Advocating for Vulnerable Voices: Raising Awareness for Child Abuse and Sexual Assault

Advocating for Vulnerable Voices: Raising Awareness for Child Abuse and Sexual Assault
Susan Abro of Susan Abro Attorney. Photo credit: Jacky Herbst

Susan Abro, of Susan Abro Attorney, a respected advocate for women and children’s rights, joins the global community in observing April as Child Abuse Awareness and Sexual Assault Awareness month. With an unwavering commitment to addressing the prevalence of these issues, Abro emphasises the urgency of united action to combat child abuse and sexual assault in South Africa.

“In recognising Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Awareness month, it is imperative that we come together to shine a spotlight on the alarming rates of these crimes in our society. Every individual has a role to play in protecting the vulnerable and advocating for justice,” says Abro.

Recent crime statistics released by the South African Police Service (SAPS) highlight the severity of the situation. In the third quarter of the 2023/2024 financial year, SAPS recorded a staggering 12,211 rape cases and an average of thirty-three children violently attacked each day, with at least three children losing their lives to such violence daily. Furthermore, 1,135 women were murdered and more than 20,300 violently assaulted. “Sadly these statistics only capture reported cases, indicating that the true scale of these atrocities is likely to be even higher,” notes Abro.

Abuse encompasses a range of harmful behaviours, including physical, emotional, sexual abuse, and neglect as well as child pornography and child trafficking. Contrary to misconceptions, child abuse can occur within any family or community, and it often goes unnoticed or unreported. “It is vital to dispel myths surrounding child abuse, such as the belief that children do not know their abusers or that abuse only happens to girls,” says Abro.

Sexual abuse, in particular, poses significant challenges, with statistics indicating that 80% of cases involve perpetrators who are parents, relatives, or family members. Rape and sexual assault are outrageous violations of human dignity and consent. It is essential to understand the distinctions between these terms, as rape involves forced sexual intercourse against the victim’s will, while sexual assault encompasses any non-consensual sexual act. “Both men and women can be survivors of sexual violence, and it is imperative to provide survivors with avenues for reporting and seeking justice,” says Abro.

Reporting sexual violence is a critical step towards holding perpetrators accountable and supporting survivors on their path to healing. Survivors of sexual assault can seek assistance at Thuthuzela Rape Centres, which provide specialised care and support services throughout the country. These centres offer a safe and confidential space for survivors to receive medical examinations, counselling, and legal assistance.

Abro urges individuals, communities, and policymakers to prioritise the protection of children and survivors of sexual violence. “By fostering a culture of awareness, prevention, and support, and by changing the ‘victim blaming’ attitude of the legal system, we can work towards a future where every child grows up free from fear and every survivor finds justice and healing,” concludes Abro.

KwaZulu-Natal Rape Centres

  • Edendale Hospital Pietermaritzburg: Ms Nomonde Ntlanhla Tel: 033 395 4325
  • Prince Mshiyeni Hospital Umlazi: Ms Lusanda Khumalo Tel: 031-907 8496
  • Mahatma Ghandi Hospital Phoenix: Ms Thenjiwe Mthembu Tel: 031-502 2338
  • RK Khan Hospital: Ms Nombuso Mpanza Tel: 031 401 0394
  • Port Shepstone Regional Hospital: Ms Lorrinda Sonkosi Tel: 039 688 6021
  • Stanger Provincial Hospital: Ms Ronita Lutchman Tel: 032 551 6632

Additional useful contact details:

  • Durban Advice Desk for Abused Women (031) 262 5231 / 0800 204 321 / 0800 204 160
  • Network on Violence Against Women (031) 304 6928
  • Jes Foord Foundation Rape Crisis Centre: 066 440 3604
  • The Open Door Crisis Centre: Thora Mansfield / Tel: 031 709-2679