One in every three young South Africans has been sexually abused by the age of 17, according to a new study.

The results of the study, conducted by the Optimus Foundation, the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention and the University of Cape Town (UCT), were released in Cape Town Thursday to mark International Children's Day.

The study has found that by the age of 17, nearly 800,000 young people in the country have been victims of sexual abuse. The study was conducted at schools, where researchers interviewed children between the ages of 15 and 17, representing more than 5,000 households nationally.

According to the study, the youngest age at which girls first experienced sexual abuse was 14, while the mean age for boys is 15. It also found that sexual abuse is likely to occur once in a person's lifetime.

In 40 per cent of cases, it occurs twice or more. UCT tesearcher Cathy Ward shared some of the recommendations contained in the report. "We need to think about a number of things that we need to do to prevent this from occurring in the first place," she said.

"For instance, we need to think about housing. One of the things that we found was that young people who share their bed with more than one person at night are at slightly higher risk of sexual abuse.

"We need to have a good protocol that brings all the agencies together -- justice, police, social development, education, health -- to provide a seamless service system for the young people who are reporting."

The study also assessed other forms of abuse and found that 31 per cent of young people have been exposed to family violence, while 16 per cent reported emotional abuse.

Western Cape Province Executive Council Member (MEC) for Social Development, Albert Fritz, expressed shock at the results of the study which says 56.8 per cent of the sexual abuse reported takes place in the victim's home.

Fritz says this issue will be tackled as a matter of urgency. "As government, we need to up the point around family training and also targeted family training so that we don't just do generic things but that we look at how we target those cases where people are abused instead of just throwing them into prison," he says. "To actually look at them to see what interventions we can put in place or actually do family training with some of the perpetrators inside prison."

The researchers say they have made their report available to various government departments.

Source: Nam News Network

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