Monster of incest is on the rampage
By Juggie Naran
Incest in the Indian community is a ticking time bomb ready to explode at any time, according to three top child support and anti-abuse groups.
This follows the release by the Advice Desk for the Abused of shocking statistics, showing it had handled 847 incest cases in the Durban, Chatsworth and Verulam areas in the past two years.
"Unfortunately, there has been a phenomenal change of late," said Advice Desk Executive Director, Fatima Bayat. "Cases relating to incest are now high on the agenda. They include child rape, sexual molestation and sodomy within the family structures.
"The perpetrators include close members of the family. Fathers, uncles, brothers and other relatives sexually abusing or raping girls in the home is still not uncommon," said Bayat.
"Human rights organisations and women's rights groups are still
fighting what I call a losing battle.
"We are faced with yet another monster to deal with. Incest has become the norm in certain homes. Siblings, who are in mutual agreement, are indulging in sexual activities," said Bayat.
"Parents are of the belief that fancy homes and cars, generous amounts of money and unlimited freedom make up for their absence in the child's life. Children are left to their own devices and this is one of the crucial factors that contribute to incest," said Bayat.
The Advice Desk for the Abused has, in the past two years, dealt with 30 075 cases in which women were victims of domestic violence, and 15 485 cases of domestic violence where men were the victims. Of the total 45 560 cases, 847 were reported as incest, said Bayat.
"There are many more families, who might not even be aware it is happening in their homes, or which are quite aware that it is taking place, but are too embarrassed to seek the necessary help," she said.
"If the situation is not dealt with, children will continue with this behaviour," said Bayat.
"Unfortunately, (this behaviour) is very common within the Indian community. It is becoming more common within the Muslim and Hindu communities," said Bayat.
"As a society, we tend to think that this problem does not exist within our homes or communities. We tend to take it for granted that it is a far-fetched idea that does not exist in our homes," said Bayat.
"This has been happening for a very long time. Parents would never know, unless they were faced with the unpleasant experience of walking into the situation," she said. "I can only commend those parents who have taken a stand - who have put aside the embarrassment and stigma they might experience and have approached the relevant organisations for assistance or intervention."
Linda Naidoo, Director of Childline KwaZulu-Natal, confirmed that incest - especially sibling incest - had become a cause for serious concern. Naidoo said this was a far more serious problem than adult incest, because it was hidden.
"There is a clear dividing line between sibling and adult incest. Adult incest is more reported than sibling incest," she said. "Parents are terrified of reporting sibling incest - not only because of the stigma attached, but because they also fear for the future of the siblings concerned. The parents feel they need to protect the child," said Naidoo.
"They believe the child will grow out of it. Even though they know it is inappropriate behaviour that they need to deal with, the only action they take is to discipline the child," said Naidoo.
"Many forces also come into play as far as the girl victim is concerned. The girl child may feel guilty, believing that she may have touched her sibling accidentally, or said something to arouse his feelings," she said. "This leads to all forms of emotional trauma for the girl victim.
"She also requires counselling to help her overcome her emotional problems," she said.
Bobbi Bear Crisis Centre Director Jackie Branfield agreed that incest had become a serious problem that required urgent intervention. She said the centre had operated an HIV/Aids Abuse Prevention Programme throughout schools in KwaZulu-Natal for the past five years.
She said many cases of incest had surfaced through the programme.
"Incest does not know colour, language or culture. It runs across the colour line," she said.
However, she added, when the HIV/Aids prevention programme was taken to Chatsworth schools, the centre had found it was rife in the Indian community.
Branfield said they had come across numerous cases of incest during their visits to this South Durban area.
"The programme is conducted in such a way that it allows children who may have been abused, or who know of someone who has been abused, to come forward and talk about their trauma during private sessions.
"We found incest was particularly rife among Muslim and Hindu children," said Branfield.
"However, the worrying factor about this is that these reports only surface a year or two later," she said. "Our concern is of the victims being affected by HIV/Aids. Because it takes such a long time to surface, there is not very much one can do if they are infected."
"The father or brother may be the perpetrator, but we have found that mothers also play an important role in covering up this abuse. Mothers need to be made aware they could also face criminal charges if it is found they knew about the abuse and assisted in covering up these crimes," said Branfield.
Real-life, shocking cases from the Advice Desk for the Abused in Durban
The family of four - parents and two children, aged 16 and 14 - is not well-off. Both parents' jobs include working, at times, in shifts. Both children are at school.
One week both parents end up working at night. The father, in the vicinity of his home, decides to check on the children. When he walks into the lounge he finds his son and daughter in a compromising position. In desperation he takes both his children to the local police station. They are not able to assist and refer him to the Advice Desk. The matter was referred to the Child Protection Unit.
The children were separated, the girl kept with the family and the boy sent to his uncle.
The family members were sent to professionals for counselling.
The father of the well-respected family was a priest at the local church. He had two sons and two daughters.
The father refused to send his daughters to school, instead insisting on educating them at his office attached to the church.
The two older sons were allowed to go to school, but their father instructed them to have sexual intercourse with the daughter every afternoon.
If they did not do so, he beat them and called them sissies. The father also sexually abused his youngest daughter in the park every day.
The mother did not accept that her husband was capable of such behaviour. Charges were laid, but were withdrawn by the mother.
The children were removed from the parents into foster care.
The advice desk was approached for help by a 14-year-old girl who was adamant she was attracted to her father, whom she described as very handsome and sexy. She claimed to have sexual desires for him.
She was not able to accept that this was unacceptable. She developed a terrible attitude towards her mother, becoming extremely jealous and possessive and resorting to physical abuse.
Her parents could not understand her behaviour. The daughter would take advantage of any conflict between the parents and often insisted on sharing a bed with her dad.
He does not allow her to do so, or encourage her in any way.
She is currently receiving counselling twice a week from a psychologist, as well as seeing a psychiatrist.
Help can be found:
Childline: 031 312 0904;
Bobby Bear: 031 904 2237;
Advice Desk for the Abused:
031 262 5231.
Published on the web by Sunday Tribune on December 9, 2005.
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