What to do if your child has beeN raped?
A parent’s worst nightmare occurs when their child has been raped. They’re traumatised at what has happened to their precious child.
Statistics from the Medical Research Council indicate that of all reported rapes, a staggering 40.8 percent were committed against children (under the age of 18) – and that is a conservative figure since child rapes are even more under-reported to authorities than adult rapes.
Sexual offences against children include incest and sexual abuse, the use of a child for sexual gratification, which includes pornography, touching or fondling, and penetrative sexual acts (Rape).
What to do when your child discloses that he/she had been raped:
Although it is natural for the parents of a child rape victim to seek immediate medical care, the most practical is to go to a Government or Netcare Hospital, where they have trained medical personnel to deal with these cases. These doctors/forensic nurses also know how to contact the correct police units, so a criminal case can be opened.
- It is only natural to want to wash the crime away. However, it is important to convince your child not to take a shower or bathe to wash off semen and blood.
- Also, try to prevent your child from using the toilet or changing clothes before reporting the rape. Your child’s body and clothes have become evidence that will assist police in finding the perpetrator. Your check-up will include evidence collection.
- Don’t brush your hair because it may contain evidence.
- Do not brush your teeth if you have been forced to perform oral sex because there may be evidence.
- If your child does change clothes, do not put the evidence in a plastic bag. The heat in the bag can destroy biological material (semen, blood, saliva). Use a paper bag instead.
- Encourage your child to tell you about what happened. Make a note of names, dates, times, and locations. This will spare excessive questioning which can make a child feel that the adult does not believe him or her. But don’t question them too much. Leave that for a Child Protection Officer or a Forensic Social Worker. Small children can also disclose through play therapy, at facilities such as Kidz Clinic or Teddy Bear Clinic
- If you are the first person your child told about the rape, you are the first witness. You will have to make a statement to the police about your child’s physical condition and emotional state, as well as what you observed directly after the incident took place.
- It is important to bear in mind that you have a 72-hour window to report your child’s rape, if medical evidence is to be gained. (Rape can always be reported later, there is no proscription period) but it is definitely better to get the medical and forensic evidence while you can.
- 9. The police may ask you to sign a form to consent to a medical examination by the District Surgeon. You can choose to be examined by a private doctor instead, but the doctor must be prepared to testify in court. Most GPs do not have rape kit training, and most doctors do not carry the J88 form, which, for purposes of prosecution, needs to be completed during an examination. The doctor will take forensic samples of any trace evidence the offender left behind, as well as any DNA samples. They test for HIV and STDs, and prophylaxis is administered.
- It is important for you to seek counselling for your child and for yourself. Even though you weren’t the victim of rape, your child was and you will also have to deal with it.
If your child is raped or suffers sexual abuse, this is what you should tell her or him:
- You believe them.
- They are not to blame for the rape.
- You still love them.
- You want to be there for them, to listen to their problems and support and protect them.
- You want them to love themselves and look after themselves and make themselves feel good.
- Rape is perpetrated by bad men and boys. Being raped does not make you bad.
- Healing takes time.
Parents should make time to listen.
- Show love and admiration with words and touches, when touching is okay for the survivor.
- Keep the normal rules of the house so that the survivor’s feelings that the world has completely changed are not reinforced.
- Encourage survivors to look after themselves by washing, dressing and eating properly.
- Let survivors (unless very young) make decisions about their lives, how to cope and establish a sense of safety. This is essential for regaining control.
- Acknowledge your feelings. Remember it is alright for you, as a parent or partner, to have strong feelings, including wanting to react with violence towards the perpetrator. It is not acceptable, however, to act on these.
- Suggest that survivors use techniques such as writing down feelings and thoughts to help process them.
- Get professional help from a therapist or Social Worker. They can refer to a psychologist where necessary
Parents should not feel they are to blame for what has happened.
SAFETY TIPS FOR SUPERVISION OF CHILDREN
- Trust your instincts. “Perception and not worry is what serves safety”. (de Becker, 1999)
- Don’t let young children go into a public restroom by themselves.
- Be cautious about who you allow to baby-sit or spend time alone with your children. Get references. Try to bathe and dress your own children. Routinely quiz your children about what happens while you are gone. Ask questions like “What did you do that was fun?” or “Was there anything that happened while I was gone that worried you or that I should know about?” Don’t always tell your children to mind the babysitter. Avoid having young male babysitters.
- Get to know the people and homes where your children play.
- Periodically check on your children, when they are playing with other kids in a home, and especially if they are playing in a public area, away from the adults.
- Preferably only go to restaurants where you can see the children’s play area. Ensure that the child minder is alert and attentive.
- If you know that one of your children’s friends has been sexually abused, be more attentive to their playtime with that child, and avoid sending your child to a house where you suspect an offender may be.
- Don’t let your children walk or ride their bike to school or to a friend’s home alone. Children should travel in groups or with an adult.
- Know your neighbours. Develop a Neighbourhood Watch or Block House program.
- Supervise all Internet activities closely. Consider subscribing to an ISP that screens for obscenity and pornography. Make a “family agreement” about conversations before allowing your children to go into “chat rooms.” Children should never give out their phone number, address or school name to anyone they meet over the Internet. Periodically, ask your children to see the kinds of “chat room” conversations that take place. Warn them about “what lurks on the Internet.”
- Develop the kind of relationship that would allow your child to come to you for help or support for any kind of problem they might need help with, for themselves or a friend.