Soul City

Institute for Health and Development Communication

Presentation to the Task Group on the Sexual Abuse of Children

13 March 2002

Soul City is

The Soul City Institute for Health and Development Communication through Soul City and Soul Buddyz (aimed at education 8 to 10 year-olds and their parents) is made up of:

Each series takes two years to develop. During this time intensive research and consultation is undertaken.

It is not easy to separate health and social issues as they are inter-dependent. Soul City therefore has, through workshops and focus groups held in the community, as well as other research, built up a vast body of knowledge on issues such as child and women abuse, HIV/Aids, and sexuality education.

This is a brief presentation, exploring the phenomenon of infant and child rape based on much of that knowledge.

The Presentation:

1. argues that despite progress made in terms of policing, prosecution and survivor assistance, this is not sufficient to deter rapists and inculcate mutual respect between women and men

2. argues that child and infant rape is an extension of violence against women and provides, through Soul City’s research, an indication of the progression from rape of women to infants and children

3. argues that there is a need for in-depth research particularly with regard to perpetrators

4. looks briefly at the Aids myth

5. argues that sexuality and gender education is an important component in the fight against child and infant rape

6. makes suggestions regarding the safety of children

7. makes recommendations

A scourge that South Africans reject

We agree that infant and child rapes, as with all forms of rape, are abominable acts, which are a serious indictment of our society. However, we also believe that the widespread condemnation and horror at these acts illustrates South African society will not tolerate them and that all efforts will be made to seek out the perpetrators and bring them to book. It is also worth noting that although the survivors of rape are usually girl babies and children, there are also many young men who respect girls and women and who are carrying the yoke of guilt for those who perpetrate rape and perpetuate the stereotype of the chauvinist male.

Progress made

The actions that have been taken by a string of critical institutions including the Human Rights Commission, the prosecution services, parliament and civil society groupings, is commendable. If the recommendations made by these bodies are implemented, the prosecution of offenders, the sentencing, and the services for survivors of sexual offences, will be greatly enhanced. Justice will then appear to have been served and for many some form of retribution will have taken place.

But what does appear to have been neglected in this broad spread of intersectoral work, is the prevention of future crimes of this nature. Undoubtedly fear of actual conviction and heavy sentences for those who are caught, will, to a certain degree, have a deterrent effect on potential offenders. Nevertheless, it is will take time for this to take effect and it is not sufficient to stamp out crimes of this nature.

Extension of violence against women

Until evidence to the contrary emerges, and regardless of underlying motives, it is our contention that the rape of infants and children is an extension of the violence perpetrated against women in general.

Violence against infants and children, particularly of a sexual nature, should not be considered in isolation to violence against women.

Recent statistics seem to indicate a sharp increase in rapes in general as well as sexual child abuse (although media coverage suggests that infant rapes are also on the increase, clearly more research is needed before this can be confirmed. However, even one case of infant rape should be considered too many).

In addition to the newspaper reports, several studies have also become available recently. They provide further proof of the extent of the problem: Human Rights Watch’s Scared at school: sexual violence against girls in South Africa; South African Medical Research Council report; The Parliamentary report on the provincial public hearings on Sexual Violence at Schools.

The predominance of rape within the school environment or on route to or from school has been confirmed by all three reports. It is also the finding of a study reported in a paper entitled Theoretical and Therapeutic Aspects of Extrafamilial Child Rape in the South African Context: A preliminary exploration.

The latter study also illustrates how the rape of infants and children is connected to rape on the broader scale. The study involved ten South African latency (period between five and puberty when sexual interest is diminished, in this study specifically children between the ages of seven and eleven) aged survivors. According to the paper, all the rape incidents were "characterized by the rapists use of the threat of violence and/or death against the child, and often against their families". The author makes the point that descriptions would tend to confirm the feminist perspective on rape, construing attacks as involving abuse of power and aggressively motivated. Most of the rapes in the study were committed by "opportunistic youth, such as older high school boys, or unemployed younger men". Of concern is that the perpetrators treated the children with a sense of entitlement to use them in a sexual way, seeing these children as objects.

