By Tamara Mafilika
One in every three adolescents reported having experienced some form of sexual abuse at some point in their lives. It is estimated that more than 40% of South African women will be raped in their lifetime and that only 1 in 9 rapes are reported. It is also estimated that 14% of perpetrators of rape are convicted in South Africa.
Harassment does not only exist in adult workplaces. It’s happening among our youth and we are doing little to nothing about it. It needs to end now. it is imperative for our children and teenagers to understand how and why sexual harassment and assault is wrong, and why they must “SPEAK UP” when it happens. We need to teach our children that they have control over their own bodies and the right to say “NO”, to be supportive of one another. And sexual harassers and abusers must be held accountable.
It is important to remember that sexual harassment is an abuse of power, which is a learned behaviour and starts at a very young age. Sexual harassment and violence permeates our primary and high schools. Girls endure sexually crude jokes about their bodies, receive unwanted photos of private parts, are tormented by sexual rumours, some are even inappropriately touched against their will and some are completely violated by rape.
While the sexual harassment and abuse mainly affects girls, it can affect boys as well. All of this negatively affects our youths’ academic success. Pupils report trouble concentrating in class. They can’t sleep. Some pupils suffer from depression and fear going to school. Others end up taking their own lives. As parents, we must take sexual harassment and abuse seriously. It’s not “boys will be boys”, and no one should accept this treatment.
It begins with sexist jokes, demeaning language and catcalls, and can grow into more abusive behaviour.
This is what you can do as listed in www.stompoutbullying.org:
- Start the conversation.
- Change the culture for children and teens.
- Report your attack at your nearest police station.
According to the Harassment Act and the Children’s Act, reporting of sexual abuse of individuals aged 16 and younger is mandatory for adults. Nobody should face a traumatic event like sexual abuse alone. Get the support. Don’t ignore your feelings. Remember, you are not alone.