With one of the highest rates of reported rape cases globally, a recent case involving 42 year old Nizaam Ajam has shocked the country. With 180 charges for sexual crimes perpetrated against children, the Mitchells Plain resident has sparked an outcry from South Africans calling for judicial recourse for victims of sexual crimes. The charges against Ajam include; sexually grooming children, creating child pornography, using a child for the purposes of child pornography, exposing children to pornography, distributing child pornography, encouraging self-sexual assault, rape, and extortion.
Ajam targeted children from Woodstock, Crawford, Claremont, Ottery and Mowbray between 2012 and 2014. His preferred medium of communication for eight of his victims, aged between 12 and 16, included; BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), WhatsApp, Facebook and Mxit. He used two fake profiles, disguising himself as a young girl and boy to lure his victims.
Last Wednesday, Ajam entered into a plea and sentencing agreement with the state, his name will now be included on the national sex offenders’ list.
In light of the Ajam’s case, operational manager for the Mitchells Plain Network Opposing Abuse, Mareldia Sonday, explains that despite the prevalence of paedophilic activity in South Africa, many cases are reported years after the crime has been perpetrated, quite often after the perpetrator has died. She says that most perpetrators of sexual violence are known to their victims and include; fathers, brothers, uncles, and neighbours.
“Even if a child befriends someone on social media, they are still groomed for quite a while. So, that person is not like a stranger to them.”
As a means to protect children from wilful perpetrators, Sonday encourages parents to provide their children with a safe space in which they feel comfortable to discuss issues which concern and interest them.
“We need to speak openly and honestly, build trust, and build strong boundaries within the home, and then when things happen they will freely come to the parents. If children do not have this, they will walk with the pain for many years,” she adds.
While Ajam was arrested and prosecuted, Sonday says that this is a unique case, since many victims are unable to face the trauma of their abuse.
She further notes that many families refuse to report cases of sexual abuse for fear of shame that the family as a whole may encounter within their community.
“One lady told me that she told the perpetrator who was living with her to flee…I tried to convince her [to report the incident], but she kept asking: ‘What are the people going to think?’”
What should parents of victims do?
Family members of victims and perpetrators should not be afraid to report incidents of sexual abuse in order to facilitate the rehabilitation of the victim.
“Whether it’s your husband, brother, uncle or neighbour, you must not be scared. Follow the process and do what needs to be done – otherwise you are an accomplice in the eyes of the law,” Sonday asserts.
She says that parents and guardians who do not take the necessary steps to protect the rights of victims will be forced to deal with the consequences when the trauma impacts the well-being and overall functioning of the victim.
“People blame their children when they turn to drugs and self-destruct, but they do not know what’s going on inside.”