The Honest Truth: 1 in 3 South African children will be sexually abused by age 17.

20 August 2019

By Benito Vergotine

The rate of sexual violence in South Africa is among the highest in the world and young children are its most vulnerable target but according to Dr Ayelet Giladi, a Consulting Educational Sociologist and author of Sexual Harassment: No Children’s’ Game,we can empower children as young as 5 years to learn to protect themselves.

 On Monday 19 August, Dr Giladi joined Benito in conversation to unpack these prevention tools. Listen to the conversation here: Sexual Abuse Prevention Tools for Children

The phenomena of sexual harassment reached global awareness amidst high profile news stories from Hollywood celebrity circles which sparked the global #Metoo campaign. It also brought awareness to the #Childrentoo campaign and reinforced the work of African child rights protectors, educationists and parents who deal with the trauma of victims who are defined by a faceless statistic: 1 in 3 South African children will be sexually abused by age 17.

 Sharing her international research at the upcoming African Child Trauma Conference in Cape Town 18 – 21 August 2019, Dr Ayelet Giladi says 1 in 5 children are experiencing sexual harassment from other children from as young as age four and as much as 20% of children’s’ games between the ages of 5 to 8 are seen to include elements of sexual harassment.

 “Adults in general and children in particular still have difficulty identifying violence and sexual harassment. We see this behaviour in children  associated with social and cultural gender and as a result of the need to demonstrate power and gain social capital within their age group as a foundation of human behavior.

 “It is necessary to provide children with parameters for flexible gender behavior early on, in order to relieve them of the violent social stigma that would otherwise dictate their lifelong behavior.

 “My work is of particular importance in the African context as many educational institutions may be the setting for sexual abuse and sodomy, the harsh psychological effects of which will have long-term effects on all those involved.”

Dr Giladi’s research offers training programmes, workshops to professionals,  teachers and parents with age-appropriate interventions from age 4 up until age 17 where participants gain the ability to identify patterns of sexual harassment at preschool age, prevent and manage sexual harassment and abuse and protect children from future vulnerability.

Her research draws a clear line in identifying the difference between bullying and sexual harassment and provides early interventions and children with the appropriate support needed during their formative years with programs that are inclusive of the entire community.

 “It is very important to start with the tools to prevent sexual harassment at an early age,” says Dr Giladi. “Having a good curriculum is not enough and educators need practical interventions from an early age until 16 years using varies techniques across a common value language that is easy to learn and easy to use.”

Dr Giladi, who presents globally to governments, educators and parental audiences, will be showcasing her research and innovations in preventing and managing child harassment and abuse when she joins conference partners and sponsors of the African Child Trauma conference, which include IspcanUnicefChildren’s InstituteCentre for Child LawTeddy Bear FoundationChildline,Matla a Bana and the Dullah Omar Institute.

 She will be offering delegates an opportunity to share in her skills-building workshop and her programme of interventions represented internationally through her Voice of the Child Association(VOCA) with the aim of finding African routes towards ending violence for all children with a commitment to changing the landscape of child protection in Africa. 

“I’ve been researching sexual harassment prevention in children for 19 years and the world is now ready to hear it,” says Giladi. “It is my aim to bring the tools for sexual harassment prevention to as many children, teachers, parents and supporting corporate bodies as possible so we can ensure that our children of today will not have a need for a #Metoo campaign in the future.