Soul City’s research suggests a trend of perpetrators acting out of a sense of entitlement, through their work with survivors and perpetrators of rape. The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation confirms this emerging pattern of an entitlement to instant gratification and release of sexual energy. The Centre argues that this may well be why the age of rape survivors is dropping and why the many cases of fathers sleeping their own daughters is on the rise.

Soul City Research

This view of children as objects to be used for personal gratification was confirmed during the formative research undertaken by Soul City. The following quotes taken verbatim from the focus group discussions are extremely telling as to the views of many men and women on rape. The connections to child and infant rape become clearer through them.

When asked which people are more at risk of being raped, one female participant said:

"Its kids. These that can’t speak for themselves and are afraid of older people. Men rape children knowing that the child won’t talk, so its small kids…..Like a man raping ….a child when I’ve left her alone with him… When I check the child one day I will find that the child had been raped and when I ask her she tells the truth. I will then take her to the clinic."

Repeatedly women took the blame for such actions on to themselves:

"You find that women don’t treat their men right they are not satisfied so they resort to kids because he is not satisfied."

Men themselves made superficial excuses for their actions. In reaction to a question about whether or not young men felt that they could not get into romance without it leading to sex, one participant said:

"Yes it is impossible because when the boy gets those feelings he becomes vague…and when he is like that he is weak (cannot control his sexual urge) and there is no time for the girl to communicate what she wants. He ends up having done something the girl does not want but the problem is that the girl won’t sit down with him and make him understand that she does not want these things to happen like that so that the boy should know in the future how he should handle it."

"Even when a female refuses irrespective of whether you are married or not you will force her. It happens that you will even rape your girlfriend."

Participants blamed the way a girl dressed for their "uncontrollable sexual urges". This led the facilitator to ask the question, "Okay, I understand that you said rape is caused by the way girls dressed, so when a small child or a granny gets raped, what happened?" The response:

"If you rape a granny it means that your blood is too hot, you can’t resist"

Facilitator: What makes your blood boil?

"A boy imagining doing stuff, he imagines and at the end he’s so aroused he can’t….It’s not imagination, sometimes you lose your mind and if you have strong feelings you wonder where you will relieve yourself. You find that when you look you see that this is a child and you see that it’s obvious that you must take it out on her (laughter). Your mind is thinking that and when you turn a corner you find a granny and then oe lathlela moo (you just shove it in).

In response to this the facilitator asked whether the participant knew about masturbating as a solution. This led to the issue of "wasting" one’s sperm – a common excuse offered by young men, particularly those who are already in a relationship and who are intent on coercing their young girlfriends to sleep with them. In this session, the facilitator then asked: but if he slept with a five year-old or a granny of 105 years, was that also not wasting? The reply suggested that sleeping with a five year-old or a granny was preferable to masturbating..

This quote on the rape of older women is the ultimate example of the objectification of women:

"Just look at the case of the old lady who was raped by the boyfriend of her grandchild. The young man knocked at the door and asked for the girl. The old lady said she did not know where she was. The man said ‘you will also do because what I want from her you also have’. He held the old lady and raped her."

Women were also blamed for rape in the home:

"I want to follow up on this issue of the family man who rapes his own child. The problem is these women. She is your wife but she only wants to sleep with you only once a week…we men cannot live like that… you will end up raping your own child. The women really get us into trouble."

A case reported by the Centre for the Study of Violence reflected the cynicism of men’s need for instant gratification. In this case, a man who had raped his daughter claimed that at the time, he had felt like sex and since his wife was at a night vigil, he was entitled to his daughter.

Many participants insisted that if they took a girl out and spent money on her, they expected her to sleep with them.

"You know other guys can’t control their feelings. They use money to get girls. They spend for drinks and food in expensive restaurants. Finding that they never talked about love and affair. That girl will think that this guy is spending his money because he is kind to me. Later when a girl wants to go home he refuses and take her to the motels like Formula one and spend the night there."

