Anti-sexual violence guide launched for schools

Combating sexual violence in schools is a "bus that people get on and off of", said attorney Bonita Meyersfeld from the Centre of Applied Legal Studies (CALS) at the launch on Friday of a handbook that aims to "manag[e] sexual abuse in schools".

She said she spoke to a victim of sexual violence at a school once who had used that exact phrase to describe how various people had started helping her and had eventually abandoned her.

The handbook, called My Teacher Hurt Me, What Should I Do?, aspires to be a "guide for children, families and community members", its front cover says.

The creation of the handbook by three civil society organisations that was informing communities about the scourge was an example of seeing something constructive through to the end, said Meyersfeld.

"This is a bus that people have got on and off of but these people didn't get off the bus," she said at Friday's launch of a handbook created by CALS, Lawyers against Abuse (LvA) and Section27.

"Sexual violence in schools is what we should be worrying about, thinking about and generating a response to," she said.

Legal officer at LvA Shayda Vance told the Mail & Guardian that the organisations began work on the handbook at the beginning of 2012, and that LvA had been working with Section27 on eight different cases of sexual abuse in schools at the time.

The organisations drew on their experiences from this as well as focus groups with pupils to generate the content for the handbooks. Even so, attorney at Section27 Nikki Stein told attendees of the launch, "I still don't think we understand the depth and extent of these cases."

"But we know that it happens across all classes and generations."

She said people who had been affected by sexual violence in schools "just don't know what to do when they go to a clinic or how to tell the education department".

The handbook is a "tool to assist in navigating an incredibly scary process", she said.

Vance said it described the places victims would need to go to and what they would need to do once there, like the hospital or clinic, police station and education department.

Kay Mahonde from CALS said she hoped it would be a resource "that is shared, passed along, put in libraries, community centres, anywhere where it can sit on a shelf".

Although the first 54-page issue is in English, she said the organisations were hoping to translate it into other languages "and print more and more copies so we can give it out to everyone we interact with".

On Friday thousands of pupils from various schools in Mamelodi in the east of Pretoria participated in a march in support of a schoolgirl who was allegedly raped by her teacher, the Congress of South African Students said.

The pupils, who were all dressed in school uniform, handed over a memorandum to police. They were heading to another police station on the west side of the township where another memorandum would be handed over. – Additional reporting by Sapa

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