Memeza Bazokuzwa Kasi, Don’t be silent about Child Abuse any more

In Diepsloot, a township north of Johannesburg, sexual and gender-based violence is a pervasive issue. In a 2014 survey, 76% of those questioned said they or someone close to them had been a victim of violence in the home or from an intimate partner. Domestic violence was the most prevalent problem, followed by rape and other forms of sexual violence (37%).
In a separate study from 2016 in Diepsloot, more than half of the men questioned said that they had either raped or beaten a woman during the past year.
The same study found a strong correlation between men’s own exposure to violence and their use of violence: “Men experiencing child abuse were five times as likely to use recent violence against women… The majority of men interviewed experienced at least one type of physical or sexual childhood abuse. More than one-third had been raped or molested as a child.”
It is therefore crucial if we want to improve safety of women, we must begin with the protection and safety of all children. If you or someone you know is lucky enough to be enrolled in a safe space like Afrika Tikkun and are experiencing abuse, MEMEZA – tell someone trustworthy like a social worker. If not, there are social workers, NGOs, police members and teachers who you trust that you can memeza to.
Boys need as much protection as girls. Violence in families, whether against children or witnessed by children, has serious developmental consequences and may result in this violent behaviour being passed on from generation to generation. Last year’s comprehensive study on sexual abuse, the Optimus Study, shows that boys are equally at risk of sexual abuse as girls, and when it comes to sexual victimisation they are even more vulnerable.
This study and other studies like “Out of Harm’s Way” show that victims of child violence have consistently poorer mental and physical health than other children: this includes bullying, increased risk for HIV and exposure to sex as well as higher levels of depression. It also hassevere long-term outcomes on the child, which includes being more likely to experience physical, emotional and sexual abuse throughout their lifetime.
South Africa has some of the highest levels of sexual violence and homicide in the world. Violence against children is also widespread, especially violent forms of discipline by family members, and educators. Other forms of child abuse, such as neglect, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse, are also reported throughout the country.
Malibongwe a young man from one of the townships where Afrika Tikkun works, speaks poignantly about the pain of exposure to violence from an early age. As a child, Malibongwe’s experience of manhood was from close male relatives who “constantly abused women”. Not understanding this behaviour, Malibongwe lost trust in men, became reserved, withdrawn and lost confidence. “I did not know what to do and felt helpless. I remember every time I wanted to protect these women I was called names and told I was letting women control me”, said Malibongwe.
When Malibongwe was 14, he made a decision to change his life. He enrolled at Afrika Tikkun, where he met many young people with similar experiences. The previously shy boy started making friends.
He is one of 85 children between 13 and 18 who have been chosen as school-safety youth advocates. Within the community, they have identified issues such as teenage pregnancy, drugs and alcohol, poverty and inequality as requiring immediate attention. Most of the advocates agreed that bullying, discrimination, and the consumption of drugs and alcohol were mainly responsible for threats to their safety at school. Over a third said they had been bullied and experienced discrimination at school. A fifth said they were afraid to go to school because of bullying.
All members of society, including children, should be able to hold those responsible for their protection to account. Empowering young people with the language and tools to defend their rights and support their peers in this regard is urgent if we wish to solve the state of emergency for women in South Africa. We also need to make sure parents have the skills they need to break the cycle of abuse they may have experienced. Caregivers should be supported to develop warm and caring relationships with their children and monitor them closely.
In the past, parents, community members and other influential adults in the life of the child have shown too much tolerance of violence against children and a reluctance to challenge the widespread culture of silence in communities over this issue. Breaking the silence is essential.
MEMEZA Kasi – come forward and don’t be shy. There is help available.
Child abuse can be reported at police stations, a hospital or to a Department of Social Development social worker. For children registered at Afrika Tikkun, every Centre of Excellence in Alexandra, Diepsloot, Orange Farm, inner-city Johannesburg, and Mfuleni in Cape Town – has a dedicated Child Protection Officer. For more information, contact Afrika Tikkun at 011 325 5914.

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