Tag Archives: child abuse

You can help: Comfort boxes for kids testifying in court: going into the second year.

Once off projects are great. Having a sustainable community running for its second year is awesome.

Our project has so far provided over 170 victims of child abuse with a box of comfort while awaiting their testimony at court. Here is what it is all about:

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In my work as a pastor and counselor at Emmanuel Church Louis Trichardt and headmistress of Emmanuel Kinderland preschool I have come to work with many people who themselves were survivors of abuse or came on behalf of a close friend or relative who had suffered through sexual abuse and rape.

As you are well aware of South Africa has a devastatingly high rate of rape, wikipedia talks about the highest rape rate in the world.

The SAPS statistics report that there were 64,514 sexual offenses reported to the police in South Africa in 2012 alone of which over 45% percent where child rapes. However, variable reports claim that only 1 in 9 or 1 in 25 rapes actually get reported. This means that the numbers could actually run up to 1,548,336 rapes every year

This means that someone is raped as often as every 4 minutes

Interpol has named South Africa the “Rape Capital of the World”

The greatest increase in sexual crimes is against infants and children under the age of seven (Rape Statistics South Africa & Worldwide 2011 www.rape.co.za) 50% of South Africa’s children will be abused before the age of 18. 85% of them will be by perpetrators known to the child. It is crucial that perpetrators will be identified and severely punished.

When predators get away with it, it will happen again and again. 40%percent of South African men have raped for the first time when they were under aged themselves. Why is it possible? Cases do not get to court and when they do, it can mean a potentially traumatizing experience to the child and the family. In many rural communities to report abuse means to risk ones life. Houses get burned down and families ostracized for telling on the criminal. It is crucial that cases do go to court as to send a clear message that abuse is not acceptable.

Most rapists are serial rapists. Seeing them severely punished for their crime acts as a deterrent for other potential rapists while every one that “gets away” is per implication an encouragement in his social circles to others to keep doing the same.
There are so many facets where we need to be involved in to start preventing these crimes.

We as Emmanuel Church and community need to do our utmost to make the conditions for survivors testifying as bearable as possible.

I am asking church members, parents of our preschool and community members to assist in putting together comfort boxes for children testifying in court, as these parcels can provide a minimum of comfort to a child in such a stressful situation.

20141110_130032_resizedIt generally is a big struggle to get child abuse cases to trial, as the young girls are being shamed and not supported by the local culture. Also, at court the young abuse survivors face many challenges. Long hours of waiting, having never met their intermediaries before, testifying, often 3 hours of cross examinations are just a few of the challenges. The children are often spending an entire day at court without having even had a breakfast. The children are often nervous and shy. When they are not able to establish proper communication and to prove that they actually say the truth, the case gets dismissed and the offender cannot be judged.

Often the girls and boys (we make special boxes for boys) will be too shy and close up totally so their testimony can not be validated and subsequently the case cannot go into trial.

I came up with the method of using care boxes to help the children relax.

The box contains a new, cute stuffed toy to immediately help the intermediary form a connection with the child.

The box contains a high quality fruit juice and some snacks to help keep the child alert during a long and hard trial.

Furthermore there are crayons, colouring books and sticker activities to help the children bridge times where the court is in recess or formalities need to be followed up with, which can talke an hour or more.

All items are all new and the fruit juice and snack are high quality. The box is closed with a sticker (picture provided) that says you are special and indicates whether the box is for a boy or a girl.

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At the Magistrate Court in Sibasa. Children often have not had anything to eat or drink when they arrive in the morning. often trials take more than 4 hours. Our boxes give the children something to occupy themselves with during waiting times.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
A typical comfort box contains a snack, juice, new stuffed toy (that was cuddled and blessed to carry some comfort before putting into the box), a book, sticker or colouring activity, toys for boys or girls.
A typical comfort box contains a snack, juice, new stuffed toy (that was cuddled and blessed to carry some comfort before putting into the box), a book, sticker or colouring activity, toys for boys or girls.

We have handed out over 100 boxes in 2014 of the value of 70 -100 Rand each. This year we have been able to make 70 boxes so far. We are weekly informed by the intermediaries working with the children in court on how many boxes have been handed out and what the age and gender of the children is, to ensure we provide for the right needs. Monthly we need about 30 to 40 boxes as they go to the different Magistrate Courts in the are such as Sibasa, Waterval, Musina etc. This project has been developed with the approval of the SA Department of Justice.