Gang rape is prevalent (in one report back this was referred to as "game" rape).

"A game rape is when a guy wants a place where he can have a nice time with a girl you know! A place where he can sleep with the girl and he ask his friend. His friend agree to give him a place but that friend say ‘what about me?’ and they agree to each other that they will share her. Like you tell your friend that when I finish you can come and join the party."

"Ya! Maybe the four of us go out and we convince a girl to join us and I will speak le majita (with the guys) that we are finished with her (laughter) so obviously they can see that daai man (this guy) can’t sleep alone and we don’t have girlfriends."

Daily women become more aware of their rights and although this is a major victory, many children’s and women’s groups feel that this has made women more vulnerable. According to one Soul City report, women were also targets of gang rape if they were perceived to be aloof. This suggests women who are outspoken, assertive and in control of their lives are raped to show them their place. Men and women blamed women’s rights and political freedom for the rise of rape within their communities. They spoke about the past with nostalgia, claiming that previously they did not rape because men practiced polygamy and women didn’t behave like whites. This suggests that the efforts expended in empowering women without taking men along the same path has had backlash.

However, in contrast to this backlash, the increase in the number of men concerned about violence and abuse of women and committed to working towards changing the situation, is encouraging. Therefore working with boys and men should become a priority.

Although the above information and quotes do not specifically refer to incidents of infant rape, it reflects a total objectification of women and a perceived right to instant gratification regardless of the receptacle ("you just shove it in"), taking this to its logical conclusion, the progression to the rape of infants is inevitable.


Kenosi Misane writing in the Sowetan queried what went wrong with the family values of adult males who rape women and children. He said, "Why would a father rape his daughter or rape a child the same age or younger than his daughter?" This is a question that needs answering.. It is one the courts have also posed to an accused.

Last year, in sentencing a man for the rape of an eight-year old, the judge said "You are the father of two children. Your (seven-year old) daughter is not much younger than your victim."

The accused, however, responded by saying he knew it was wrong to have had sex with an eight year-old. This at least reflects an awareness of the difference between right and wrong. All too often in the Soul City focus groups, the participants referred to a lack of a sense of right and wrong as an ill wind blowing within their communities. Women expressed this by saying that their men have turned into "real dogs".

The Sowetan’s Misane also summarized some of the explanations that have been put forward from the public for toddler and infant rapes. While the Aids myth remains contested, perhaps they should also be considered because they obviously are the perceptions of some sections of the community:

The perpetrators

As we have seen, information from Soul City’s research and other sources give us a fairly good indication of what has led to the plethora of child and infant rapes. However, to counteract this phenomenon it is necessary to confirm what motivates such rapes in a sound academically rigorous study with suitably qualified persons conducting interviews with those convicted of infant/child rape. Psychologist and author Lloyd Vogelman conducted interviews of this nature with rapists on death row in the 1980s. The information revealed by this study illustrated the nature of the violence that they had lived with as children. This provided valuable insight into the causal relationship between their upbringings and the rapes that they had committed.

To the best of our knowledge no profile of infant rapists is available. From what we have been able to glean, experts are in agreement that these infant rapes are not being perpetrated by pedophiles.

In an article "Experts search for baby rape motives" (Dispatch 13 December, 2001 author unidentified), the following is offered: "The only consensus is that there is a vast difference between pedophilia and infant rape. Pedophiles seek to establish a relationship with their victims and are aroused by prepubescent children, usually between the ages of five to 11 years. But baby rapists appear to have a different motive. Victims sustain life-threatening injuries. Some of them die."

The evidence therefore suggests that perpetrators of infant and child rapes are indifferent to the violence attached to their acts. Johannesburg Hospital pediatric surgeon Graeme Pitcher, who performed emergency surgery on one of the infant survivors and who has worked at the Johannesburg hospital for a decade, said the distinction (between infant and pediatric rape) lies largely in the brutality of the rapes.

