You have a legal obligation to report child abuse – State Advocate

Did you know, it could mean jail if you don’t report the suspicion of sexual abuse of a child?

You can be imprisoned for up to five years if you don’t report your suspicions that a child might be sexually abused to the police.

This is according to Salome Scheepers, Senior State Advocate at the Sexual Offence and Community Affairs Unit (#SOCA) of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) who addressed the Motor Industry Staff Association (MISA) during its third webinar educating the union’s more than 65 000 members during Child Protection Week (which runs until June 5).

This year’s theme is Every Conversation Matters and MISA designed the webinar series to educate members on subjects they frequently seek advice about.

Scheepers addressed the consequences people face if they don’t adhere to the mandatory reporting of abuse, neglect, exposure to domestic violence or sexual assault of children.

She added that failure to adhere to legislation is punishable by three to five years imprisonment, depending on the abuse that is not reported. Also, you don’t have to be directly involved or have evidence and can report anonymously if the circumstances allow. In addition, you don’t have to be called as a witness.

“There is no room for you to use your discretion. There are three legislations at play compelling you to report to the police, irrespective of whether you think the children are too young or there might not be a case. It is up to the police to investigate all allegations,” Scheepers said.

Scheepers then referred to the case of Poppie Koekemoer (which has links to the West Rand) who was only three years old when she died in October 2016 in Brits. She had been abused for eight months by her mother and stepfather.

• Also read: BREAKING NEWS: #JusticeforPoppie: Mother and stepfather get life

“In her case, the judge ruled that everyone involved had to be investigated for their failure to report the abuse to the police.”

According to Scheepers, the Constitution protects the rights of children. Still, the reality is that the majority of children suffer abuse from those responsible for caring for them in their own homes.

“Child abuse is not just a social illness, it is a pervasive crisis that affects the very foundation of our communities, families, and most importantly, our children. Our collective responsibility is to act, intervene, and protect those who cannot defend themselves. Children represent the future. They are our hope, our potential, and our tomorrow.

“When a child is abused, it is not just their present that is shattered, their future is also jeopardised. By reporting child abuse, we take the first crucial step in breaking this cycle, offering victims a chance to heal and lead healthy, productive lives. Every report made is a step towards saving a child’s life, restoring their dignity, and building a future where every child can grow up safe, loved and free from harm,” she said.

The government calls on all citizens to support Child Protection Week 2024 by ensuring that the most vulnerable in society do not suffer abuse. Click here for more.

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