Groundbreaking new book on sexual abuse of children

14 February 2005

Speaking up: UCT's Emer Prof Andy Dawes (third from left) has served as editor and contributor to a new book by the HSRC, Sexual Abuse of Young Children in Southern Africa. He is seen here with some of his fellow writers.

Emeritus Professor Andy Dawes, associated with the UCT Department of Psychology, is one of the editors of and contributors to a groundbreaking new text on the sexual abuse of young children.

Sexual Abuse of Young Children in Southern Africa, published by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and funded by the Ford Foundation, pulls together the efforts of about 20 experts - including service providers, therapists, children's advocates, and members of the research community - to summarise and evaluate the different branches of knowledge about the problem of prepubescent children in southern Africa.

According to the editors - Dawes, HSRC colleague Professor Linda Richter and research psychologist Craig Higson-Smith - the volume is the first attempt to "synthesise" southern African research, treatment and policy literature on the topic. "In time, our various endeavours will contribute to advances in our understanding of child sexual abuse and to improved care and services for the many affected children on the subcontinent," they note in the introduction. The book, they add, "combining the wisdom of many people working in a variety of sectors, is one part of ensuring that this will occur".

The authors explain that while much has been written on the sexual abuse of children in southern Africa, the bulk of this material is unpublished, gathering dust in confidential reports or out of print - in short, unavailable to those who could draw the most insight from it. This book aims to bring such information into the public arena as a tool for therapists, lawyers, counsellors, caregivers, law enforcers, the media, policy makers and anyone else who is involved in fighting child sexual abuse, raising public awareness of it or assisting its victims, they add.

The volume is organised into five broad sections, each comprising several chapters. Section one focuses on how sexual abuse is discussed and covered in the media; section two deals with the need to understand child sexual abuse, and includes chapters on cultural issues and the myth that sex with a virgin can cure HIV or AIDS; section three covers the legal and policy responses to sexual abuse; section four examines clinical and therapeutic responses; while section five contains reflections and conclusions from the various chapters.

In addition to editing the book and penning the opening and concluding chapters with Richter and Higson-Smith, Dawes also contributed two articles - the first on Individual and contextual factors associated with the sexual abuse of children under 12: a review of recent literature, co-authored with Lorraine Townsend, a researcher with UCT's Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, as well as a piece on measurement and monitoring, written with UCT graduates Jacqueline Borel-Saladin and Zareena Parker.

Sexual Abuse of Young Children in Southern Africa is available from leading booksellers countrywide, or from the HSRC's online bookshop at

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