Your assistance in providing juices, snacks, colouring in and sticker activity books, stuffed toys and sweets is highly appreciated.

Christiane van Heerden

Check out my blog for the option to support with a paypal donation

Comfort Boxes in the Newspaper

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Care Boxes in the local paper

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Thanks to everyone who helped making this possible.

We delivered care boxes to 6 different district magistrate courts and helped many under aged victims of abuse in testifying at court.

Sorry for my short posts. I am busy writing reports for my students at preschool most of them will enter formal school next year. I will keep you posted on our preschool concert and everything!

New Comfort Boxes for Child Abuse Survivors

IMG-20141110-WA0003_resizedYes, the road to recovery is a long one. Yes, a box full of helpful comforting items is just a tiny stepping stone on that long road of healing.  but it is an important one, as this box aids the young children’s capacity to testify in the Magistrate court against their abusers.

You probably are already familiar with the high child abuse statistics in the Limpopo Province South Africa, where every 3 min a child is raped.

Listen to this letter of the Intermediary at the Magistrate court, Salome Phaho,  in which she wrote me this morning: (the style reflects the local tone of communication in South Africa)

“Beloved am delighted to hear we receiving new boxes again, am already jumping with the joy of the Lord which has given me strength. I am already looking forward to welcome those victims knowing they will receive full support and comfort from the Lord through those gifts.

I am amazed by the love you have for the vulnerable which to many whose eyes of understanding the Lord haven’t  yet enlightened,  the story still remains the “same”, they should have been careful enough or could have prevented it somehow and you ask yourself but how since some victims are hardly a year old.” 

She refers to the care boxes I am making up with the help of friends and church members.

20141110_134747_resizedWe will be handing out about 30 -40 more boxes soon of the value of 70 -100 Rand each.

It generally is a big struggle to get child abuse cases to trial, as the young girls are being shamed and not supported by the local culture, as you could read in the letter above.  Also, at court the young abuse survivors face many challenges. Long hours of waiting, having never met their intermediaries before, testifying, often 3 hours of cross examinations are just a few of the challenges.

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Often the girls and boys (we make special boxes for boys too) will be too shy and close up totally so their testimony can not be validated and subsequently the case cannot go into trial.

I came up with the method of using care boxes to help the children relax. The box contains a new, cute stuffed toy to immediately help the intermediary form a connection with the child. The box contains a high quality fruit juice and some snacks to help keep the child alert during a long and hard trial. Furthermore there are crayons, colouring books and sticker activities to help the children bridge times where the court is in recess or formalities need to be followed up with, which can talke an hour or more.

boxesOn Sunday November 9 we had a court staff member testify in our church on the huge impact these boxes have in calming the children, how they can hold on to their toy and how their concentration has improved. The court also uses the crayons and colouring books to help verify if the child understands the concepts of truth and lie which is essential to the testimony being accepted in court.

The juices and snacks are so important as the children often come hungry and tire quickly during trial.

I am so thankful we can hand out these boxes as a powerful tool to court staff who can connect and communicate easier with the children that way.

 

I am thankful to everybody who brought a teddy, snacks, crayons, stickers or money to make this possible.

All boxes contain a message saying: You are special!

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Thank you from the courts

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Intermediary Salome Phaho and myself when I handed R 4000 worth of comfort over to the court. Yeah, sorry we had no professional camera with us, just cell phones. But that’s exactly it – helping is gritty and not about looking pretty right?

Thank you from the courts

Today I received this letter from the intermediary for child witnesses and victims of sexual crimes at the Magistrate Court in Sibasa about how our Comfort boxes now are helping even children in the Musina court:

Good Afternoon Mam,blessed be God and the Father of our Lord Jesus who causeth us to triumph through Christ!

I am simply excited for the foundation that has been laid because for this vision to manifest like this means Victory!

My colleagues Nthabiseng Dzhivhani has just given out a 12-15yrs box yesterday @ Musina and I heard the girl couldn’t put it down.

This project is really working as I realized that most kids come dejected and rejected with little or no support from parents or relatives as if they chose to be victims.

But when they find LOVE in that little box is like their WORLD has suddenly changed as they understand that irrespective of what happened and how they feel and what others take them for, there’s still HOPE in life because someone out there loves them and care about them so much.

DSC02559Thank you once again Woman of God for your heart for souls.

Pass my regards to Pastor

Salome Phaho

So wonderful to hear about those boxes really making a difference in children’s lives.

