8 September 2016 - Sexual abuse series: Thuthuzela Care Centres

Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCC) have been set-up across South Africa as part of the anti-rape strategies with an aim of reducing secondary victimisation, increasing conviction rates and reducing the time it takes to finalise cases. It is led by SOCA (NPA's Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit) and partners with various departments and donors. Chris McLaclan, the clinical psychologist from the Edendale TCC, came to speak to Sizabantwana about the work that they do but also how victims are affected by rape. This was the third and final talk focused on sexual abuse this year as it was a focus for Sizabantwana and something that the teachers have to deal with in their classrooms.

TCC has found that around 70% of rape victims are under the age of 18 and that they receive around 100 new cases per month. This shows how important it is for teachers to be prepared and empowered to help their learners who may be victims. These children need to be helped because it has been shown that victims can become abusers. The first 72 hours after the attack are critical to receive emotional and medical support particularly to prevent HIV infection.

Perpetrators are often known to the victim or the victim's family. The most vulnerable children are those with physical and mental disabilities who cannot consent. Paedophiles will target and groom children and as adults specific attention needs to be given when a person shows odd behaviour towards children and tend to want to spend time with children rather than adults.

There does also tend to be an increase in rape cases around holiday times with Christmas and Easter being particularly bad along with public holidays. Children are around and not at school and alcohol abuse increases around these times which can also lead to opportunistic rape.

Symptoms to look out for in possible victims are changes in behaviour such as increased anger and aggression that is abnormal, sexualised behaviour inappropriate for their age and general changes noticed in a particular child. At home parents may notice change in sleeping patterns, having nightmares, sleep walking and sleep talking. There may be personality changes including a change in appetite, becoming withdrawn or becoming clingy and insecure. Physically they may begin to wet or soil themselves so it is important to allow a child to go to the bathroom if they need to. It may be noticed that they are walking differently or they may have bruising or a pregnancy may occur. Rape survivors may also become suicidal, runaway from home, become depressed, develop psychosis, memory issues, and dissociation. This is a very serious issue in schools and communities and must not be taken lightly. If a child reports any form of sexual abuse to an adult that adult is legally obligated to report it tot he relevant authorities.

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