This column may contain strong language, sexual content, adult humor, and other themes that may not be suitable for minors. Parental guidance is strongly advised.
True story: A seven-year-old girl, playing happily in a children’s play center at one of the country’s biggest malls, is dragged to the bathroom by a 13-year-old boy, who proceeds to lock the cubicle, pull down her panties, and lick her. Then he pulls down his own pants and forces the girl’s head towards his already erect penis. The little girl, terrified, manages to fight back by poking the boy’s eyes with her fingers, and flees the bathroom.
The girl’s parents are called, she is clearly shaken and fearful, and would not say what had happened to her until a female police officer is found. The boy is found and questioned. It turns out that supervision was appalling in this play facility; a 13-year-old boy had no business being in a space that only allowed children 12 years and under. It is claimed that he was there to look after two other young children, ostensibly his siblings or cousins. Yet the kid’s zone facility only allows yayas and minders to be at least 18 years of age.
The boy’s parents are called. They say that he could not have possibly done any of the horrid things the little girl said he’d done because “we’re Muslims.”
There are several layers of horror to this incident, which took place this week. There’s the fact that supervision was lax in the play facility—despite having CCTV monitors in the place, there were no attendants in the bathroom, or even in the play areas, since no one noticed a little girl being dragged into the bathroom from the play area by a teenage boy; there was no serious verification of the ages of the older children coming in to play, despite going through the motion of making parents sign waivers. There’s the fact that the facility’s management seemed to be more concerned that the parents of the young girl remained quiet about the incident. There’s the fact that predators can be as young as 13 years old moving freely among young children. There’s the fact that this 13-year-old boy thought it was alright to lick a little girl’s vagina and thought it was alright to try to make her perform oral sex on him. And there’s the callous dismissal on the part of the boy’s parents of the young girl’s assault and trauma. And there’s the implicit accusation, again on the part of the boy’s parents, that the girl—all of seven years old—was making it all up and unfairly blaming their son.
How any adult can think that a little girl could make up such a story and paint her as the predator who lured a boy much older and much bigger than her to a bathroom for oral sex is beyond me. It’s unlikely that a girl that young, and by all accounts very attached to her parents, would be knowledgeable enough about such things to single out a boy and ask him to lick her vagina, and then insist on returning the favor. But it’s more than likely that a 13-year-old boy would know about oral sex. It’s more than likely that a 13-year-old boy has watched porn on his cellphone or his laptop and his parents have no clue what he does on either device. It’s more than likely that a 13-year-old boy understands, without explicitly being told so, that being male has afforded him certain privileges—there are things he can get away with, that a society is, for the most part, for lenient to its sons than to its daughters, that when it comes down to “he said, she said” his word is valued more than a woman’s, that her trauma is less valid than the affront to his reputation, that if he can’t control his sexual impulses, it’s somehow always her fault.
It’s more than likely that a 13-year-old boy has already internalized this.
And, it’s more than likely that this was not the first time this 13-year-old boy had sexually assaulted a little girl.
According to Stop It Now!, an international organization aimed at preventing the sexual abuse of children, a third of a third of all sexual abuse is committed by someone under the age of 18.
“The reasons children sexually harm others are complicated, varied, and not always obvious. Some of them may have been emotionally, sexually or physically abused themselves, while others may have witnessed physical or emotional violence at home. Some may have come in contact with sexually explicit movies, video games, or materials that are confusing to them.”
And sexual abuse is present across all ethnic groups, cultures, and religious beliefs.
For the parents of the 13-year-old boy to immediately cite their religion as the reason why their son could not possibly have sexually assaulted the little girl is clearly a form of denial. As Stop It Now! says, “This can be a difficult issue to address, partly because it is often challenging for adults to think of the children or adolescents we know as capable of sexually abusing others.”
The statistics compiled by Childline KZN in South Africa are equally chilling; South Africa has one of the highest incidences of child rape worldwide. Director Linda Naidoo compiled a study of adolescent sexual offenders which revealed that potential victims were under the age of eight, 74 percent were female and 57 percent were exposed to sodomy or rape. At least 92 percent of abusers knew their victims and 36 percent of the perpetrators were brothers, according to the Sunday Independent newspaper.
Most of the abusers have been abused themselves, said Naidoo. She also noted that “A ready supply of pornography was often found in affluent households where there was access to greater resources including DVDs, cellphones, and the internet.
“In one instance, she said, a little boy who had viewed pornography from the age of four grew up believing he could do the same thing, simply because ‘the people in the pictures were real people like myself.’”
And while the 13-year-old boy’s parents remain in denial, spare a thought for the little girl whose story wasn’t believed, but whose pain and trauma is real and lasting.
B. Wiser is the author of Making Love in Spanish, a novel published by Anvil Publishing and available in National Book Store and Powerbooks, as well as online. When not assuming her Sasha Fierce alter-ego, she takes on the role of serious journalist and media consultant.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.