Of course I cannot post details about the children involved, but share some photos of the people who work with the children and pictures of the court:

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The ladies working with the children who come to testify in court.
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the entrance to the court room
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the tiny space available for children to wait for their court hearing. Our boxes make it so much more comforting for them.

At the Magistrate Court in Sibasa

A typical comfort box contains a snack, juice, new stuffed toy (that was cuddled and blessed to carry some comfort before putting into the box), a book, sticker or colouring activity, toys for boys or girls.
A typical comfort box contains a snack, juice, new stuffed toy (that was cuddled and blessed to carry some comfort before putting into the box), a book, sticker or colouring activity, toys for boys or girls. A typical carebox contains a friendly stuffed animal for girls, hotwheels (matchbox cars) for boys, a book, sticker activities, a snack, some sweets and a fruit juice. Many children come hungry to court and have to wait for hours until their hearing.
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Discussing with Magistrate Kellermann the need for a more comforting environment for underaged victims of sexual violence. A lot of cases can not go to trial because the children are not able to testify due to nervousness and stress.
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Handing out my first set of 40 comfort boxes containing R4000 worth of items such as fruit juices, snacks, a lovely stuffed toy, sticker activity books, toy cars, crayons etc.
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To get to the rural Magistrate courts one drives about an hour from Louis Trichardt in the North of Limpopo province. A truly underdeveloped infrastructure in the rural courts makes serving justice a challenge.

As many of my followers know, here in South Africa we deal with child abuse and child rape in a severity that is unbelievable.

Today I went to the Magistrate Court in Sibasa delivering 40 care boxes.

The boxes contain high quality toys, stickers, activity books, snacks and a high quality fruit juice. Many children have not had breakfast when they come to testify in court and often they wait for a long period of time.

I had been talking to a friend about the plight of the children in Limpopo, with child abuse rates soaring so high. She is a Magistrate judge and I had asked if there is anything we as a community could do to make testifying easier for victims of child abuse.  After Magistrate Kellerman got the permission by her head of department, I started making of these boxes to help the children bridge the uncomfortable time at court. The boxes will be used in rural courts such as Sibasa, Waterval and Musina.

This has also come up as a topic with the Guardian Angels, our local High Schools care group, who helped me with the collection of boxes while we informed them about their own responsibility to step in and step up when they see abuse happen.

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Teaching our local high School students the importance of getting involved when they see abuse happen instead of lookign the other way is another leg of our efforts to fight the rape epidemic in our province.

How an individual responds to unpleasant events in their life is crucial for their future.

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

To assist a child and young woman or young man in overcoming the trauma of abuse is a call we all need to take up in this nation.

To end this, there are many different steps needed. We as a church are going into schools, training learners how to prevent abuse, how to interfere when you know a peer faces abuse, how to report abuse. We train parents. We try to get the community involved.

It is very important that abuse cases to go to court and the perpetrators get sentenced.

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Packing out in total 40 care boxes (more will come the next months as the project takes of) in front of the court staff.
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Magistrate Court in Sibasa- the family courtroom in a mobile trailer! The infrastructure around the court is basic, to say the least. The judges and lawyers work tirelessly under challenging conditions, even in protable offices. The main road leading to this court is a dirt road.

 

As I wrote in my post about courts, https://germanytoafrica.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/going-to-court/ this is a crucial part of the right against rape in South Africa.

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The court staff responsible for keeping the children safe during the trial. They have a very tiny office and it is not easy to keep children comfortable there. I hope the snacks, toys and books will be of some help.
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The children are testifying through a CCTV system so they do not have to face the criminals.
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The office where the children are waiting for the hearing or coming to for delivering their testimony via CCTV.

 

The stress is very high. A case can only be processed when the judge finds the child capable of making a statement. For that, the child must show an understanding of truth, understanding of consequences of lying. Since most children only understand tribal languages, the have to be able to communicate via a translator and intermediary.

The judge says that unfortunately often children stress so much, they tense up and refuse all communication. The case can not go to trial then.

The comfort boxes will be handed to the child by the intermediary. This will give them a positive start in their communication. The child will be more positive about the experience and also have juice and a snack. They often come to court without having had breakfast and without a lunch box. These comfort boxes cover all that.

