Philda Essop and Ashley Smith
Young girls are being preyed on, and men often make them available to gangs
and even exchange them among groups or individuals for goods or services.
The pilot study by Molo Songololo for the provincial department of social
services and Poverty Alleviation focused on Atlantis.
But it is believed the situation there mirrors that
in many poor areas around the city, children are at serious risk because of
The department has decided to expand the study to at least two other Western
Cape towns, one being Beaufort West.
The Atlantis report included a study of 16 young girls in the area. But it
included other cases seen by the department's Atlantis office, including:
- A total of 51 cases of trauma as a result of sexual abuse.
- Eight cases of neglect by parents or caregivers.
- Altogether 27 cases of drug and alcohol abuse
- Physical abuse, 51 cases.
- Ten instances of witness support, when children have to be prepared in
order to testify in court.
The report, titled "Beyond Possibilities: The intervention and
prevention of child sexual exploitation in Atlantis and surrounding areas",
says: "Drug addiction, lack of secure shelter, daily survival of self,
pressure from siblings, pimps and gangs and dangers to staff, further hampered
our contact with children at risk and victims of sexual exploitation."
At the start of the study, five of the 16 girls involved had been sexually
exploited, eight were at "high risk" of abuse and three had escaped
the abuse cycle.
The study found nine of the girls abused drugs, and three said they used them on
a recreational basis.
Three were sole breadwinners in their households.
Among the recommendations in the report is for a database to maintain a police
record of arrest for offenders and victims of child abuse.
"The lack of responsiveness, abuse of power and corruption, in respect of
child sexual exploitation, with the police must be investigated," the
Atlantis, once a coloured group area, is estimated to be home to more than 110
000 people and has an unemployment rate above 50 percent.
By the 1990s, poverty had caused a big rise in child prostitution. Rape and
other violent crimes have become a regular occurrence. Lately the area has had a
Molo Songololo director Patrick Solomons told the Cape Argus on Tuesday that the
Atlantis situation was not unique.
Poverty and drug dependency sometimes kept children in the spiral of sexual
"What happens is that economic pressure makes them vulnerable."
Molo Songololo, which is also working in areas including Delft, Elsies River and
Mitchells Plain, has found sexual exploitation to be one of the five biggest
problems children have to deal with.
"Girls are procured for sexual exploitation by gangs to sell drugs, or are
used by gangs or groups or individuals or syndicates to prostitute for
Sharon Follentine of the department told the province's standing committee on
social development that there was a major problem with the commercial sexual
exploitation of children, but its extent was difficult to measure.
"It is an under-reported phenomenon, like incest... You don't ask where the
money is coming from. Parents often turn a blind eye, that is the tragedy."