With child victims of rape and sexual assault often experiencing major difficulties in finding the confidence to testify against alleged perpetrators, it has become an all too common occurrence to see such cases dropped. As such, local child protection NGO, Childline SA has called for better court preparation for victims to ensure they are adequately prepared to provide testimony, which will ultimately lead to more perpetrators being held to account.
“We know it is a difficult time when a child has been violated, and someone is asking them to say exactly what has happened to them. You really need to have the necessary skills to make the child feel relaxed, and feel safe to talk to you about what has happened to them,” explained Dumisile Nala, national executive officer at Childline.
Apart from a lack of skills on the part of those tasked with interviewing children during the court proceedings, she said many of these courts also lacked the recourses and facilities to cater for younger victims.
To address the issue, Childline SA has called for better counseling of both the victims and their parents, soon after the incident has occurred.
“In some instances you will find that the parent is more traumatized than the child, and they in some way transfer that trauma to the child, who will then really get to feel the (magnitude) of what has happened to them,” she explained, adding that both parents and victims would be counseled, and informed what would happen going forward in terms of court proceedings.
Furthermore, what was needed was better counseling and education prior to the court proceedings themselves, to ensure both victim and parent were aware of what would be expected on the day of the trial itself.
“We want to see those services available, because they do help. Referrals for counseling are also extremely important,” she stated.
Whilst Childline does offer free counseling to victims, Nala said the issue the organisation was facing was access to the victims, particularly those residing in rural as well as some of the poorer communities.
“Parents still need to get transport money to get to the proper facilities. They still need to ask for time off work. So even if those services are free, there are a lot of limitations which makes it very difficult for our communities to access them,” she stated.
For more information on the work conducted by Childine SA, visit the website www.childlinesa.org.za VOC (Mubeen Banderker)