THERE is never a day that passes without a rape, molestation or sexual abuse being reported across the country.
About 3 600 cases of rape are reported a day in South Africa, according to one survey.
And at least 41 percent of the victims are believed to be children.
We believe sexual abuse of children is preventable, though not inevitable.
TV news and talk shows are always warning parents and children about the dangers of sexual abuse at school, in the home and on the internet.
But the primary responsibility to protect children from perverts remains in the hands of their parents.
It’s the parents who are expected to talk openly and directly about sexuality and abuse with their children.
They are supposed to teach their children that other people should not be touching or looking at their private parts unless they need to touch them to provide care.
Parents are expected to teach their children how to look out for potential abusers and to encourage them not to keep it a secret when they are raped or sexually abused
And it’s them too who are supposed to warn their children not to trust strangers.
But then, most of the sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone within the child’s social sphere – for example, a relative, neighbour, family friend or teacher.
It’s only in rare cases that children are molested by people who are strangers to them.
The majority of children never report the abuse – and often this is because they are either afraid of their parents’ reactions or they don’t know how to tell.
That’s why the primary responsibility to protect children from sexual abuse has always been placed on parents.
But who will protect the children when their parents become the rapists and abusers of their own offspring themselves?
This is the big question we left to ponder after a Bloemfontein woman was convicted last week of raping her own son for a decade since he was a little boy of seven years of age.
And all the while no one ever noticed anything unusual or wrong between the mother and her son, whom she appeared to love so much, always spoiling him with gifts.
Although the fact that the woman would leave her husband and daughter behind to go to the movies with the son – as if they were girlfriend and boyfriend – does, now with the benefit of hindsight, seem a little odd.
But at the time it did not.
There was simply nothing to suggest that the gross abomination that was a routine occurrence at the family home along Langhoven Street in Bloemfontein’s Dan Peienaar suburb was, in fact, happening.
The woman’s husband never suspected it.
Neither did her daughter.
The teachers at the local school that the abused boy attended were also in the dark.
Even the pastor at the church that the family attended never dreamt of it.
Who really was supposed to protect that poor boy?
And how about all the other children who are also abused by the people who are supposed to be protecting them?
No one can understand the victim’s pain – maybe not even a survivor can.
The consequences of rape are devastating.
The abused are left to cope with physical and emotional scars.
And the victim is not just one.
Families and friends suffer too.
The children who are then locked up by their parents for “safety” are victims as well.
So too are a large majority of men are left ashamed and feeling helpless when anyone gets raped.
While educational programmes for potential victims – especially young children – on how to keep safe are essential, changing the underlying culture urgently requires a new message: that we are all victims and that no one but ourselves can stop this sexual abuse madness.