In infant rapes, usually the victim’s perineum (the section between the anus and the vagina) is ripped apart and even the muscles of the pelvic floor are torn open. Sometimes the baby’s abdominal cavity is also penetrated. "The perpetrator is putting a six-inch penis in a child who is only 13 inches long."

This violence identified by Pitcher gives impetus to Professor Jackie Cock’s comments in which she places the blame firmly on South Africa’s violent past: "We are a region emerging form 30 years of war. Violence brutalizes people and what we are seeing now is the degree to which people have been brutalized."

Establishing the demographic profiles of the perpetrators as well as their ages would be a good starting point in trying to understand who these rapists are. In terms of the accused in these cases, the police should be collecting this data.

Exploring the profiles and motives of perpetrators is, however, imited by the fact that many rapists have not been caught and convicted and it would therefore be impossible to interview them.

HIV status

Experts have offered differing opinions on whether or not the myth that sex with a virgin will cure you of AIDS is the reason behind the rapes and whether or not there has been an increase in infant rapes. Luke Lamprecht, Manager of the Teddy Bear Clinic (quoted in "Experts search for baby rape motives") does not think that infant rapes are on the increase, or that they are motivated by the erroneous belief that sex with a virgin cures HIV. In the same article, pediatric surgeon Graeme Pitcher says he believes infant rapes are on the increase and that the HIV myth is behind the baby rapes: "It’s the only possible explanation for this phenomenon. It’s a distinct entity from pediatric rape."

In order to establish whether or not the myth is behind this behaviour, more information is needed.

Although gathering this information may prove difficult, it is critical that we establish whether or not HIV/Aids is the reason for these infant (and child) rapes. Firstly we need to establish this because if it is not, the myth can be laid to rest. Secondly, it is critical to know because the on-going publicity surrounding the issue could be encouraging further rapes.

Consideration should also be given to the statement made by the National Association of People Living With Aids (NAPWA). The director, Nkuleleko Nxesi said, "While it is true that there is a perception that sleeping with a virgin cures AIDS, …….people rape children regardless of their HIV status and the motive behind rape is usually to satisfy sexual desires and to exercise power over the powerless. The majority of our members practice safe sex because of the fear of being reinfected and they are ware of the basic facts about HIV-Aids. It would be ironic if the people who are involved in the fight against the spread of HIV-Aids would fuel the spread of HIV-Aids by raping children."

Nxesi warned that laying the blame at the door of HIV positive people encourages discrimination against people with HIV-Aids and said this was a very dangerous generalization that puts the lives of each and every member of Napwa in danger.

Sexuality Education

We are pleased to note that this government has shown determination to continue with sexuality education in schools. This education is essential in firstly providing our youth with information so as to help them make the right choices as far as their bodies and sex are concerned, but also in encouraging a mutual respect among young girls and boys. It is here that the issue of rape and coercive sex can be explored and where groundwork to counteract the issue of infant/child rape can be done.

During Soul City’s recent formative research study for Soul Buddyz, the television program targeted at 8 to 12 year olds, almost all young girls reported that their greatest fear was that of being raped. These young girls talked about how common it is in their communities for boys to sexually harass girls without anybody raising an eyebrow. When asked why they did not complain, they talked about how they are brought up to submit to men. Those that had been sexually harassed reported that they were afraid to report it because women are often blamed for rape, saying that they asked for it - thus absolving men of their actions.

The new curriculum 2005 has introduced life orientation as a learning area. Within this discipline learners will be exposed to life skills education. To date Soul City has produced life skills material for Grades 7, 8 and 9. These materials touch on topics such as knowing your body, rights and responsibilities, gender rights, sex and love etc. To assist parents and complement the school material, a booklet on parenting has also been produced.

