One in three boys is likely to be sexually abused before the age of eighteen. This according to a University of Cape Town study into sexual victimisation in South Africa. The study prompted renewed calls for the focus to include the boy child.
Hoping to escape shame and guilt, Dirk Kotze dabbled in alcohol and drugs in his 20s. As a child, he carried the secret of abuse for years; he was repeatedly violated by a close family friend, who was also their dentist.
“I was powerless, I couldn’t do anything. It’s strange because you still trust that person. I thought it was my fault, I thought sometimes I allowed it to happen. I should’ve have spoken out, I should’ve ran out of the situation.”
It happened on the dentist chair, at family gatherings and on holidays. Kotze says as part of sexual grooming, he was showered with gifts. And he wasn’t the only victim. Kotze says his family ignored a red flag when the perpetrator was accused of molesting other children.
“I trusted him…To a point there was accusation against him for child abuse, for sexual abuse against other boys. My parents, my family didn’t believe it. They were supporting him through this time, which made it worse. I couldn’t tell them so I kept my silence for another three years I before I couldn’t take it any longer and told my mother and father.”
Gender rights groups say there’s still a culture of silence in most communities. Rees Mann from the South African Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse says we have to start to talk about rape, specifically in males.
“The reality of one in three boys and one in three girls.We need to start talking about it, specifically in boys. The majority of boys in South Africa do not have a father figure; they have not got someone who they can look up at the way things are supposed to be.”
Mann says boys are as vulnerable as girls.
“We have conversations and campaigns for the girl child about sexual abuse; we don’t have that conversation with the boy. People say is it a different conversation, I say no, it’s exactly the same conversation that you will have with the boy child as the girl child. The majority of the perpetrators are men so we can’t take men out of the equation…We can say what we want about gender-based violence, but if we don’t deal with the men who are hurting, who are broken, who are not positive role models to children; then we are not going to succeed.”
Kotze has been substance-free for five years. He has a message to other survivors.
“You don’t have to suffer your whole life, you can become free of all the guilt.”