VULNERABLE: Our children.
The Department of Social Development has in the past five years more than doubled the number of social workers to deal with sexually abused children in the Western Cape.

This comes as a new study revealed that one in three children are sexually abused.

The study is titled “Sexual victimisation of children in South Africa” and is a partnership between the UBS Optimus Foundation, the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention, and the University of Cape Town.

It provides the first-ever nationally representative figures on child maltreatment, and showed that a staggering 784 967 young people in South Africa are likely to have been victims of sexual abuse by the age of 17.

The number is enough to fill the Soccer City Stadium in Joburg eight times, and worryingly, of this, more than 350 000 cases occurred last year alone.

Western Cape Social Development Minister Albert Fritz expressed alarm at these figures and underpinned the stress it placed on local social workers dealing with child abuse.

“DSD has more than doubled the number of social workers within the department from 457 social workers in the 2010/11 year to 967 this year, and our social workers who cover our poorer areas, such as the Cape Flats areas, can tell you about the trauma they have to deal with children,” he said yesterday.

The study also revealed that sexual abuse is more likely to occur once in a child’s lifetime, however in 40% of these cases, it occurs two or more times.

With regards to neglect and violence, the picture is a grim one.

In the school survey, 42% of respondents had experienced some form of maltreatment (whether sexual, physical, emotional or neglect).

The study drew from a population survey of 15 to 17-year-olds recruited from schools (4 086 participants), and households (5 631 participants).

Fritz said the study will be crucial in assisting his department to improve its Child and Families Programme, which receives their highest funding allocation at R615.1-million.

“However no amount of resources, financial and human, or improved service delivery efforts can be truly successful without parents playing their role in the raising and protection of children.”

Incidents of child neglect or abuse can be reported at any DSD office or via the DSD hotline 0800 220 250.