SOUTH AFRICAN NATIONAL CHILD PROTECTION WEEK – RAISING AWARENESS

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With a recent flood of child abuse related media coverage, the non-profit organisation Community Keepers is using Child Protection week (1-8 June) to raise awareness about this very important topic.

The protection of our children is everyone’s responsibility. Are you able to identify the signs of child abuse and would you know what to do? Community Keepers offers tips and advice on this topic.

The following measures can be introduced in order to prevent sexual abuse:

· Communication: Parents must talk with their child about the realities of abuse. If there are any            suspicions of abuse, it must be discussed with the child;

·  Parental control: Ensure adult supervision over a child at all times. If a strange adult supervises there must be at least one other adult present;

· Offenders: Children can never be left alone with individuals who have had previous allegations of abuse against them;

· Rooms: Ideally boys and girls must sleep in separate rooms; and

· Sex: The assumption that the abuser is always a male is incorrect. Boys or girls can get hurt (abused) by people of the same or opposite sex.

There are specific signs / indicators of abuse that a parent can be sensitive to and if there is a suspicion that abuse occurs, these characteristics serve as confirmation (this can also occur due to other reasons such as family or school problems and does not necessarily mean the child is being abused or not):

·         Changes in behaviour, mood changes, anxiety, withdrawn or very clingy;

·         Nightmares, fear of going to the bedroom alone;

·         Bedwetting;

·         Abnormal sexual activity or interest in sexual matters;

·         Fear of specific places, people or activities;

·         Scratches, cuts, bruises or unexplained injuries; and

·         Pain, itching, bleeding, or fluid surrounding the private parts of the child.

If there is a suspicion that a child is abused, the following steps must be followed:

Step 1: Safety- Ensure that the child is safe and out of reach of the offender;

· Step 2: Report- Contact the nearest care centre (e.g. Child Care or ACVV). It is important to bear in mind that someone cannot be charged if there is no evidence. An innocent person’s reputation can be harmed if conclusions are made at an early stage; and

·Step 3: Follow-up- Ensure that the measures as proposed by the care centre are implemented and enforced. This will usually support the victim and it is necessary to see that the child makes use of this.

Community Keepers would like to encourage South African citizens to help spread this information and raise awareness about safe guarding our children.

For more information on Child Protection week, visit the Department of Social Development.

For more information on Community Keepers and what they are doing to protect and support our children, refer to www.communitykeepers.org.

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