As 16 Days of Activism ends, Women & Men Against Child Abuse reflects upon 2018…
…as another year of 365 days of activism that has given us not just the same disparaging number of new cases, but also some very positive rulings and events that have shown that South Africa does indeed have the most progressive judiciary in the world.
Rees Mann of South African Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse says that “I think Women & Men Against Child Abuse is one of the leading voices in the field of child abuse, and we really valued collaborating with them on some landmark cases this year. This review of the year’s cases shows how far we have come down the road towards a better understanding of child abuse”
With over two decades worth of experience in child abuse to weigh on, WMACA is very excited to reflect upon the following cases as breakthrough events in our calendar:
BOB HEWITT’S SENTENCE CONVERSION DENIED
Hewitt recently pushed his victims’ plight back into the spotlight, applying after only two years in jail to have the remaining years of his sentence converted to house arrest. In support of the three brave adult survivors, WMACA was able to submit an application against his request:
since his age has already been a factor used in mitigation during sentencing, we believed that sending him home after only two years would be a form of double jeopardy – for someone who has shown no remorse nor apology for his victims, Hewitt certainly can’t rely upon society to
show him any consideration for the fact that he is now an old man, and WMACA will be there in future to fight any such attempt by Hewitt to regain his freedom before his jail sentence is served in full.
The Frankel 8 are still pursuing a civil settlement against the late Sydney Frankel’s estate to set a precedent that if you abuse children the law can still hold you accountable after your death. WMACA wishes them well in their civil claim and want to just take stock of what this case has given survivors of abuse in terms of legal recourse. The
Frankel 8 wanted to pursue a criminal case against their abuser but were unable to due to two primary historical legal legacies still rooted in pre-democratic law. These were the definitions of different forms of sexual abuse and how these related to both time and gender. They fought a battle that challenged the legal framework that made certain sexual crimes against children “less bad” by saying they could not be prosecuted after a twenty-year time lapse, while other had no time limit for prosecution. The second battle was for equality of gender under the law as certain definitions of sexual crimes excluded certain genders. The issue of time and gender in the law both limited the rights of adult survivors to seek criminal justice and a Constitutional Court has rectified this. All persons regardless of how long ago the abuse was, what kind of abuse it was and what gender they were can now request criminal justice.
WILLIAM SEGODISHO VS. THE JESUITS
William Segodisho approached WMACA via South African Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse, after being abused repeatedly as a young adolescent male by not just one priest, but two. A Press conference led to a media-supported campaign that saw a priest fall upon his own proverbial sword, confess publicly to what he had done and offering an apology and a settlement. This case has reopened dialogue around church-sanctioned abuse and the confessional being used by priests as protection against prosecution.
CHANTELLE AKERS vs. LIONEL POTGIETER
Chantelle Akers was 11 years old in the early eighties when her father, Salvation Army Captain Lionel Potgieter, raped her for the first time. Since Chantelle bravely approached Women & Men Against Child Abuse three years ago, we have seen Lionel Potgieter use every nefarious way possible to avoid justice, Ultimately, he was sentenced nonetheless this year and will probably spend most of the remainder of his life behind bars.
DE VRIES / CHILD PORNOGRAPHY (CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE IMAGES)
This case has shown that non-contact ‘victimless’ crimes, eg. images of child sexual abuse and torture are still crimes against children, and reiterated our faith in a progressive judiciary. A harsh sentence was imposed and will send a strong message to those using the suffering of children for profit.
In contrast to octogenarian coach Bob Hewitt, the furor around Parktown Boys coach Collan Rex (22)’s spree against pupils of this elite school highlighted an element of historical abuse. As reflected in Luke Lamprecht’s report, there were numerous elements of historical abuse that came to light. Extremely groundbreaking in this ruling by Judge Peet Johnson was that Rex couldn’t use his own abuse as a mitigating factor in sentencing – we as a society are one step closer to realising that your own abuse doesn’t give you carte blanche on the next generation of youth.
Says Miranda Jordan, Founding Director of WMACA: “As we wind down another 365 days of activism as WMACA, we are grateful to the people who have walked this road with ourselves and the brave survivors of sexual abuse – It’s not the type of abuse, it’s the impact of the abuse that matters, and this has been reaffirmed this year.”
Luke Lamprecht reiterates the importance of the year’s cases, and reflects on what we have learnt:
“As a society, we have learned that we can no longer tolerate:
Denial of fact (I didn’t do it),
Denial of responsibility (My being abused made me abuse),
Denial of impact (It wasn’t so bad, they are blowing this out of proportion)”