The 50-year-old church elder, Aerial Haarder, was convicted of sexual assault on April 26 by the George Magistrate’s Court. He will be sentenced on Monday, June 11.
According to the family, the church had attempted to sweep the matter under the rug and had wanted to resolve the matter between the families.
Haarder had confessed the sexual assault to Pastor Eugene Carolus of Elim Seventh Day Adventist Church, on November 14, 2016. The girl’s mother (whose name is withheld to protect the identity of the child) said she was called to a meeting by Carolus under the pretence that Haarder was in bad health.
At the meeting, which was held the following day, the perpetrator confessed to the assault.
“As a mother, I am trying to work through emotions of being hurt, but mostly disappointed how my family is being treated. From the time Carolus heard the confession, he failed to report the matter to police and brought me to a meeting under false pretences. That evening my whole world crumbled and I wished the earth would open up and swallow me in so that I never returned again,” she said.
The girl’s mother said Carolus should have reported the matter to police immediately instead of waiting for the family to do so. The complaint was lodged by the mother at the local police two days after the confession.
The girl’s father said that although Haarder confessed to the local pastor, church members still supported him.
“It baffles my mind to think that people who profess to be ‘born again Christians’ stay silent when such atrocities are inflicted against children,” he said.
Carolus, however, said he felt the church did what it thought was beneficial for the victim at the time.
He said the incident didn’t happen on church premises and that the girl’s family were not members of his church.
“I went the extra mile and contacted the mother on the same day. If it wasn’t for me they would not have known about the incident.
“That same week the church disciplined Haarder and he was removed from our church membership. That is the most extreme action that the church can take.”
He said the church also offered to pay for the girl’s counselling.
“We share the anger and resentment the family have and respect them for being angry, but I did what I could,” said Carolus.