Why what we do matters:
The World Health Organisation reports that sexually abused children often suffer a lifetime of physical, emotional, and developmental problems that can interfere with their ability to live productive lives.
Some factual information:
- Countrywide, last year's latest available statistics from the SA Child Protection Unit noted that some 16,068 young children were reported raped last year - out of the total 36,190 rapes reported. A total of 1,400 children were also among the 18,487 people who were murdered last year. Childline SA believes that the number is probably 9 times higher than these figures – 112,476 young children raped; more than 16 small children raped every single hour.
- Recent estimates show 1/3rd of children are orphaned by the time they are teenagers making them enormously vulnerable to predators; approx. three million children are without one or both parents.
- It is estimated that some weekends in South Africa as many as 20 infants/small children are assaulted, and often physically torn apart – sometimes they have to have as many as 12 reconstructive operations
- Many of them, but not all, are infected with the HIV virus. Others are infected with different sexually transmitted diseases.
- Many of the perpetrators are adolescent or pre-adolescent and in around 90% of rape the perpetrators know their victims
- Most infant and child assaults happen during the day
- Most assaulted infants are abandoned and require long term care.
- This is not a crime of or by any particular colour or creed – the numbers are proportionate to the ethnic/tribal groups within the country.
Why does abuse matter?
- The long-term emotional and psychological damage of sexual abuse can be devastating to the child.
- Child sexual abuse can take place within the family, by a parent, step-parent, sibling, or other relative; or outside the home, for example, by a friend, neighbour, child care person, teacher, or stranger. When sexual abuse has occurred, a child can develop a variety of distressing feelings, thoughts and behaviours.
- No child is psychologically prepared to cope with repeated sexual stimulation. Even a two or three year old, who cannot know the sexual activity is wrong, will develop problems resulting from the inability to cope with the overstimulation.
- The child of five or older who knows and cares for the abuser becomes trapped between affection or loyalty for the person, and the sense that the sexual activities are terribly wrong. If the child tries to break away from the sexual relationship, the abuser may threaten the child with violence or loss of love. When sexual abuse occurs within the family, the child may fear the anger, jealousy or shame of other family members, or be afraid the family will break up if the secret is told.
- A child who is the victim of prolonged sexual abuse usually develops low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. The child may become withdrawn and mistrustful of adults, and can become suicidal.
- Some children who have been sexually abused have difficulty relating to others except on sexual terms. Some sexually abused children become child abusers or prostitutes, or have other serious problems when they reach adulthood.
- Often there are no obvious external signs of child sexual abuse. Some signs can only be detected on physical exam by a physician.
Sexually abused children may also develop the following:
- unusual interest in or avoidance of all things of a sexual nature
- sleep problems or nightmares
- depression or withdrawal from friends or family
- statements that their bodies are dirty or damaged, or fear that there is something wrong with them in the genital area
- refusal to go to school
- delinquency/conduct problems
- aspects of sexual molestation in drawings, games, fantasies
- unusual aggressiveness, or
- suicidal behaviour
Child sexual abusers can make the child extremely fearful of telling, and only when a special effort has helped the child to feel safe, can the child talk freely.
Sexually abused children and their families need immediate professional evaluation and treatment; child and adolescent psychiatrists can help abused children regain a sense of self-esteem, cope with feelings of guilt about the abuse, and begin the process of overcoming the trauma. Such treatment can help reduce the risk that the child will develop serious problems as an adult.
For more information go to:
 http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/264259 December 2008.
 HRSC 13th May 2010
 February 8th 2003 Jenny Johnson.www.mirror.co.uk
 van As AB, Withers M, du Toit N, Millar AJ, Rode H, H Rode. Child rape -patterns of injury, management and outcome. S. Afr Med 2001; 91:1035-38.[PubMed]
 Joan Van Niekerk. Infant and Preschool sexual assault in UK. Sept. 2004