By Motlagae Konyana
Child sexual abuse in South Africa is extremely high. As a parent or guardian, do you know the signs that your child has been sexually abused? Do you know what should be do to support and protect your child. Parents want to protect their children but it is impossible to be with your child 24 hours a day and monitor their every move.
Recently, a six-year-old girl was raped in a restaurant bathroom – our children are really not safe. Parents have a natural instinct of wanting to protect their children from any harm because children tend to trust adults and this makes them vulnerable to harm as they are taught to respect adults and may view every adult as having authority over them. As part of their grooming, sexual Perpetuators are friendlier and are willing to do favours for children, which leads the child to trust them.
One in three children have been sexually violated in South Africa – this is a scary stat! But it is important for parents and guardians to know and to see the signs that their child is being sexually violated.
When your child tells you that they have been sexually abused – believe them. There has been a number of tweets showing that parents or adults don’t believe the children and accuse them of lying about adults and beating the children. This makes the child not trust you, close off and not tell you what happened. Once the child has told you what happened, you must report the incident to social workers. It is imperative to get professional help with issues of child abuse, be they sexual or otherwise. Try not to implicate or accuse anyone publicly and handle the matter with utmost sensitivity to protect your child and not to jeopardise the case.
Report the matter to the police and open a case with the help of the trained and professional social worker. Remember that your child may feel ashamed, confused and guilty. It’s advisable to have a professional to help you deal with these emotions.
Here are some of the signs of sexual abuse that parents and guardians should look out for
- Drastic change in behaviour and personality changes such as being very clingy, outbursts of anger, sleeping problems (struggling to sleep) and being withdrawn and secretive.
- Extreme awareness of their private parts and not wanting you to see their genital area.
- Bruises and soreness that is unexplainable around the mouth or private parts
- Playing with toys in a sexual manner and using sexual words to speak to others and toys .
Your child may show these signs – don’t ignore them even if you are always with your child and believe that she or he may have not been sexually violated. Ask and investigate the matter with utmost sensitive and love towards your child so that they trust you enough to tell you what happened. When they do tell you, listen to them carefully – don’t shout, don’t condemn the perpetrator in front of the child. Lastly, the child may have been threatened by sexual offender and your child may be scared to talk so take care and treat the matter with love and privacy.
Where to seek help:
Child Welfare South Africa – 087 822 1516
Department of Social Development 24Hrs – 0800 428 428
For a social worker dial *120*7867#
Child line South Africa – 0800 055 55
Teddy Bear Clinic – https://ttbc.org.za