Over the weekend, I received an email from Karen Botha. You may remember Karen from when she was on air back in 2018. We chatted about the 16 Days of Activism campaign called #BreakTheSilence.
READ: The Attorney who aims to break the silence against abuse
Check out the mail she sent me below:
Last year, just before the #BreakTheSilence event was due to take place, I was approached by the parents of a 16-year-old girl from a well-known Durban school. The young lady and her parents came to see me asking for advice on her rights in regard to sexual grooming. The young lady reported to me that she had been the victim of sexual grooming by an educator.
She told me how the educator started to become overly friendly and “touchy” with her. He would sit next to her or opposite her at the desk and rub his leg or foot against hers, or touch her hand. It slowly increased over time to where he would comment on how beautiful she was and make comments about her WhatsApp profile picture and compare her to other girls. Then he started telling her that he was not happily married and told her about a medical procedure he had in the genital area. He would also hold her hand or draw on it, but always in a sexually provocative manner.
The young lady took numerous precautions to try and deter the educator, including wearing old over-sized clothing to hide her body, moving her desk between the educator and herself. But things did not improve and eventually, he was rubbing her shoulders and running his hand up her leg. The last straw was when he put his hand inside her top at the top of her breast.
Like many victims of sexual abuse, the young lady is not willing to lay criminal charges, as she is afraid that it will affect her education and she is acutely aware of “victim-blaming” that usually follows reporting crimes of this nature. Other older girls have also mentioned suffering similar abuse, but none of them is willing to come forward for the same reasons.
But this young lady wants to use her personal experience to highlight the problem of sexual abuse at schools and universities, in the hope that her research will empower other girls and young women to be aware of what constitutes sexual abuse and grooming, and know their rights. She is doing a survey on the topic and asks that anyone who has experienced any form of sexual abuse or grooming during their educational years, please complete her online survey, which is completely anonymous and takes only a few minutes to complete.
Following on this, I have also offered to be the “voice” of young girls and women who are too afraid to come forward by using the #BreakTheSilence campaign to go to the schools to talk to parents and the children about sexual grooming and, of course, domestic violence. Most importantly, I want to get this message across to boys and fathers, because statistics show that 99% of gender-based violence and sexual abuse is perpetrated by men, against women/girls and other men/boys. This is not a “women’s issue”. It’s a men’s issue and we need to be forming an army of men who believe that women and children should be cherished and protected and that men do not need to exert their power in a violent manner or in a way that violates the rights of others.
We have to keep talking about these things openly, especially to our children and not just during the 16 days of activism. Every day we see more horrific stories about violence, abuse and rape in our schools, our religious institutions, our homes. If we remain silent, we are not impartial bystanders. We are simply aiding and abetting the perpetrators by turning a blind eye.
I commend this young lady for using her experience to try and seek a solution. This type of behaviour is inexcusable and totally inappropriate.