As the end of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children draws to a close Vuk’uzenzele puts the spotlight on child grooming.
The period of 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children is no better time to reflect on and take action against child grooming.
Whilst child grooming is an unfamiliar term to many South Africans, all parents, community leaders and government officials should be aware of this danger to innocent children.
What is child grooming and who is targeted?
Child grooming is defined as befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child (and sometimes their family), to lower the child’s defences for the purposes of sexual abuse.
Children from as young as three years have been targets of child grooming although most victims are between the ages of 11 and 17. The majority of cases involving teenagers occur over the internet, especially via mobile phones, and children with attention-seeking behaviour are especially at risk.
In a recent incident involving a municipal mayor it was alleged that he was sexually grooming a teenage girl, a friend of one of his family members. Among other
accusations, he is alleged to have convinced the girl to exchange nude photos with him.
How does it happen?
Child groomers may try to gain a parent or guardian’s trust to get easy access to a child.
A trusting relationship with the family enables a child groomer to spend time with a child, by babysitting or inviting them for sleepovers. There have been several global instances of people in positions of power bribing parents with money or employment in exchange for alone time with a child. Child groomers often approach their victims over the internet, sometimes posing as children themselves, before asking to meet in person.
How can parents prevent or act against child grooming?
- Help your children to understand who they should and shouldn’t be communicating with on social media.
- Encourage them to only interact with people they already know.
- Keep an eye out for changes in your child, such as being overly secretive about online activities, having an older boyfriend or girlfriend, meeting people at unusual places, suddenly having new possessions or having access to alcohol or drugs.
- Educate your child on the dangers of grooming.
Governmentís stance on child grooming
Child grooming is viewed as a serious sexual offence under the Criminal Law (Sexual
Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007. Law enforcement and government normally act swiftly on any allegations of sexual abuse against children.
The mayor alleged to have committed a child grooming offence was immediately arrested and suspended.
Gauteng MEC for Social Development Nandi Mayathula-Khoza explained at provincial legislature that a criminal case is being investigated by the provincial Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit.
“The special cabinet task team visited the girl’s home to get facts and offer support. The family has applied for a protection order to ensure that the alleged perpetrator stops contacting the girl,” the MEC said.
Where can you find help?
Victims or parents can contact:
SAPS Crime Stop: 0860 010 111
Department of Social Development 24-hour Command Centre: 0800 428 428
Child Welfare: 0861 424 453
Alternatively, report any suspected child grooming to your nearest police station or provincial Department of Social Development.