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Cases of sexual abuse in schools 'spiraling'

Published Feb 1, 2007


Disturbingly, experts say sexual abuse cases are exploding in affluent schools.

"Many of South Africa's plush suburbs and private schools have become fertile breeding grounds for cultivating sexual and violent offenders," says Shaheda Omar, therapeutic manager at the Teddy Bear Clinic in Johannesburg.

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According to her, the number of private boys' schools that sought the clinic's help after discovering that older pupils were sodomising their younger counterparts as part of so-called initiation rituals had "snowballed to a grave extent".

"Private schools present one of our biggest problems because the parents of the boys involved have the means to suppress what has happened."

Asked if any incidents of sexual abuse had been reported to the police, Johannesburg police spokesperson Chris Wilken said the authorities were "not aware of that problem". But Omar's claims have been backed up by both state psychiatrists and NGO counsellors.

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Arina Smit, national head of the National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders, revealed they experienced an estimated 20 percent growth in the number of sexual and physical abuse cases involving children from affluent schools.

"But these cases do tend to be covered up … I personally dealt with a situation where the headmaster of a so-called good school called me and told me that there had been a incident of sexual abuse at the school. He didn't want to call the police in and he asked me what we could do to help," she said.

Dr Jane Hofmeyr, director of the Independent Schools' Association of Southern Africa, said private and so-called wealthy schools were "very, very aware" of the problem of sexual abuse. - Daily News Correspondent

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