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Healing a child from trauma

Nicholas Ninow is accused of raping a seven-year-old child at the Dros restaurant in Silverton, Pretoria.
Nicholas Ninow is accused of raping a seven-year-old child at the Dros restaurant in Silverton, Pretoria.

A Saturday afternoon is a perfect time for most families to bond and enjoy their time together with their loved ones. Some prefer to take their kids out for lunch or picnics for fun.

South Africa already knows that this idyllic picture was shattered brutally on Saturday September 22 for a seven-year-old girl and her mother at Dros restaurant in Silverton in Pretoria.

What was supposed to have been a perfect mother-and- daughter outing for the mom and daughter from Mamelodi turned into a nightmare when a stranger allegedly raped her in the establishment’s toilet.

One can imagine what went through the mother’s mind when she realised her daughter was missing from the play area, only to find, to her horror, moments later her young girl in the male rest rooms bleeding and her childhood taken away from her before her eyes.

How does one even begin to heal and restore such a young child after this kind of tragedy? How does the family begin to heal and move on?

Dr Shaheda Omar, director at Teddy Bear Clinic in Joburg, said, for some, this kind of tragedy becomes a lifetime emotional scar while some can heal and later learn to move on with their lives.

Omar said a child starts to have a permanent memory from when they are four years old, saying those who are sexually abused from that age will never forget, however, there is help for them.

Teddy Bear Clinic is an organisation that helps children who are victims of sexual abuse by offering them medical support, therapeutic support and court preparation.

We reassure the child that what happened to them is not their fault ... they did nothing wrong

Omar said when they get a child who has been sexually abused they treat the case as a medical emergency where they ensure the child first gets medical attention.

“We reassure the child through our professionals that what happened to them is not their fault and that they had done nothing wrong. We commend the child for being brave to share the information and explain to the child procedures they will go through like seeing a medical doctor and therapist,” she explained.

Omar said those are some of the many procedures which will help restore the child.

She said therapeutic support is given not only to the child but to the family as well and if a criminal case has been opened, court preparations are given to the child, the family and health care givers. “Through the court preparations support, we tell the child to speak the truth in court,” she said.

Omar said the high incidents of rape in the country are shocking and the conviction rate is not satisfying. Omar said to heal the mother, they help her to deal with the anger and shifting the blame to themselves. “In most cases, the mothers would feel they should have and could have done [more] to protect their children, but it is never really their fault,” said Omar.

However, Omar said, it is also important for parents to be careful not to lose focus in setting the rules because sometimes children who have been sexually abused can hold their parents to emotional ransom.

Nicholas Ninow, who is accused of raping the Mamelodi girl, will remain in custody until November 1.

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