While South Africans continue to battle the scourge of sexual abuse cases that involve children, the recent surfacing of a Gumtree tutoring add by a repeat child abuse offender has community members concerned for the safety of their children. Brian Shofer, as named by the Sunday Independent, enlisted his tutoring services to parents, promising children from grade two to eleven a 100 per cent pass rate. While the Gumtree add dates back to 2012, he previously established a youth centre in Hanover Park. In light of rampant concerns, Shofer asserts that he is fully rehabilitated. Experts, however, describe the means through which he interacts with children as “a form of grooming.”
In a bid to curb convicted paedophiles from victimizing youth who may be at risk of being sexually abused, the Western Cape Social Development Department recently put out a call to the National Social Development Department to consider publishing the names of such offenders.
Speaking to VOC, Clinical Director at the Teddy Bear Clinic, Dr. Shaheda Omar explains that while a Child Protection Register and a Sex Offender Register exist, the two registers are not functional.
She says that the Child Protection Register is not operational as many offenders’ names have not been documented on the register.
“If you look at parental access to the register, you will notice that only company officials, when a person is applying for a job, are able to access the register – the general public will not have access to the register,” she notes.
Omar asserts that the implications of publicizing the register may have far reaching consequences, both for victims and the families of offenders.
“The name [of the individual] on the register may have family or children, when that name becomes public, the stigma may also be attached to the children. I think that was one of the reasons [for not publicizing it] – it was not to protect the offender.”
In light of growing concerns of child abuse, she says that there is discussion of establishing a completely new register that members of society can have access to.
She says that within the current context, parents should check for police clearance of individuals they entrust with their children.
“If that person has been convicted of a criminal offense, they are likely to appear on police records. In this case, it was a tutor; surely it is incumbent upon the parents to look at their track record,” Omar continued.