition is something that is learnt through experience. Young children do not have intuition, but it can be taught and the first most important intuitive lesson a person can teach their child, is to follow the little voice of doubt inside, and to listen when the inner alarm bells go off. So, if your child feels a little bit uncertain or unsafe or unsure about a situation or behaviour, teach them to listen to that and get away from that person or place.

8. Do you know that people who really care for you will always back you up when you tell them something that is difficult for you to deal with?
   Children need to know that no matter how bizarre a story or emotion may sound to you, that you will always listen – really listen - to them, and believe them. If your child feels that he or she cannot tell you anything, they may not tell you about the person who tried to touch them inappropriately, or who showed him/her his private parts. Children do not easily talk about things that they feel is ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ for fear of getting into trouble. Parents and care-givers need to create opportunities for children to talk and make sure that they really listen to the child, and not judge the child.

9. Who are the people in your life that you trust – do I know them?
   Children don’t always understand what trust is about. A child sexual predator may take weeks to gain the trust of a child through grooming methods and you won’t even know that your child has been talking to or spending time with that person. Make sure that you know every person in your child’s life.

10. Do you know your personal details?
   Name, address, phone number, mom and dad’s first names and their telephone numbers. Children are never too young to learn these details.

11. Do you have a password that only mom and dad and you know for when someone else picks you up from school or from a friend’s house?
   If they don’t know the password [which only mom, dad and you know] then you don’t go with them. You tell another trusted adult and insist on phoning mom or dad to check.

12. Do you have a safe alternative place to go to should mom or dad not be home when you come home from school?
   It is paramount to your child’s safety to ensure that your child has a safe alternative place to go to if you are not home when they get back from school. Make sure that you tell your child how to get there, and that the person they are with is a trusted individual. Also ensure that your child is comfortable and feels safe at this place.

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