These are the findings of a comprehensive survey by the Community
Information, Empowerment and Transparency (CIET Africa) in November and December
2002. CIET is a worldwide network of professionals from a variety of disciplines
that provide technical support to communities to enable them to participate in
an informed way in decisions that affect their lives. The
results of the study have already been used to develop life skills education
materials, called Beyond Victims and Villains, adapted to meet the
standards of the revised national curriculum. The survey was published in the
British Medical Journal last year. The study involved 269 905 pupils in Grades 6
to 11 in all language groups, across a range of schools and from all nine
Some of the other disturbing findings included that, at 18, two out of every
three children had had sex. Two out of 10 pupils did not believe condoms
prevented pregnancy or other sexually transmitted diseases. One in 10 said they
believed sex with a virgin could cure HIV/AIDS, and one in 10 had been raped in
the past year. Three out of every 100 pupils thought that girls liked sexually
violent boys and one out of every 10 thought that girls who got raped, asked for
it, according to the study. The study further stated people were becoming
sexually active earlier and belief systems about sex supported sexually violent
and sexually irresponsible behaviour. It is not surprising that 43 percent
of all sexual crimes committed on children reported to Childline, were committed
by children under 18, the study reported.
Despite widespread preventive interventions, reports of sexual abuse had
increased. Reported incidents do not reflect the scale of the problem. CIET
Africa research concluded that of every 394 offences committed, only 272 were
reported. Only 17 of these become dockets of which five are referred to
court for prosecution. One docket in every five gets 'lost' and only one
conviction is secured, said the study. Some of the reasons for not
reporting rape were shame, feelings of guilt, lack of access to a reporting
point, intimidation, adult gate-keeping, an emotional bond with the abuser and
The study also challenged myths:
- Damage to the child was irreparable. Children can, in fact, heal. It is
essential to acknowledge and support the child's capacity to heal and
benefit from therapy and a healing environment.
- Children can say no to abuse. This can put children at greater
risk as it creates an expectation of safety. Children often cannot say
no because the abuser is more powerful physically and
psychologically. There is a universal norm of respect for an older person
that most children have internalized. Older people have access to resources
children may need or want and use these to manipulate the child.
- Abused children will develop into adult abusers. While this is sometimes
true, it was not true for the majority of victims - girls.
Public campaigns and activism, said the study, had very little impact on
service provision in respect of prevention or management. Research indicated that a secure childhood was seen as one of the most critical factors in developing mature and responsible adults. But, the study recommended that life skills education in schools focused on the inculcation
of a human and child rights culture.
Life skills needed to focus on not only the pursuit of protecting and
claiming a person's rights but also the protection of the rights of others,
particularly the rights of those who were vulnerable. Educational
psychologist Salochani Govender supported the CIET Africa research findings.
The time had arrived for South Africa to become pro-active and this had to
start at home and school, she said. Education on sexuality, HIV and AIDS,
creating attitudes of empowerment and growth and developing a
transformational mindset were the keys to moving forward, said Govender. The
education department had life skills, sexuality and HIV programmes as well
as pupil support material for supporting youth in a trained and nurturing
environment in which issues could be discussed.
The Advice Desk for the Abused executive director, Fatima Bayat, said it was
very disappointing and sad to note that rape and sexual assault were
dominating society. Our youth, including young children, are sexually
active. There were numerous reasons why young people displayed
inappropriate sexual behaviour patterns, said Bayat. Media, especially
television, plays a very influential role to enhance kids' curiosity and
encourages them to become sexually active. Explicit messages with sexual
connotations are common. Often young girls, deprived of financial
security and love, become victims of rape or consenting to sex for fear of
rejection, said Bayat.
KwaZulu-Natal department of education spokesperson, Christy Naude, was not
available for comment.
(Source: IOL, July 10, 2005)