Rape Victims Getting Younger—Activists

Zara Nicholson, IOL (Cape Town), November 30, 2007

Perpetrators of sexual abuse against children are as young as nine years old and there has also been an increase in the past year of younger victims of sexual and other forms of abuse, according to two of Cape Town’s organisations.

Synnov Skorge, director of the Sarah Baartman Centre for Women and Children near Manenberg, said they had seen an increase in the number of younger children being sexually abused with a “large number” of victims under five years old.

“The behavioural problems are frightening when you start seeing young children showing signs of depression, sleep and eating disorders. We are dealing with very, very traumatised children,” she said.

‘The behavioural problems are frightening . . .’

Skorge said their centre had also seen a 30 percent increase in the past year of women coming to their shelter while the number of women seeking legal advice had doubled to 420 this year.

She said in the past year their centre alone had seen 253 women about different forms of abuse.

“We have also seen an increase in abuse related to drugs, not saying that it is a cause but where it has definitely been a factor,” she said.

She said in the past year it had become obvious that drugs, and especially tik, played a part in various forms of domestic abuse.

Skorge said the link between drugs and sexual and other forms of abuse had become clear in the past year with tik being used in many houses where these incidents occurred, mostly by perpetrators but also by victims, to cope with the effects of the abuse.

‘There is a huge problem for women around assistance from police . . .’

She said there had also been an increase in boys who were addicted to tik abusing their mothers.

Skorge added that it was a well-known fact that in most instances the perpetrator was known to the victim, but said a “frightening” increase was the growing number of young perpetrators.

She said in one case a child of only nine years old had sexually abused other children.

Skorge said women were also facing “huge problems” with getting help.

“There is a huge problem for women around assistance from police and there aren’t enough services and shelters available for them. Also, the justice system needs to be improved drastically so that women have a more positive experience with it and, on the other hand, perpetrators need to pay. The impression we are getting is that they are getting away with murder—and that is exactly what men are getting away with,” she said.

Nazma Hendricks, counselling co-ordinator at the Rape Crisis Cape Town Centre in Athlone, said they had also seen a trend towards younger rape survivors in the last two years.

She said that 70 to 80 percent of the time the perpetrator was known to the victim and the relationships were often very intimate. She said the abuse of children by fathers or stepfathers was increasing as well as women suffering sexual and other kinds of abuse from their partners.

Hendricks said the centre had become very busy in the past year.

Last year they saw an average of 12 new clients a month; this year they were seeing 20 a month.

She said that although the increase was not a good sign, it showed that survivors were “taking their power back” with more of them coming in for counselling.

# The Sarah Baartman Centre for Women and Children, along with the 14 organisations it is affiliated with, was due to stage a protest along Klipfontein Road on Friday morning calling for proper implementation of legislation relating to the abuse of women and children.

# Rape Crisis Cape Town is also currently touring rural towns with its campaign called Stop the Bus, where it is offering workshops and networking opportunities related to rape and sexual violence as part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Women and Child Abuse.

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