Child sexual abuse has occurred since the beginning of human history. Physical and
emotional abuse as well as neglect was known to people, but child sexual abuse
was hidden because of the social restriction surrounding sexual contact with
children. Even though reporting is now more socially accepted, it is still difficult to
determine the prevalence of child sexual abuse, because it remains under-reported.
Sexual abuse of a child is highly complicated and has various effects on a child and
the functioning of the child.
The goal of the research was to explore the experiences of designated social
workers working with cases of alleged child sexual abuse in the South African
context. A qualitative research approach was utilised in order to obtain the
information of their personal experiences as designated social workers working with
cases of alleged child sexual abuse. The data was collected through semi-structured
interviews, guided by an interview schedule. Snowball sampling was used to select
designated social workers working at child protection organisations and the
Department of Social Development in the Western Cape. Ten participants (all
female) formed the sample for the study. The research is based on the personcentred
theory, developed by Carl Rogers (1961) (Corey, 2013:159). This theory
implies that people’s experiences and perceptions will be their reality (Henderson &
Thompson, 2011:191). The findings of the study suggested that the role and
responsibilities of designated social workers are to do prevention work, to be the first
response, to ensure that the abuse is reported, to provide support and empowerment
to the child and family concerned and also to do risk and safety assessments to
assess the likelihood that the abuse occurred. Designated social workers also need
to investigate the child’s circumstances and establish whether the child is in need of
care and protection and they must safeguard the child either through a safety plan or
finding the child a suitable and safe placement. Furthermore, it was found that the
fundamental skills and principles of social work support designated social workers
and that the more years of experience designated social workers have, the more
confident they feel when they must work with cases of alleged child sexual abuse.
Additional training for designated social workers working with cases of alleged child
sexual abuse is also necessary.
Designated social workers face many challenges when working with cases of alleged
child sexual abuse. Designated social workers reported that working with the police
can be challenging, organisations and departments often work in isolation,
challenges are being faced at medical centres, child sexual abuse is a silent crime
that is being hidden away, there is a lack of resources, designated social workers
deal with many challenging emotional experiences, staff turnover is a reality, there
are limitations in the child protection system and community and family
characteristics are risk factors for child sexual abuse. Supportive factors for
designated social workers when they must deal with cases of alleged child sexual
abuse include good supervision, peer support, support from social auxiliary workers,
organisational protocols and guidelines and the South African legislation. Designated
social workers feel that they do have the ability to make a difference.
Mini Dissertation (MSW)--University of Pretoria, 2019.