Brian Rogers: “I have a dream for SA in 2017…”

By Brian Rogers*

Actually, I have a dream for the next thirty years…which starts in 2017. That is, we institute action plans to eradicate childhood abuse in South Africa. It is an intergenerational issue, so bearing in mind that 35.4% of our children have suffered some form of sexual abuse¹; and the mean age by which girls suffer sexual abuse is 14 years of age and the mean age of boys (yes, boys) is 15 years of age¹, my thirty years is two generations to make a significant impact.

Naturally then in 2017 my dream is that we stop talking, stop conferencing, stop writing long documents, stop moaning about lack of funds and other resources – and knuckle down and implement the solutions that are freely available from the international community. And implement them, like we South African’s are so want to do, better than anywhere else in the world.

For should we as a generation fail to stand up and make this change, all the economic recovery in the world is not going to stop our core from rotting.

Yet, in order for my dream to be realized, in addition to all the stop-nonsense pleas above, there are three things that need to happen:

  1. You the public need to have your eyes opened so wide as to the extent of the issue in South Africa;
  2. Professionals of all forms need to drop their silo attitudes, and
  3. We have to build a Solutions Institute to guide all the current disparate efforts in common goal directed, effective implementation.

You the public

If the fact that more than one third of our children have suffered sexual abuse by the age of 18 (Courtesy: “Optimus Study South Africa: Technical Report Sexual victimisation of children in South Africa Final report of the Optimus Foundation Study: South Africa May 2016”), does not make you sit up and take notice, then I am going to make you incredulous with my next statements.

More boys than girls are sexually abused, and not just by men! For all your surely built up appreciation of plight of our young girls, society as a whole has strived to hide from you that our young boys suffer even more. “The differences between males’ and females’ reported rates of abuse were not as stark in this South African study as they have been in other studies. In the school survey, boys (36.8%) were found to be slightly more likely than girls (33.9%) to report some form of sexual abuse.¹” (Optimus study).

But if I have not shocked you yet, it’s really coming now…

Females rape boys at least as often as men do! According to large study published way back in 2008 (“13,915 reasons for equity in sexual offences legislation: A national school-based survey in South Africa: Neil Andersson and Ari Ho-Foster” ²) “Of those aged 18 years at the time of the survey, 44% (…of boys…) said they had been forced to have sex in their lives… Some 32% said the perpetrator was male, 41% said she was female and 27% said they had been forced to have sex by both male and female perpetrators.”

You the professionals

It’s a well know dictum amongst Mental Health activists like myself that Psychiatry is the only medical discipline that diagnoses on the basis of symptoms alone; but our whole Mental Health conscience suffers from the same problem. For a wide variety of reasons our resources are squandered rushing around putting out fires and not dealing with root causes. You have to get out of your silos of both pity and contentment and take collective action.

We the nation

We have to have a central, independent yet government supported, action oriented knowledge and expertise hub. Personally, I have defined such a hub as TRISI – Trauma & Resilience-Informed Solutions Institute of South Africa³. I would hope there are even better one’s out there than my suggestion, but if not then TRISI need to go on the table at the highest levels of discussion in our land in 2017. A mere R15million over three years (5+5+5) will make it a reality – and the prize is a minimum R28 Billion in lost earnings due to Mental ill-Health and probably 5 times that amount in Primary Health Care, Criminal Justice and Education.⁴

In conclusion, from the Optimum study – “Child sexual abuse does not happen in a vacuum: South African children who report abuse typically report experiencing several different forms of abuse”. We have to get real and do something about this great tragedy.

Take special care – people need you.

Sources:

  1. Optimus Study South Africa: Technical Report Sexual victimisation of children in South Africa Final report of the Optimus Foundation Study: South Africa May 2016;  Artz L; Burton P; Ward C; Leoschut L; Phyfer J; Lloyd S; Kassanjee R; Le Motteee C.
  2. 13,915 reasons for equity in sexual offences legislation: A national school-based survey in South Africa; Neil Andersson and Ari Ho-Foster; Int J Equity Health. 2008; 7: 20. Published online 2008 Jul 29. doi:  10.1186/1475-9276-7-20
  3. TRISI – Trauma & Resilience-Informed Solutions Institute of South Africa
  4. Department of Health; 2013-2020 National Mental Health Policy Framework and Strategic Plan