Yesterday afternoon I was sitting outside enjoying the sunshine and watching the neighbourhood kids play. One of the boys who can’t be older than 8 years old and a known troublemaker was being extremely disrespectful to some of the older girls and threw stones at them in response to their verbal threats of retaliation. Before I could admonish him, one of the girls (12 years old) had already gotten ahold of him and gave him a hiding on his bum. I summoned the boy and the two girls and unsurprisingly he showed me the middle finger and proceeded to walk off. The disrespect! I sat the two young ladies down and proceeded to have a talk with them about not resolving their issues with violence.
About 15 minutes later the young boy returns with his father who was swinging a broken broomstick and asking his son to point out the girl that gave him a hiding. I asked the father what his intentions were with the broken broomstick and he told me it was none of my business. Needless to say, I saw red as he attempted to discipline the young girl and proceeded to lie and say he wasn’t going to use the stick.
“The stick is to discipline my son,” he screamed in my face.
Despite my knowing that that was a lie because I watched him prepare to “discipline” one of the girls not to mention the fact that he is known for taking on his sons’ offences and physically beating other people’s children. Sadly the community has allowed him to get away with it because “he’s not altogether there.”
Well not on my watch and not during Human Rights and International Women’s month!
“This is why boys grow up thinking the solution to their relational disagreements is physical.” I fumed at my mother.
We (society) have raised emotionally stunted men and women who don’t know how to verbally articulate their feelings of hurt, disappointment or embarrassment. And it’s not only a South African phenomenon – look at how Ukrainians are expressing their fears by discriminating against African women and children who are also trying to flee to safety as the result of another grown mans incapability to except that he cannot get what he wants! And yes, the situation with Russia and Ukraine is a lot more nuanced and complex than Russian President Vladimir Putin simply throwing a tantrum but if we break it down to the most basic of elements it all comes down to one persons inability to process their emotions and not equate the answer no to their self-worth.
So what is the solution?
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about what the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” means and looks like in this current climate? How do we members of the community (village) ensure that we are not only protecting our children but also equipping them to be able to process their emotions by modelling for them how to process and communicate disappointment, frustration, embarrassment and even anger in non-violent ways.
In light of Human Rights month, I figured it would be worthwhile for us to revisit what the South African Constitution has to say about children’s rights. The South African Constitution very clearly stresses the importance of the rights, dignity and protection of all children. Section 28 of the Bill of Rights, specifically states that “every child has the right to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse and degradation”. The Children’s Act No. 35 of 2005 further expounds on principles relating to the care and protection of minors and the legal obligation that parents, legal guardians and caretakers have in raising children in a safe, caring and nurturing environment.
Whose Responsibility is it to Report the Violation of Children?
Section 110 of the Children’s Amendment Act, calls for people in the following professions to report suspected abuse or maltreatment of any kind.
- Any correctional official
- Immigration official
- Labour inspector
- Legal practitioner
- Medical practitioner
- Minister of religion
- Occupational therapist
- Religious leader
- Social service professional
- Social worker
- Speech therapist
- Traditional health practitioner
- Traditional leader
- Member of staff or volunteer worker at a partial care facility
- Drop-in centre or child and youth care centre
Note that even if you are not in any of these professions, you can still choose and I would even add are morally obligated to report suspected cases of abuse on reasonable grounds. The Sexual Offences Act says that all adults are legally obligated to report cases of sexual abuse or exploitation the minute they are made aware of such.
Common Signs of Child Abuse
While this is by no means an exhaustive list it does highlight some of the most common red flags.
- The child appears to constantly be in physical pain and or is covered in bruises.
- When the child seems to be very anxious and or withdrawn.
- The child suddenly becomes aggressive.
- When the child’s behaviour or personality suddenly changes.
- When they are performing poorly in school or are continually absent.
- Child struggles to concentrate.
- The child seems to lack social skills or struggles to make any friends.
- When a child is too familiar with issues that are not age-appropriate.
Where and Who Does One Report the Abuse to?
The first and obvious place would be to contact your local child protection service office, police station or a provincial Department of Social Development. For more information and guidance on how to advocate for or report child abuse please contact the following organisations;
South African Police Services (SAPS)
Child abuse reports: firstname.lastname@example.org
LifeLine South Africa
Tel: 0861 322 322
The Child Emergency Line
Toll-free: 0800 123 321
As I sit and reflect on what happened yesterday with the young girls and the irate father, the weight of the issue of child abuse and its impact on our current and future society it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. Our loved ones and members of our community/villages are wrestling with compounded childhood and current traumas that we do not need to repeat by turning a blind eye and comforting ourselves with the fact that it’s not your child or the lie that it’s none of your business when in reality it is our business and duty to protect and advocate for children. While it may not immediately impact your home or child it could potentially be your child on the receiving end of another persons learned abusive behavior one day.
If we are to change the current Gender Base Violence narrative for the next generation we all need to play an active role and hold one another accountable by doing everything in our power to protect all children from the projection of our own trauma informed insecurities and inability to articulate our emotions by inflicting physical harm. If we want our children to grow up in a different world where these types of human rights violations no longer exist, we need to be the change. We need to be our sisters and brothers’ keepers.
Here Are Some Other Resources
Women and Men Against Child Abuse
Tel: 011 789 8815
Childline South Africa
Toll-free: 08000 55 555
Tel: 031 201 2059
Child Welfare South Africa
Tel: 074 080 8315
E-mail: email@example.comWebsite: www.childwelfaresa.org.za