The flow of urine down her legs and soiled pants have become a ‘normal’ part of life for seven-year-old Mitchell since the brutal rape last year by a 45-year old man entrusted to protect her. Mitchell is now incontinent (she has little or no voluntary control over urination or defecation) after the rape left her with a ruptured anus and genitalia which affects the way she excretes.
The pain accompanied by acute embarrassment is unbearable, as people stare at her wondering why a seven-year-old continues to soil her pants.
She often sheds the tears of a helpless young girl desperate for help, who feels estranged from her peers due to matters she has no control over.
While she might eventually recover, her innocence violently stolen from her will never be restored.
This is just one case of child sexual abuse that is on the increase in Zimbabwe, and fears are high that it could get worse as the country heads for a referendum and elections this year.
Rape, murder, emotional, verbal, psychological and economic abuse, intimidation and harassment have largely become synonymous with Zimbabwean elections and women and children in most cases are the victims.
Nor is the boy child also immune as there is an increase in the number of young boys being sodomised.
Early January in Buhera, Manicaland Province, a six-year old boy was sodomised after his family offered shelter to a stranger drenched in the pouring rain. The family allowed him to share a hut with their six-year old son.
A report was made at Murambinda Police Station but before the police could launch their investigation, the man committed suicide. His body was found hanging from a tree the following day.
In a report released in December 2012, the Zimbabwe Republic Police Victim Friendly Unit said more than 2,400 children under the age of 18 were victims of rape between January and October 2012. There were 3,421 sexual abuse cases of minors reported during that period.
The report says neighbours accounted for 41% of perpetrators, while relatives left in care of children were culpable for 27%.
Victim Friendly Court Zimbabwe (VFCZ) national coordinator Iden Magonga said sexual abuse of children was not about satisfying sexual urge but was instead an issue of power over a weaker, vulnerable group.
Magonga said: “Sexual abuse of children is usually committed not for sexual gratification but it’s a power mentality and those who commit this crime are often cowards who cannot face up to their own match, but feel powerful by abusing the vulnerable groups.”
He said cases of sodomy were worringly on the increase.
Magonga said his organisation faced problems in dealing with child marriages in the Marange Apostolic sect.
“The Apostolic sect is a closed community that has a culture of not accommodating outsiders. We have had incidences where we would go there, approach a certain family after tip-offs of sexual abuse. However, when we get there and talk to the girl child she would deny ever being raped, instead saying she was being well-looked after; the law is then handicapped.”
According to the Preliminary Report of the National Baseline Survey on the Life Experiences of Adolescents in Zimbabwe released by the government in 2012, approximately one third of girls experience sexual violence before their 18th birthday and only 2% of these seek care and support, while approximately one in 10 males aged between 18-24 experienced sexual abuses in childhood.
Regional Communication Officer for UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office, Victor Chinyama, said, “We do not know if there is an increase in incidences, as these prevalence surveys are unique, particularly looking at sexual violence amongst children. Statistics also only reflect cases reported. And we know sexual violence is always under-reported due to fear by survivors, due to shame, stigma and persecution.”
Recently Zimbabwe has seen a series of rapes conducted under the guise of a religious practice.
I however find the title of this report very insulting. I do not Child sexual abuse is a Vapositori issue. The Vapositori issue is the issue of God and living Godly lives. There are incidents however where some notorious members of our religion do the grave sins and normally these are hidden. These are some incidents and may not have to cary the wait and paint Vapositori as having Sexula Abuse as their issue.
Vapositori are generally a loving community, God fearing people and law abiding citizens and do not deserve to be stigimatised as portrayed by the article heading.