02 April 2015

When children abuse each other

Do minors really know what abuse is, or are they unknowingly contributing to the problem?

The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, which runs from 25 November to 10 December, is a special time when awareness is raised of the prevalence of violence against women and children.

One of the focuses of this year's campaign is child-on-child abuse, and questions have arisen about whether children are at all aware of the signs of abuse. More worrying is the general notion that certain types of abuse have become acceptable in modern society.

The new phenomena: children play abuse-related games

News24 reported that schoolchildren have found entertainment in a new playground game called "rape-rape". In the game, boys chase and catch girls – who are willing participants – and then simulate rape with them for between 10 and 20 seconds. Once a girl has been "raped", she is out of the game. The game ends when the last girl has been "raped".

Is this acceptable behaviour?

“The fact that schoolchildren are playing a game involving rape reflects a serious problem within our society,” the Western Cape education MEC Debbie Schäfer told Sapa.

Daryn Jones, a social worker who works with high school students in the Western Cape, said the fact that children are aware of rape is a concern, but added that she was not surprised that such "misinformed actions" were taking place among youth.

In a report on the incident for IOL, Mitchell's Plain School Governing Body Association, which represents 90 schools in the area, has said that about 150 cases of rape, attempted rape and sexual harassment at primary and high schools have been brought to its attention in the past year. 

Read: The horror of corrective rape in schools 

According to a news report by SAPA, pupils at schools in the Western Cape encounter sexual harassment and sexual objectification on a daily basis.

"A major contribution to the problem is the fact that many girls are not even aware when they have been raped, as they do not consider sexual advances by their boyfriends to be rape," Jones said.

Contributing to the problem is the fact that men and women are not adequately educated on relationships and sex. People believe that sexual advances from a partner are acceptable, regardless of whether it's wanted by both partners.

This ignorance makes women and young girls more vulnerable to being sexually abused by men who are often, but not always, unaware of boundaries and women's rights.

Fact check: In South Africa a rape occurs every 26 seconds, and more than 100 cases of child abuse are reported every week. One child is raped every three minutes


Group sex among adolescents is now a public health concern

Rape is linked to the idea of manhood in South Africa

Rape has become a culture

Who is to blame for the misinformed actions of children?

Media: Both children and adults are exposed to sexually explicit imagery and content on a daily basis through music videos, song lyrics and other forms of media that often portray women as sexual objects, reinforcing a misogynistic society.

Schools and parents: A group of parents who wished to remain anonymous told Health24 that they thought schools weren't playing a big enough role in bridging the gap between what different learners consider normal.

"Children are raised differently, and it is the school's responsibility to educate children on what is acceptable versus what is not," one mother told us. 

Parents feel that children are getting too much information from their friends and the media without proper guidance from trained professionals such as their educators.

Read: Victim of sexual abuse makes a movie that he thinks will change the world

When is sexual misconduct regarded as abuse?

In South Africa, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act of 2007 states that sexual penetration by adults with children between the ages of 12 and 16 years, despite their consent, is illegal.

In January 2013, however, the Pretoria High Court ruled that it is no longer a criminal offence for children aged between 12 and 16 to engage in consensual sexual activities with each other.

The argument, brought by the Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children, was that the Act often resulted in underage pregnant girls not wanting to have clinic abortions as this, as such, is a criminal offence. The ruling was hailed as a victory for the rights of children. 

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development however continues to argue that it would impact on the escalating rate of sexual violence among children under the age of 16. 

Read: What is child abuse?

Children act in ways they have been taught, which they may identify as normal. Their cognitive and moral development can be easily skewed if they're raised in environments that promote violence towards others. Therefore child sexual abuse victims and young sexual abuse perpetrators are all victims.

Read: What to do if you find porn on your child's phone

How to stop child abuse

Parents and guardians play a vital role in determining what children learn. Young children need to receive the correct information, and also observe healthy conflict resolution and boundaries in their parents' actions and relationships.

We all appreciate awareness campaigns but many of them, especially where children are concerned, need to stretch beyond 16 days.

Read up on what causes child abuse and if you have been a victim of abuse or know someone who may be, contact ChildLine South Africa. You can also direct your questions to our resident psychiatrist, CyberShrink Professor Michael Simpson. 

Read more:

Victim of sexual abuse makes a video that will change the world

Baby yoga or child abuse?
Damaging our children
Emotional abuse: users speak out!

Image: Stop child abuse from Shutterstock




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