Don’t wait to report sexual assault on children
Why child sexual assault is under-reported
Children who have been sexually assaulted go through shame and fear of retaliation. Where the assault has been perpetrated by a family member, loyalty conflicts between the child and the perpetrator are more often than not the largest reason for non-reporting. A very small percentage of incest victims reveal their situations until much later in life. Often an older sibling will be aware of the situation but will also not come forward for fear of shame, retaliation and changing the family dynamic. This denies the child the opportunity to escape the abuse and receive counselling.
When girls are victimised, the consequence can lead to:
- anxiety disorders
- substance abuse
- suicidal tendencies
- unwanted pregnancies
When boys are victimised, the consequences can lead to:
- gang involvement and crime
- engaging in risky behaviour
- becoming perpetrators of violence
- becoming a rapist and/or violence against their intimate partner
Failure to report is a criminal offence
The Children’s Act and the Sexual Offence Act both establish mandatory reporting obligations to report abuse. Failure to report is a criminal offence, but more importantly, it could leave a child at risk without support and services. Experiencing or witnessing violence in childhood has an enduring intergenerational effect
REPORTING OBLIGATIONS ACCORDING TO THE CHILDREN’S ACT
Section 110 of the Children’s Act compels the following people to report incidents of child abuse and neglect:
- any correctional official
- medical professionals (dentist, homeopath, midwife, medical doctor, nurse, occupational therapist, psychologist, physiotherapist, social worker, speech therapist, traditional health practitioner)
- immigration official
- labour inspector
- legal practitioner
- minister of religion/religious leader
- social service professional/social worker
- traditional leader
- member of staff or volunteer at a partial care facility/drop-in center or child and youth care center
Current litigation in South Africa challenging a section of the law, which gives the state a maximum of 20 years to prosecute a sexual assault.
Eight individuals claiming they were sexually abused as children, has been brought before the court. The Teddy Bear Foundation, represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) at Wits University have been allowed to intervene in the case to support the position that it is in the public interest that victims of all forms of sexual violence are able to access justice at any time. They argue that assaulted children are most often unable to come to terms with the experience until later in life.
The costs of litigation in sexual assault cases could run into the tens of thousands, so make sure that your family is protected by signing up to a Yambu Legal Protection policy today. This will afford, up to seven (7) members of your family affordable legal protection www.yambu.co.za
Richter L & Dawes A (2008) Child abuse in South Africa: Rights and wrongs. Child Abuse Review, 17(2):79-93.
Jewkes R, Dunkle K, Nduna M, Jama N & Puren A (2010) Associations between childhood adversity and depression, substance abuse and HIV and HSV2 incident infections in rural South African youth. Child Abuse & Neglect, 34(11):833-841.
Maniglio R (2009) The impact of child sexual abuse on health: A systematic review of reviews. Clinical Psychology Review, 29(7):647-57.