Evaluation of the service delivery protocol utilised with sexually abused mentally disabled children in the Boland
Children's rights have become paramount to many initiatives that highlight the plight of children in South Africa. These rights form the cornerstones of South Africa's legal obligations towards all children in this country. Although we have the best legal framework to protect children, they are still exposed to horrible and inhuman acts like sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse knows no gender, colour, race, social or economical status and is an extremely traumatic experience for any child. Mentally disabled persons are amongst the most vulnerable in our communities. Mentally disabled children are most vulnerable to neglect and isolation, and this often makes them easy targets for abuse and violence. The rights of abused mentally disabled children are violated on a daily basis by close relatives, strangers and even service providers. Branches of the FCS Unit of the South African Police Service render services to abused, mentally disabled victims and are supposed to be guided in their activities by the fundamental principle that all people are equal before the law. Services are rendered according to a set service delivery protocol which guides investigating officers to bring justice to all sexual abuse victims. The aim of this research was to evaluate the effectiveness of the service delivery protocol pertaining to sexually abused, mentally disabled children in the Boland rural areas. The study reveals that service delivery to mentally disabled children in rural areas is insufficient due to many reasons such as a lack of resources, vast travelling distances, inappropriate use of available resources, and lack of communication skills. The study reveals the need for a special school in the Boland rural area, because the nearest school is in some areas 40–50km away and the children are forced to stay in a hostel which negatively impacts on the mother–child relationship. Other needs also emerged from the study, such as the need for a crèche, a life–skills centre for mentally disabled children older than 18 years, a special school for mentally disabled children, and holiday programmes that include and/or cater for the mentally disabled child. These services would enhance the development of the mentally disabled child's speech and vocabulary to be able to give statements of abuse and effectively communicate with the investigating officer. Cape Mental Health can play a key role in determining the victim's mental age, which would enable the forensic social worker to do a comprehensive forensic assessment about the alleged abuse incident. Forensic social workers at FCS Units are trained by the South African Police to assess sexually abused, mentally disabled children. The study shows that forensic social workers are not optimally utilised by their respective units and in some instances no referrals of sexually abused, mentally disabled children were made. It is evident that the service delivery protocol of the FCS Units in the Boland to sexually abused, mentally disabled victims should be refined and made to include key role players such as forensic social workers. These role players would be responsible for meeting national and international obligations and offering protection services to all children.
- Humanities