Namibia’s child rape tsunami
07 September 2021 | Crime
The Namibian police opened 15 cases of rape involving children and teenagers aged between 11 months and 17 years old since the beginning of July. These rapes are related only to cases reported over weekends, and involved 12 girls, two boys and one whose gender was not identified.
An overview of weekend crime reports issued since the start of July and last weekend, shows that the rape of seven children aged ten and younger were reported to police over the past 10 weekends.
In addition, eight cases of rape of children aged between 11 and 17 were reported over that period.
The youngest alleged rape victim was an 11 month old baby girl. The police reported that on 24 July, a 24 year old suspect grabbed her from her house and raped her in the open bush. He was arrested, while the baby was taken to hospital.
On the same weekend, a 12 year old girl was reportedly raped by a 52 year old man in Khorixas. Last weekend, the police reported that a 28 year old suspect gave alcohol to a ten year old girl before raping her after she fell asleep.
Abuse of trust
“The sad reality is the fact that the majority of the perpetrators are known by the victims and survivors,” James Itana of Regain Trust said yesterday.
In 90% of the cases, the abusers are “fathers, brothers, uncles, neighbours et al. Men who have managed to establish a relationship of trust with the victims.”
The weekend of 16 to 18 July, saw a report of a rape of an 8 year old boy allegedly by an uncle (21). Of the four rapes reported on the weekend 16 to 18 July, all were linked to abusers known to the victims. A 17-year old was allegedly raped by a former boyfriend. The suspect in the rape of an 11 year old girl, was her grandfather. The man arrested for the rape of the six year old was a close family friend, and the suspect who was accused of raping an eight year old boy, was his uncle. The man accused of raping a 12-year old girl over the weekend of 24 July, was a neighbour who tried to lure her with N$1.
“We have families that opt to protect the perpetrators and often the victims and survivors are forced, coerced and shamed into silence,” Itana said.
Moreover, abusers leverage their “economic power in these families to maintain silence. For as long as they are protected, they can easily continue perpetrating acts of sexual violence.”
And, although it's now mandatory to report child abuse under the Childcare and Protection Act, these numbers are likely only the tip of the iceberg, he said. “It is only by ensuring that perpetrators are held accountable that we will see a reduction in these heinous acts. For as long as these incidences are shrouded in a cloud of silence we will continue to see an increase in sexual gender based violence cases against children.”
“Cases of child rape and sexual assault across the board remains increasingly high, and undeniably, should be a national concern,” Ndiilokelwa Nthengwe, a gender and justice advocate at Positive Vibes Trust said yesterday.
She said although the police are “working tirelessly to arrest the rise in these cases, new interventions are needed to boldly curb this pandemic.”
She suggested that community members need to be mobilised “with incentives to become vigilantes for their own communities on the ground, where law enforcement lacks resources and mobility”.
She underlined the need to consider the development of mechanisms that take the impact of Covid-19 into consideration, and that are “community-led, resource efficient and uniquely responsive for each community. Perhaps with this, we will begin to see positive results.”
Itana stressed that strengthening of investment in shelters and safe havens is critical, to offer a wide array of services and support initiatives for survivors.