Children’s Rights groups have again made a plea to communities to report known sexual offenders to police. They say everyone has a legal obligation to do this and failure to report abuse can result in a criminal offence.
Three years ago a 9-year-old was allegedly violated by a 61-year old. The alleged perpetrator is the relative of a friend she played with. Now, she’s more in court than in school.
Her grandmother learnt of her encounter through the school governing body after she penned a letter that was found in a fellow pupil’s book.
“It was openly known that this old man rapes children and even impregnated some of them, but the community swept it under the carpet. That is why I involved the community and had a petition signed so that something could be done.”
The girl’s nightmare didn’t end there. Earlier this year, she was allegedly also raped by two nyaope addicts while walking home from school.
All three suspects have been denied bail.
Her grandmother explains that attending two different court cases has taken a toll on her young life.
“I’m hurt. A piece of me has been forever damaged. I stay awake the night before every court case, thinking of her reliving the trauma in court.”
Children’s Rights group says community members who fail to report such cases perpetuate the cycle of abuse.
Teddy Bear Clinic’s Shahida Omar says, “The message that is conveyed out there that this kind of behaviour can continue by remaining silent. They are then instrumental in promoting this kind of behaviour in the community as it gives a message to would-be offenders that there is no recourse for this kind of unlawful behaviour.”
Omar explains that criminal charges can be instituted against anyone who contravenes the law.
“It’s not a moral obligation to report, it’s a legal obligation. First, in terms of the Children’s Act where there is any suspicion, doubt or inkling of an idea that something is happening, it’s a legal obligation to report in terms of the Sexual Offences Act. Failure to report constitutes a criminal offence, people out there need to be aware of the reporting requirements.”
There will be many more victims like this if communities remain complacent.
For this 9-year-old the road to justice is pitted with lengthy proceedings and missed tuition.
A veritable nightmare which no child should ever have to endure.