A nation eating its own children

Children as young as 11 months are among the chilling rape statistics recorded over the past two months.

07 September 2021 | Crime

JANA-MARI SMITH







WINDHOEK

The Namibian police opened 15 cases of rape involving children and teenagers since the start of July.

These rapes are related only to cases reported over weekends, and involved 12 girls, two boys and one child whose gender was not identified, all aged between 11 months and 17 years.

An overview of weekend crime reports issued since the start of July showed that rapes of seven children aged 10 and younger were reported to police over the past 10 weekends.

In addition, eight cases of rape of children aged between 11 and 17 were reported over that period.

The youngest alleged rape victim was an 11-month-old baby girl. The police reported that on 24 July, a 24-year-old suspect grabbed her from her house and raped her in the open bush. He was arrested, while the baby was taken to hospital.

On the same weekend, a 12-year-old girl was reportedly raped by a 52-year-old man in Khorixas.

Last weekend, the police reported that a 28-year-old suspect gave a 10-year-old girl alcohol before raping her after she fell asleep.

Abuse of trust

“The sad reality is the fact that the majority of the perpetrators are known by the victims and survivors,” James Itana of Regain Trust said yesterday.

The abusers are in 90% of cases “fathers, brothers, uncles, neighbours. Men who’ve managed to establish a relationship of trust with the victims”.

The weekend of 16 to 18 July saw the report of a rape of an eight-year-old boy, allegedly by his 21-year-old uncle.

Of the four rapes reported that weekend, all were linked to abusers known to the victims.

A 17-year-old was allegedly raped by a former boyfriend, while the suspect in the rape of an 11-year-old girl was her grandfather.

The man arrested for the rape of a six-year-old was a close family friend, and the suspect who was accused of raping another eight-year-old boy was his uncle.

The man accused of raping a 12-year-old girl over the weekend of 24 July was a neighbour who tried to lure her with N$1.

“We have families who opt to protect the perpetrators and often the victims and survivors are forced, coerced and shamed into silence,” Itana said.

Moreover, abusers leverage their “economic power in these families to maintain silence and for as long as they are protected, they can easily continue perpetrating acts of sexual violence”.

And, although it's now mandatory to report child abuse under the Childcare and Protection Act, these numbers are likely only the tip of the iceberg, he said.

“It is only by ensuring that perpetrators are held accountable that we will see a reduction in these heinous acts. For as long as these incidences are shrouded in a cloud of silence, we will continue to see an increase in sexual gender-based violence cases against children.

Rape pandemic

“Cases of child rape and sexual assault across the board remain increasingly high, and undeniably should be a national concern,” Ndiilokelwa Nthengwe, a gender and justice advocate at Positive Vibes Trust said yesterday.

Although the police are “working tirelessly to arrest the rise in these cases, new interventions are needed to boldly curb this pandemic,” she said.

Nthengwe suggested that community members need to be mobilised “with incentives to become vigilantes for their own communities on the ground, where law enforcement lacks resources and mobility”.

She underlined the need to consider the development of mechanisms that take the impact of Covid-19 into consideration, and that are “community-led, resource efficient and uniquely responsive for each community. Perhaps with this, we will begin to see positive results”.

Itana added that strengthening investment in shelters and safe havens is critical to offer a wide array of services and support initiatives for survivors.

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