Five young lives are in desperate trouble after three Grade 7 pupils from I R Griffith Primary School in Blairgowrie, Johannesburg, appeared in court yesterday for allegedly sexually assaulting a Grade 2 girl.
Police spokesperson Captain Walter Spencer said the matter was being handled by the Honeydew Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit.
“The matter was reported to police on April 4,” Spencer said, adding he was not allowed to give out the ages of the children involved.
A fourth boy was suspended together with the other three.
Parents were called to the school to inform them of the matter on Monday night and were allegedly told that The Teddy Bear Clinic (TTBC) would be assisting the school.
Dr Shaheda Omar of the TTBC could not confirm if the clinic would be involved in counselling the school on the matter.
Going forward and speaking generally, Omar said all of the children had to be removed from the school immediately, and the girl would require immediate medical intervention followed by psychosocial support, which entailed a trauma debriefing.
“There would also need to be assistance for the other learners who may have witnessed the incident, either directly or indirectly. They may have heard or seen something and it could affect them, so debriefing needs to be provided to all the learners,” Omar said.
Omar noted the criminal capacity of the boys would have to be investigated as well.
“The age of criminal capacity is 10 years; children 10 or younger cannot be criminally liable or tried in court,” said Omar.
“Children between the ages of 11 and 14 are rarely tried by the court unless one can prove they had criminal capacity or liability.”
She noted numerous factors could have influenced the boys to act in a sexually predatory manner.
“The child could have been a victim of trauma himself; maybe there is a history of victimisation. Maybe they observed sexual acts repeatedly or were exposed to sex through sexually explicit media such as pornography, or even beyond that, because it’s a group-influenced behaviour.”
Women and Men against Child Abuse director Miranda Friedmann independently reiterated Omar’s observations and added the older child often exploited the younger child’s innocence, and the victim was unaware of the nature of what is happening to them.
“Most children are influenced by their friends in or outside the school to get involved in sexual activity. It can also be part of initiation into a ‘boys’ club’,” Friedmann said.
“Some children have been exposed to violence or sexual abuse both in their homes and in the communities they live in to an extent that they regard violence or sexual abuse as a norm. Some do not even understand the consequences of such behavior.”
Substance abuse, experimentation and poor education could also be other contributing factors.
The Gauteng department of education’s acting spokesperson, Oupa Bodibe, said: “The department is aware of the incident that took place at I R Griffith Primary School and is very concerned about the alleged incident.”
He noted the school had conducted a disciplinary hearing and the recommendation was that the involved pupils be expelled from the school.
“The school has prepared the recommendations and it is now with the HOD for his consideration,” Bodibe said.
“The department has zero tolerance on allegations of sexual assault; we have never hesitated to act where allegations of this nature have been proven to be true,” said Bodibe, urging pupils to abide by their school’s code of conduct.
Bodibe said all affected pupils had been referred to The Teddy Bear Clinic to receive psychological support.
“We also appeal to parents to assist the department to enforce discipline in and outside the school environment.”
Research conducted at The Teddy Bear Clinic confirmed ages 12-14 to be a high risk age for sexual offending.
“The only time we will stop this desperate scourge is when adults start acting appropriately; then children will follow suit,” Omar said.
“All these children, the initiator and the survivors, are all victims of some sort. They all need help.”
Info: There are different types of sexual offenders according to O’Brien & Bera’s typology
- Naive experimenter
- Under-socialised child exploiter
- Pseudo-socialised child exploiter
- Sexually aggressive
- Sexually compulsive
- Disturbed impulsive
- Group influenced
– Dr Shaheda Omar, The Teddy Bear Clinic
By Amanda Watson - email@example.com