Child rape epidemic

Of the 2 598 cases of rape that were reported over the past two-and-a-half years, half involved minors, including young children.

06 September 2019 | Crime

Close to 1 500 people were arrested between 2017 and March this year in connection with more than 2 500 cases of rape reported to the police, of which nearly half involved minors, including young children.

New statistics provided by the police show that 2 598 cases of rape were reported over the last two-and-a-half years. In 1 176 of these cases (45.3%) the complainants were children or teenagers.

“Rape in Namibia is definitely a crisis and must be declared as such,” Charlemaine Husselmann of Lifeline/Childline warned this week.

She said there is an urgent need to call it a state of emergency, considering that rape has become commonplace in Namibia.

She, and others, warned that the crisis is not attracting the serious attention and action it deserves.

“Child sexual abuse is no longer in the spotlight at all despite its horrifying proportions. It does not seem as if Namibia is making any meaningful strides forward on child rape,” Dianne Hubbard, at the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) warned this week.





Many of the rape cases being investigated involved close family members, friends or neighbours known to the children and teens.

Husselmann said based on experience, the majority of rapes are perpetrated by someone the child knows.

The data released by the police indicate that 960 cases of rape were reported in 2017, of which 436 cases involved minors. During that year, 596 adults were charged with rape, while 43 minors were arrested on rape charges.

In 2018, 1 121 rape cases were reported, of which 500 involved minors. A total of 633 adults were arrested and 47 minors on rape charges.

Between January and June this year, 517 cases of rape were opened, of which 240 involved minors.

Between January and March, 146 adults and 12 juveniles were arrested on rape charges.



Epidemic

Child protection specialist Dr Veronica Theron says Namibia's “epidemic of sexual violence” is likely worse than the numbers on record indicate, because many child survivors do not report sex crimes due to pervasive fear of being blamed or ostracised by family and friends.

She said the reported cases are likely only the tip of the iceberg.

She said those working with child rape survivors have noted a worrying trend of children with special needs being targeted by rapists, because they are easily manipulated and would struggle to testify.

Theron further highlighted that victim blaming and delays in safeguarding the wellbeing of children are worrying.

“Adults still talk about minors that 'asked for it', or minors that 'seduced' the perpetrators.” A snapshot of rape cases reported to the police this year include the arrest of an 18-year-old boy accused of raping his 10-year-old sister.

In August a man kidnapped a five-year-old girl from a kindergarten and raped her. The girl was known to the man through family.

In March, a 75-year-old man was arrested for raping a six-year-old girl, who was related to him.

In August, the police announced they were searching for a 48-year-old man who had fled to Angola after he was accused of raping his eight-year-old niece multiple times between January and July this year. An 11-year-old girl was allegedly raped by her 30-year-old uncle, who was arrested.



Power

Husselmann said one of the main drivers of rape is an attitude of entitlement.

“The act of rape is one of power and violation,” she said, noting that those who target children and teenagers often view them as “weak and easy to manipulate”.

Husselmann stressed that the way in which boys are raised could be crucial to changing the crisis of rape in Namibia and to teach boys that “girls have a right to say no”.

James Itana of Regain Trust Namibia, which offers support services to survivors of sexual abuse, stressed that despite the longstanding and pervasive issue of rape in Namibia, the problem will not cease unless the core issues are tackled.

“We live in a society where we've socialised men to believe they are entitled to the bodies of women and girls. What we are really dealing with is an issue of power and entitlement, which is reinforced through our cultural and religious beliefs.”

He said while the patriarchal structure remains in place, Namibia will continue to deal with high incidents of rape.

Itana said there is an urgent need to scale up our prevention and response services to address rape, and to support awareness campaigns, while also encouraging survivors of rape to speak out and seek support.

“There is a dire need to strengthen services in the country and as a country we are not allocating enough of our national budget in our efforts to address gender-based violence, which includes rape,” he stressed.

Itana said it's also time for men to speak up.

“Not all men are perpetrators of violence against women and children. Yet most of us men are quiet and do not hold other men accountable.”

Theron said the issue of rape should be treated with the urgency it deserves.

She further warned that although awareness has improved, notably on opening up dialogues and encouraging people to speak up and report these crimes, the bottlenecks often experienced after the reporting can lead to secondary trauma and withdrawal of cases.

[email protected]

JANA-MARI SMITH

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