Monday, November 25, 2013

White Ribbons...

Awareness is more than wearing a ribbon.
Since the last 16 Days we have read and heard about some of the most horrific acts of violence committed against young girls in our country. Those pretty little white ribbons we all wore did Anene Booysen a whole lot of good. A few weeks before Anene died, the 16 year –old  Charmaine Mare was brutally raped, her arms and legs were cut off with a bolt cutter and her body was set alight. About 2 months after the death of Anene, 14 year-old Thandeka Madonsela was raped, disembowelled and murdered.

The level of gender-based violence in our country is a disgrace but only a fraction of the reality makes it into the press... and yet year in and year out we wear our pretty little white ribbons and hope for the best.
As a survivor of rape, when I was just six years old and sexual abuse between the ages of 9 and 16, I have decided it’s time to stand up and speak out. At the beginning of November I began setting my plan into motion. I have approached companies to present a free sexual abuse prevention and awareness programme to staff during the 16 Days of Awareness.
“No thanks, but good luck to you” was the response. “We are already involved in an awareness programme.” “What do you do?” I asked. “We buy our employees white ribbons,” was the reply.
I will not stop wearing my white ribbon and it warms my heart when I see others wearing their ribbon, but I will not be discouraged by the deafening silence that surrounds child sexual abuse in our country. I will continue trying to convince employees that awareness is more than just wearing a white ribbon.
I will not be discouraged, I will continue to speak out and try and break down the barriers of denial, shame and silence, while trying to educate society about child abuse and the effects it ultimately has on individuals, families and society as a whole.  
Story telling is an effective tool of persuasion to inform and change attitudes. By taking my story of survival and intertwining it with the facts about child abuse, I hope to impart enough knowledge to parents and caregivers so that they can keep children safe, or, at the very least, identify abuse at the very early stages.
We need adults to know the difference between “groomers” and “grabbers”. Adults also need to know the warning signs of possible sexual abuse, and they need to know the age-appropriate sexual behaviour of their children. Telling our children to be careful of strangers and not to allow anybody to touch their bodies is just not enough.
The statistics of child sexual abuse is scary. 60% of perpetrators are known to victims but are not family members e.g. family friends, neighbours, teachers, baby sitters etc. A further 30% of abusers are family members e.g. fathers/ stepfathers, brothers, uncles, cousins. A mere 10% of abuse perpetrators are strangers to the victim. These statistics, as well as understanding the grooming process, makes it clear why so few victims of abuse actually speak out.
Very few victims get help or learn how to deal with their anger, guilt, shame and hurt and we end up with generations of broken, angry, confused individuals who easily resort to violence and crime or other sorts of abuse, or they seek solace in alcohol or drug abuse.
If we have any hope of living in a country not known as the rape and child abuse capital of the world, then we need to start talking and listening and we need to move beyond the silence.
Wearing a white ribbon is no longer enough.



Monday, November 11, 2013


Recently circumstances have “pushed” me in the direction I felt strongly about. I am now taking the plunge to be a full time do-gooder. I want to serve others. I want to make a difference in a field I feel passionate about.

The trouble is it’s an area or topic nobody wants to talk about. I’m sure if I decided to fight for the rights of animal abuse I would have a whole lot of support... but child sexual abuse makes people cringe...  It makes them go into ostrich mode. If we don’t think about it or talk about it, it might just go away right? Not so.
The aftermath and fallout of a child having endured sexual abuse or any other kind of abuse will ultimately affect us all because it’s not just about sex... Have you ever wondered why there are so many people who are angry, nasty, promiscuous, bitter, and violent and who abuse alcohol and drugs? Go back to their childhood and you will discover why. Many a times they themselves may not have been abused, but they have a parent that was... and who never had the opportunity to “work through” their issues... and the vicious cycle continues.

Children and adults who have been sexually abused very seldom speak out about abuse. And the reasons are obvious. Most people are abused by people they know and trust. Studies on reported abuse cases show that:
  • An estimated 60% of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child but are not family members, e.g., family friends, babysitters, childcare providers, neighbours.
  • About 30% of perpetrators are family members, e.g., fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins.
  • Just 10% of perpetrators are strangers to the child.
Sadly here in South Africa just a fraction of that 10% is reported in the media and for the most part the other is kept hush-hush for fear of a family scandal or because the adults don’t want to offend their neighbours or acquaintances. Adults always seem to choose self preservation above the wellbeing of children. Just look at the way some schools treat reports of teachers sexually abusing their learners. The reputation of the schools is much more important.

And the silence continues...

Silence however only serves to perpetuate the abuse. It is time we move “Beyond the Silence”...

Stories have always been a very effective tool of persuasion. They have been used to convey messages and influence behaviours since before the written word and I believe strongly that survivors should be telling their stories and offering hope to those who find themselves in seemingly hopeless situations.
I thread telling my story and my fight to move from victim to survivor to thriver with the facts about child abuse so that the audience are given the knowledge that can help them prevent the abuse of our children.
I have spent the past couple of years putting together a workshop and fact sheets and have presented this to groups of people. My aim however is to now do this fulltime. But if I want to make a difference at all I will need schools to buy into this and get the teachers and parents to attend. I need employers to get me to address their workers during working hours. I need NGO's working in the area of child services to see the benefits of joining me in a partnership and I need YOUR support please.
 My wish list:

·         Printing of fact sheets, brochures and business cards and stationary

·         A banner

·         Names and contacts of people I can approach about hosting a talk or workshop