System fails rape victim
In the Northern Cape lives a 10-year-old girl who has been failed by virtually all the people who were supposed to love and care for her.
She has been moved to a place of safety after allegations emerged that her mother's boyfriend raped her on Sunday last week, reportedly while her mother was out drinking.
Police then had to deal with another shocking allegation - that her 15-year-old brother and his friends, aged 11 and 12, had also raped her.
It is not known how many other times the little girl has been raped or by whom.
The 41-year-old mother, who has been arrested and charged with child neglect, and her 33-year-old boyfriend, will make their second appearance in the Jan Kempdorp Magistrate's Court on Wednesday.
The fate of the girl's brother and his friends has yet to be decided.
Police spokesman Lieutenant Olebogeng Tawana said the rape docket had been referred to the director of public prosecutions for a decision on whether the boys should be prosecuted.
"The brother has been moved to a place of safety and the 11-year-old and 12-year-old have been released into the care of their parents."
He said the alleged rape took place on October 14 while the mother was "enjoying herself with some liquor in the neighbourhood."
He said the police were waiting for forensic reports to establish the dates on which the girl was raped.
Joan van Niekerk, manager of Childline Advocacy and Training, said there had been a "massive" increase in the number of such complaints to her organisation last year and the situation was not improving.
Last month, a Cape Town mother allegedly became so drunk that she misplaced her four-month-old baby, who was found by a good Samaritan and taken to the local authorities.
In the same week a 23-year-old Pretoria woman was arrested for leaving her three children - aged one, three and eight - at home alone without food.
In August, a 28-year-old mother of three from Mdantsane, in Eastern Cape, was arrested for child neglect when the authorities found her 10-month-old, and her five and six-year-olds, living in filth.
"She leaves us alone all the time when she wants to get drunk," the five-year-old reportedly said.
Van Niekerk said there was a correlation between the economic downturn and child abuse and neglect.
She said parents often turn to alcohol to deal with financial constraints and neglect their children.
"It is not just abuse through neglect, it is also active abuse because these children are seeking material things. They are seeking food so you will find that they will sometimes not reject an approach from an older person that they might have previously rejected," said Van Niekerk.
She said her organisation had found that many young couples had not learned to be responsible parents.