Parents must offer a safe space for kids to talk about sexuality

20 February 2019 - 13:33
By mbuyiselo botha AND Mbuyiselo Botha
A mother with her six-year-old daughter who was allegedly raped by a boy at school.
Image: Mandla Khoza A mother with her six-year-old daughter who was allegedly raped by a boy at school.

An 11-year-old boy is alleged to have raped a six-year-old girl. What has happened to our society that we find ourselves in this situation?

Rape is a degrading, dehumanising and painful experience. Why would an 11-year-old boy violate another human being?

Is it because his actions mirror the behaviour of adults in society? Is he replicating what he sees male adults do around him. Does he act in this manner because he thinks it is normal? After all, a child is a sum of their environment.

Kagiso Lesego Molope, a novelist writing in the book Rape a South African Nightmare by Professor Pumla Dineo Gqola, says: “I believe that in South Africa as in any other place in the world, an honest discussion about sexual assault, women’s oppression and women’s safety needs to begin with how we raise men.

“I’d like to move beyond the developed world’s approach to teaching women to empower themselves because – as I once announced to a room full of applauding first-world feminists – telling women to end rape is like telling black people to end racism. It seems counterproductive to me.

“When your child comes home from school after being bullied it’s best to address the bullies’ behaviour instead of wondering what your child can do to stop it. There are basic behaviour patterns that need to be completely altered. Much of what we need to do, I think, lies in what boys learn – from both men and women – as they grow up.”

Girls are taught to protect themselves and not to entice boys, but boys are not taught how to treat girls and their bodies and to look at girls as equal; deserving of the same respect as their male peers.

These teachings should start at an early age if we are to create a new culture in our society; with these teachings – coupled with positive behaviour modelling – we are on our way to reading less of these horrid stories.

Imagine what would happen if at home our children, both boys and girls, felt comfortable to speak about their sexual insecurities and curiosities. If the school environment was conducive for them to not only learn about their sexuality but a safe space to show their interest without judgment.

“My daughter came home and couldn’t take off her uniform and her brother noticed she had peed on herself and told me” said the victim’s mother according to Sowetan. When the mother asked what happened, her daughter started crying, asking if she will beat her. When the mother assured her she would not, she said “a certain boy pulled her to the toilets of the school and forced himself on her” and that this was not the first time the boy had done it to her.

The sad part about this is how our children do not feel comfortable confiding in us as their parents about sex, because in many communities it is considered taboo.

We have spent so much time speaking about females preserving their virginity and delaying sexual activity for as long as they can, so that when they are violated sexually, they are scared to open up about it, because of the shame, stigma and judgment that is associated with this “taboo”.

This is in no way an attack on the victim’s mother – I am saying this should be a lesson for all of us, to teach your children (boys and girls) to also come to you when someone has manipulated them into sex or has sexually assaulted them.

Teach them that the home is a safe space, so that they do not blame themselves for what they experienced. My heart also goes out to the 11-year-old boy who I believe needs help throughout his life in ensuring that we don’t damage him permanently.

Having said that, I hope the girl also receives the necessary support as she deals with this traumatic experience at an early age.

This incident and a host of others that go unreported should be a wake-up call – we cannot postpone engaging at all levels with children about sex and sexuality.