By Anja van den Berg
The recent incident of a seven-year-old girl who was raped in a Dros restaurant restroom in Pretoria has left many South Africans fearing for their children’s safety. The sad reality is this is just one of many incidents – over 40% of all rapes in South Africa are committed against children.
In 41% of the more than 120,000 total rape cases reported in the last three financial years, children were the victims, Minister of Police Bheki Cele revealed in Parliament recently. The frightening part is that these statistics have been increasing over the years.
Acknowledging that sexual abuse happens can be difficult for members of any community. Yet, according to UNICEF, global statistics show that sexual violence toward children is alarmingly common.
Upload this checklist to your emergency plan in the unfortunate event that your child is the victim of rape:
- First and foremost – stay calm
Most important is for the parents to remain as calm as possible, says Jacqui Gilbert, MD of RADA, an acronym for rape, alcohol, drug and abuse. “Instinctively a parent wants to take revenge on the attacker and will react with intense and violent anger, which is understandable, but this is the time to remain calm. Let your child know you love and care about him or her and allow the child to speak as much as possible.”
- Report the crime
Make sure your child is out of danger. Once this has been established, report the crime at your local police station. According to the Western Cape government website, the local police station will then contact the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) unit of the police. A detective of the relevant FCS unit will come to the police station to take statements and transport you and your child to the relevant forensic unit or rape centre closest to where the incident took place. Here, further management and evidence collection will take place. If possible, have a friend or your attorney accompany you.
- Preserve medico-legal evidence
The first 72 hours after the incident occurred is the most important period for collection of evidence. A medical examination to collect medico-legal evidence must be carried out as soon as possible and must be done by an accredited health care practitioner. Ensure that your child does not shower, bathe or even wash his or her hands. Scrapings from under the nails of the victim, if he or she has scratched the perpetrator, could be collected as evidence. Moreover, take clean underwear with as the victim’s may be needed for forensic testing. Specialists also advise that survivors avoid eating, drinking or brushing their teeth if there was any oral penetration. Survivors are encouraged to bring any items of clothing, linen or towels which may contain bodily fluid or biological evidence along in order to collect proof. Specialists also advise survivors to avoid wiping their private parts to prevent loss of evidence. If you think your child has been given a rape drug, a doctor or technician can screen for this, too.
- Get medical care
Even if the victim does not seem to have suffered injuries, he or she could still have been injured internally. A medical professional will examine your child internally and externally to check for any damage that might have been caused by the rape. Doctors can start your child on immediate treatment courses for STDs, including HIV/AIDS, which can help protect against developing these diseases. If your daughter had been raped, a medical professional may treat her for unwanted pregnancy, if she chooses. Emergency contraception is most effective when given as soon as possible but may be given up to 120 hours after intercourse.
- Counselling is a much-needed part of the healing
“It is extremely important to receive counselling from a professional to recover from the trauma,” says Gilbert. “Rape can take months or even years to recover from. The younger the child, the more difficult, as the child will block it out, but it will emerge again at a later age. They might lash out at parents or caregivers. There might be changes in personality and the child might suffer from depression and nightmares. It is important through all these emotional ups and downs that parents remain patient, understanding, and always loving.”
Kids Health: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/rape.html
Brand South Africa: https://www.brandsouthafrica.com/governance/services/personal-crisis-help-services
The South African: https://www.thesouthafrican.com/rape-statistics-41-children/
East Coast Radio: https://www.ecr.co.za/lifestyle/family/expert-advice-how-help-child-who-victim-rape/
Western Cape Government: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/general-publication/what-you-need-know-about-rape-forensic-units
Western Cape Government: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/general-publication/what-you-need-know-about-rape-forensic-units?toc_page=1
Western Cape Government: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/general-publication/what-you-need-know-about-rape-forensic-units?toc_page=3