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Cape Town - There has been a marked increase in the number of sexual violence cases involving pupils with special needs – and in some cases perpetrators have deliberately targeted these children because they are “vulnerable”.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesman Eric Ntabazalila said some of the attacks had been by pupils, but many involved adults.
Most of the attacks had been on children from special needs schools in Worcester and the surrounding areas.
This has led the NPA to intervene in a bid to stop the trend.
Some of the cases have come before the Worcester Regional Court.
Ntabazalila said counsellors at Worcester’s NPA Thuthuzela Care Centre had analysed trends in sexual offences that came before the courts and found that many cases reported in the town involved pupils who were intellectually challenged.
There had been a 50 percent increase in the number of rape and sexual assault cases reported between March 2013 and April this year, he said.
Thuthuzela, headed by the NPA, is focused on providing medial care for rape survivors and secondary trauma counselling. It works with the criminal justice system to achieve speedy convictions.
It also worked closely with the police, Departments of Social Development and Health and NGOs in the Breede River Valley.
In a bid to try to stem the trend, the NPA has sent its Sexual Offences and Community Affairs unit to provide training on the Sexual Offences Act to teachers and pupils at the schools affected.
“As part of our job, we do this analysis,” Ntabazalila said.
“We want to see what these trends tell us and we act based on that.”
The attacks occurred at the schools and victims’ homes.
The schools reported the cases on the pupils’ behalf, Ntabazalila said.
The NPA was also working with the Western Cape Education Department to try to curb the problem.
Although he would not provide figures, Ntabazalila said the increase was “significantly” high. “That’s why we are visiting the schools that are affected to inform them that these cases have to be a priority and have to be brought to court according to the law,” Ntabazalila said.
“It is up to us to ensure that the victims get justice and that the perpetrators are brought to book swiftly.
“We are trying to create mechanisms on how the teachers and the children can report the case, and at the same time educate them about the role of the police in the justice system.”
Education spokesman Paddy Attwell confirmed that the department’s social workers were working with the NPA to train teachers in the Worcester area.
He said workshops with teachers were being held at one of the special schools.