The protection of children, a cause that was close to Nelson Mandela’s heart, will be highlighted from an angle that desperately needs the attention of those celebrating his birthday this month.
Samantha Jo’s book, Mercy for Sexually Abused Children, is no ordinary “67 minutes for Madiba” drive.
This activist has been fighting for the right of abused children to justice – and she used her own harrowing experience through the corridors of SA’s criminal justice system to write a guideline for the parents and guardians, as well as the millions of children, who suffer at the hands of those who abuse and assault them.
“There is an absence of models to support children and parents going through the process,” Jo says. “For children who are victims of this crime to be offered a fair, supporting and secure procedure there must be some changes in the legal process.”
But Jo will not be following commercial channels to promote and distribute the book: she has designed a charity-driven distribution model to not only print the book, but also ensure she reaches her goal of having a copy in the hands of everyone in the country affected by child abuse.
For Jo, this includes anyone who would like to raise their own awareness around the darkness of child sexual abuse, or has suspicions of child sexual abuse.
The book is aimed at giving people the ability to recognise signs of abuse and to correctly report incidents, spot sexual predators and keep children safe in their physical and online environments.
Through her story, spanning two years she describes as a legal maze of sexual child abuse cases, Jo attempts to help families through the justice system, which she says can be as traumatic to deal with as the actual crime.
“By creating more awareness on the reporting and legal processes of these cases, it will help save you money, time, minimise emotional trauma and effectively bringing the perpetrator to justice,” she says.
She quotes the founder of Optimystic Bikers against Abuse, Celeste Louw: “There is an enormous problem regarding the protection of our children in South Africa. Child abuse and human trafficking are out of control. We need to educate and implement sustainable and effective service delivery to stem this tide. Change begins with each one of us.”
Outlining some of the gaps in the procedures involved in handling child abuse cases, Jo says the rate of acts of violence against women and children in SA warranted more streamlined mechanisms with the police, the courts and society in dealing with it holistically.
“Violence against women and children dominates newspaper headlines and radio chat shows more than ever. Child sexual abuse is rife – and swept under the carpet as those who are not affected look the other way.”
The guidebook, she said, assists those involved to know what to do, where to go and how to stay on top of the legal aspect.
“Studies find that one in three South African children reported some form of sexual abuse by their 17th birthday. Preventing and ending violence against children must be prioritised and, globally, a standard protocol for the entire process has to be developed and implemented.
“The process should be supported and reinforced by existing laws and regulations.
“The lack of a standard protocol and lack of knowledge means too many children experiencing sexual abuse face delays in their cases – and this is not acceptable. More training for those helping victims is required,” Jo says.
Timing the release of the book to coincide with the time of the year when South Africans feel obliged to lend a helping hand for various social justice issues, the first print run of the book will be done in honour of Nelson Mandela Day.
“We would like to have the support of 67 companies each buying and donating 67 guidebooks, which we will donate to The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund,” says Jo.
Funds from this campaign will be donated to the Mandela fund, Optimystic Bikers and the Benoni Sexual Assault Clinic.