These resources are part of the answer to problems such as child abuse. We need to talk openly to our children about sex and other related life skills. Teachers need to be trained and supported in their endeavors to teach life skills at school. In our roles as, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers, it is our responsibility to challenge our own values regarding how we treat women and to teach the young that it does not make you a hero to be a rapist.

Ensuring children are in a safe place

The Consensus Statement on Sexual Abuse compiled and signed by some 12 children rights advocacy groups provides some excellent guidelines on preventing child abuse. Given the circumstances in which certain child rapes have occurred recently, it would appear, as the statement says, to be critical that adults are held responsible for protecting children and that they are empowered to do so (The Alliance for Children’s Entitlement to Social Security and the Children’s Rights Centre have shown how people living in poverty have tremendous difficulties in providing a safe environment for children because of their lack of resources. As a member of the Alliance we endorse their statement and recommendations). Of concern is the very vicious cycle which mitigates against a safe environment for children

Firstly, in several of the reported cases, the raped infants have been babies of very young mothers (1 in 3 South African babies are born to mothers under 19 years of age). Sechaba KaNkosi writing in the Sunday Times last year described these young mothers as: poor, largely uneducated and single. These young women are ill equipped to take on the responsibilities of motherhood particularly as many of them still fall into the category of children themselves. Many of them are themselves survivors of rape or coercive sex and the babies are often the result of that rape. The consequences of having a child as a teenager are felt for the rest of the girl’s life. Research has shown that teen mothers are less likely to complete high school and more likely than their peers, who delay childbearing, to live in poverty and to rely on welfare.

This consequence of living in poverty and unsuitable circumstances, was clearly evident in the case of the young girl who was the mother of the five month-old baby raped in Joubert Park, Johannesburg late last year. While Soul City at the time expressed grave concern about the conditions in which the child in question was living, we were equally concerned with the manner in which the mother of the baby was being blamed for the rape, as it deflected attention from the responsibility of the father of the child as well as the rapists themselves. In fact in most of the rape cases reported, little or no reference has been made to the father of the child.

Despite the young girls actions at the time being used to illustrate her disregard for her baby, they also reflect ) her inability to deal with the actual incident and her lack of resources, and b) her defence mechanisms under the circumstances.

A media report says that according to witnesses the young mother reacted calmly to the discovery of the rape. She simply took her baby away, dressed her and walked out to a public phone to call the police’s Child Protection Unit.

"She just does not seem to understand the implications", Child Protection Unit investigator Captain Peter Linda said. "When we interviewed her, she did not show the slightest sign of remorse."

Sexuality education can give girls confidence to take control over their bodies and their relationships thereby avoiding coercive sex. It can also help young girls avoid unwanted pregnancies when they are in a relationship. In this context, it is worth noting that the 24 year-old mother of the five year-old who was raped, appears to have two other children at home in KwaZulu Natal in addition to the baby. Therefore apart from basic sexuality education which provides information on contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV/Aids, young girls also need to know that should they fall pregnant, through consensual or non-consensual sex, they can terminate the pregnancy and thereby avoid having children which they are unable to care for.

But although the health and physical benefits of sexuality education are important, it has an even bigger role to play in changing the next generations’ perceptions and young boy’s attitudes, particularly regarding gender equality.

Long and short term solutions

Gauteng MECs for Social Welfare and Security, Angie Motshekga and Nomvula Mokonyane recently made statements offering a powerful message in relation to ridding the country of violence against women and children:

"We are going back to basics; children must be allowed to be children; societal norms must be re-established.

"And in the process, we are re-educating men, so that they grow up with consciences, with high self esteem, that sex is about (self) control, mutual enjoyment and not sadism and anger.

" We are emphasizing that a woman must not view herself as a victim, that she must not be conditioned for abuse, but see the world as her future.

"It is not about disliking men, but changing society’s attitudes from negative to positive mindsets."

Much work is needed to achieve the above and although better legislation, policing and prosecution along with assistance for survivors will help in the shorter term, it is the changing of the mindset referred to by our two MECs above which will take longer but which must be tackled now.