Caregivers' experiences of the South African judicial system after the reporting of child sexual abuse
Child sexual abuse (CSA) is found to occur in alarming proportions worldwide. In South Africa, children represent almost half of the victims of known sexual abuse, and this is becoming a great concern, even being described as a silent epidemic. This alarming fact as well as the researcher’s experiences as a social worker in this field, resulted in her reviewing literature, in order to gain further insight into the current situation in South Africa. It was discovered that the number of successful CSA court cases reported to the Childline Western Cape centres, was significantly low, and that numerous complaints were being received by her colleagues at Childline from caregivers, regarding their dissatisfaction with the judicial system after reporting CSA. This dissertation therefore serves as a qualitative exploration of caregivers’ experiences of the South African judicial system after CSA has been reported. For the purpose of this study, the researcher used a descriptive qualitative research design so as to thoroughly describe the caregivers’ experiences. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight participants to gain rich descriptions of their experiences in this area. Three main themes that emerged through the content analysis were: the experiences with officials from the SAPS as part of the judicial system; the experiences with regard to social service delivery; and the experiences with the court and personnel as part of the judicial system. Several conclusions were drawn. The first was that there were both positive and negative experiences with officials from SAPS. A further conclusion was that the lack of knowledge about procedures needing to be followed in cases of CSA, as well as the uncertainty shown by some SAPS officials with regard to how to go about dealing with child victims of sexual abuse, gave some participants the impression that SAPS officials lack adequate training in this regard The researcher concluded from the empirical findings and the literature that there is a general sense that CSA investigations are poorly conducted. Another conclusion was that literature on statutory social service delivery in South Africa and the evaluation thereof seemed sparse. However, from the empirical findings regarding the participants’ descriptions, their experiences, particularly with statutory social workers, were negative. Finally, the researcher concluded that though literature indicated that several changes had been made in the judicial system so as to better deal with child victims of sexual abuse, the experiences of the participants indicated that challenges are still being experienced. The empirical findings indicated that caregivers of child victims of sexual abuse and their children had experienced great frustration when dealing with the judicial system after CSA had been reported. These frustrations were due to the investigation of CSA cases, the court process, and the lack of communication from prosecutors and other professionals in the judicial system.
- Humanities