Namibia’s insane fathers

800 children raped

By Maria Kandjungu and  Shallot Mohutege

CLOSE to 800 children under the age of 16 have been raped in the last 18 months with 164 being sexually assaulted by family members of which, 27 of those are by biological fathers, Confidente has established.

Statistics provided by the Namibian police show that at least 1 604 rape cases were reported between January 2019 and June 2020. Of these, 773 involve minors with at least 164 children having had their innocence violated by either their biological fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers, or brothers and sometimes cousins.

The disturbing statistics come in the wake of a wave of an increase in rape cases especially involving minors that have engulfed the country with the most recent shocking case involving a two-week old baby who was allegedly raped by her father.

According to renowned human rights activist Rosa Namises, even though the revealed statistics are alarming, they are not surprising as the country has been grappling with the unabating issue of violence against women and children. She says the statistics continue to show a frightening trend in the number of abuses directed towards women and children.

“There is a lot of misunderstanding, a lot of power given to men, so much so that they believe they do not have to answer to anybody, and they can do what they want. Men objectify women and refuse to follow the human rights and dignified life for women,” she said adding that the habit of victim blaming instead of holding males accountable had worsened the situation.

“Our society is so unsafe that children cannot even depend on their families especially their fathers, grandfathers, brothers or uncles to be safe. Even worse is that in such cases where a father or uncle rapes a child, the family -most of the time- chooses to protect the grown man from shame and embarrassment than offering support and protection to the violated and abused child.”

The statistics provided highlighted that Ohangwena, Omusati, //Kharas and Hardap are the epicentres of incest as the four regions collectively reported 125 rape cases involving close family members.

According to Namises, rape cases especially in the northern regions are high because many there believe that sleeping with a young person or relative brings wealth, powers, health or good luck.

“Culturally, there is a belief by men that women are weak and they [men] have to take care of women in the sense that they dominate, and that they own women. That is one problem I believe is contributing to violence, and rape that is happening to our young girls,” Namises said.

She added that there is a need for more education and focus to be directed to men, so that they can be given awareness on the impact of some cultural practices.

“Men need to be called back to order, in other words, they need to be punished for the wrong that they are doing and through that they get their rehabilitation, and also they need to be shown that they are wrong, not just because of rape but what it costs and what it means… We are speaking about fathers, grandfathers and brothers raping those they are supposed to protect… a more deeper understanding of their wrongdoing needs to come out,” she said.

Speaking on the psychological impact of incest, Gender and Child Protection Specialist in the office of the First Lady, Dr Veronica Theron said the impact varies from child to child while a lot depends on how other members of the family react to the abuse.

Theron said, if the child was believed and loved and shown support and compassion chances are that the effect from the violation will not be as severe as the person who was never validated by their family after the assault.

She said the support in most cases is however not provided as a parent who knows or suspects that the child is being abused chooses to protect the family name.

“Because that parent does not want to break up the family unit, the abuse is shoved under the rug, not talked about, ignored. Thus, the child grows up being just as angry at the parent for not protecting them as they are at the abuser.” 

According to her, most incest child survivors experience confusion about their own reactions to the experience and ultimately, victims blame themselves rather than the person who is supposed to love and protect them.

“It is this betrayal of innocence and resultant confusion, along with the loss of control and power over one’s own behaviour, that lead to the emotional and psychological impact on the survivor. Victims often experience, both at the time of the incestuous act and later as adults, a sense of shame, a feeling of powerlessness, and a loss of their childhood,” Theron said adding that it is due to hostile reactions that some children grow into adulthood without having ever telling anybody in the family about the abuse.

“This adult is full of anger, hurt, confusion, shame, and guilt. The adult might feel anger at other members of the family for not protecting them even though nobody else in the family knew what was going on. Still, in that child’s mind, they feel someone should have protected them and so anger is a big issue with many incest survivors.”