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Magistrates Pieter and Hanlie Kellermann who brought my attention to the situation of the child witnesses in court.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Talking to the court staff about the importance to support the under aged victims when they testify at court. Intense words for an intense situation.
Talking to the court staff about the importance to support the under aged victims when they testify at court. Intense words for an intense situation.
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Intermediary Salome Phaho (left of me) shared with me her challenges in keeping the children busy. Some NGOs are coming and going with own project ideas, not always practical. they are looking for long-term commitment in a cooperative way. I prefer to first go in and assess the real needs at the base.

 

 

 Statistics from the South African Police regarding child abuse

 

 

 We later received a BIG thank you from the court staff.

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Wendy house for young victims at the back of the Sibasa court.
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We also visited a Wendy house in the back of the court property where we were greeted by a volunteer who had put up his office inside of it. The purpose of the Wendy house is for children to spend their waiting time in.  It seemed a bit unpractical as according to the court staff the young girls get separated from their mothers and during the warmer month it becomes a “hothouse” and can not be used. The toys inside are broken and dirty. The tiny room is filled with the NGO’s computer, coffee table and feels not very inviting.

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Going to court

specialIn my work as a pastor and counselor at Emmanuel Church Louis Trichardt and headmistress of Emmanuel Kinderland preschool I have come to work with many people who themselves were survivors of abuse or came on behalf of a close friend or relative who had suffered through sexual abuse and rape.

As you are well aware of South Africa has a devastatingly high rate of rape, wikipedia talks about the highest rape rate in the world.

The SAPS statistics report that

There were 64,514 sexual offenses reported to the police in South Africa in 2012 alone of which over 45% percent where child rapes.

However, variable reports claim that only 1 in 9 or 1 in 25 rapes actually get reported

This means that the numbers could actually run up to 1,548,336 rapes every year

This means that someone is raped as often as every 4 minutes

Interpol has named South Africa the “Rape Capital of the World”

Extrapolating from the statistics, 1 in 3 South African women will be raped in their lifetime.

2 out of 5 South African male learners say they have been raped according to a survey carried out in 1200 schools across the country (Published in Biomed Central’s International Journal For Equity in Health)

The greatest increase in sexual crimes is against infants and children under the age of seven (Rape Statistics South Africa & Worldwide 2011 www.rape.co.za)

50% of South Africa’s children will be abused before the age of 18.

85% of them will be by perpetrators known to the child.

It is crucial that perpetrators will be identified and severely punished.

ippWhen predators get away with it, it will happen again and again. 40%percent of South African men have raped for the first time when they were under aged themselves. Why is it possible? Cases do not get to court and when they do, it can mean a potentially traumatizing experience to the child and the family.

Most rapists are serial rapists. Seeing them severly punished for their crime acts as a deterrent for other potential rapists while every one that “gets away” is per implication an encouragement in his social circles to others to keep doing the same.
There are so many facets where we need to be involved in to start preventing these crimes. We are running self defense classes, teach parents awareness as 85% of the crimes are committed by someone within the social circles of the child, but you as the justice department are playing a most crucial part in this.

We as church and community need to do our utmost to make the conditions for survivors testifying as bearable as possible.

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I am asking church members, parents of our preschool and community members to assist in putting together comfort boxes for children testifying in court, as these parcels can provide a minimum of comfort to a child in such a stressful situation.

The children who are brave enough to relive the crime to help that justice can be served each will receive a care box containing a fruit juice, a snack, a new soft toy, a mini book and some stickers to keep themselves busy, relieve some stress, feel cherished and be comforted from this unpleasant setting.

All items are all new and the fruit juice and snack are high quality. The box is closed with a sticker (picture provided) that says you are special and indicates whether the box is for a boy or a girl.

Thanks for your interest, and may this result in fruitful cooperation in service to these youngest of victims.

The first boxes went to court this week with Magistrate Hanlie Kellerman. Please help me to help the children.

Care Packets for Children testifying in court

In a previous post I have talked about the high rate of child abuse and rape resulting in death in South Africa. Only an estimated 10 percent of all cases do go to court and the children as young as 3 have to testify under horrible conditions against the perpetrators. To encourage the children and bless them while waiting, often for hours, in the drab corridors of rural courts, I put together these care boxes containing a fruit juice, a snack, a new soft toy, a mini book and some stickers to keep themselves busy for a moment and be comforted from this unpleasant setting.

A box costs me about 7 US dollars to make seeing that these items are all new and the fruit juice and snack are high quality.

If you want to help me make more boxes, please donate to my paypal account. You can find it on the left hand side of my blog. Thanks.

If you are from around Limpopo you are welcome to provide us with new soft toys, fruit juices and snacks!

Thanks,

Christiane