Mother of raped, disabled child says police have failed them

“She could not identify an accused. The police could therefore not proceed with further investigation” says SAPS

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SAPS has not investigated a case of rape of a disabled nine-year-old child. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

The mother of a severely disabled nine-year-old child who was raped says the police have failed her.

Noma (not her real name) opened a case of rape at the Delft police station in May 2017. She said she received an SMS in August saying that the case was withdrawn.

“I was surprised because I had never gone to court and the investigating officer told me that the case was dropped on 12 June already. No one told me about the court case,” said Noma.

Noma said she had been bathing her daughter when she noticed something was wrong. Her daughter cannot walk or talk and wears a nappy because she cannot indicate when she needs the toilet.

“At first I would notice that she came home and slept … She also had baby powder in her underparts and I assumed they [the day care facility] did not change her nappy in time and she had a rash,” said Noma.

She went to call her older neighbour who told her to go to the nearest clinic. The clinic referred her to Karl Bremer Hospital. A doctor confirmed that her daughter had been raped and that it had probably happened many times.

No counselling was ever offered to her or her daughter.

“I am hurt because I don’t know how she feels because unlike me she cannot speak about what happened,” says Noma. “I cry because I can only imagine the pain she is feeling.”

Noma had moved out of an informal settlement in Khayelitsha to live in Delft after the Social Justice Coalition had helped her secure an RDP flat. But because she no longer feels it is safe to take her child to the day care facility, she has now moved back to Khayelitsha where her unemployed sister can look after the child. Noma works as a domestic worker during the day.

She said the only time her child was in contact with males was at school. Noma said she was picked up by the male driver at home and the crèche also had male caretakers.

The owner of of the special needs school told GroundUp that the police had not asked any of her staff to give DNA.

“I am willing to send my carers for a DNA test. I feel for mom and daughter because I am a mother. I do hope the perpetrator who did this will get caught,” said the owner.

She said at the time the school had two male carers plus the driver, but both the carers have since left because “they got better jobs”.

When asked whether there was any possibility that the incident could have happened at the school premises, she said, “No, it did not happen here at our centre. Our centre is open plan and everybody can see each other.”

Western Cape SAPS spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana said a case of rape had been opened and was later withdrawn in court. She said according to standard procedure the victims and the caregivers are informed about the outcome of the case and that the same procedure was followed by the investigating officer in Noma’s case.

Western Cape spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority Eric Ntabazalila told GroundUp that no consultation was possible as the victim cannot walk or talk.

“She was taken to the doctor who confirmed that there were old tears to the vagina,” he said. “She could not identify an accused. The police could therefore not proceed with further investigation.”

He said according to the statements in the docket she came to Cape Town after she was in the Eastern Cape for one month. It is therefore unknown whether she was raped there or in Cape Town.

“Samples [of DNA] were collected from the child but seeing that the identity of the accused is unknown, there is nothing to compare it with,” said Ntabazalila

Noma said her daughter never went with her to Eastern Cape. When she went to her father’s funeral in April she had left her daughter behind to stay with her cousin.

“Do children with disabilities have no rights, does this mean anyone can do as they please with them and not be held responsible? … My child, my innocent child was wronged and the people who are supposed to help are the very same people who have deserted her,” said Noma.

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TOPICS:  Disability Rights Gender Policing Rape

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