On the 30 March 2008, the Sunday Sun printed a story about a man convicted for the rape of his wife (“Husband gets 9 years for assaulting, raping wife” p.15). The article is one to get mad about as it its publication could lead to further abuse of the child involved, it contravenes the Criminal Procedure Act and it missed the opportunity to educate readers about how domestic violence affects children.
The story details how the husband was convicted of rape and assault of his wife after their son found text messages on his cell phone from his father’s mistress. He showed the messages to his mother, who was assaulted and raped after she confronted him.
Published as it was, the article raises some good points for women who are in abusive relationships. In addressing the topic of marital rape, it tells readers that husbands can rape and be convicted for it.
However, by identifying the child indirectly, the journalist violated the rights of the child and the law. The names and photographs of both parents are published, as well as the age of the child. This could potentially lead to secondary abuse by peers or neighbours,who may tease the child, because of the actions of his father.
In addition, as the child was likely a witness in the case against his father, identifying him, even indirectly,, is in contravention of the Criminal Procedure Act which states: “No person shall publish in any manner whatever information which reveals of may reveal the identity of the accused under the age of 18 years of a witness at criminal proceedings who is under the age of 18 years” (The Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977, Section 154(3)).
One cannot help feeling that the child was put in an awkward position by his father’s sexual behaviour, and the abuse which his mother then suffered. The child is likely to have been further traumatised by being a witness in the criminal case that sent his father to jail.
This would have been an interesting story angle to cover and Sunday Sun could have used the opportunity to educate readers about the effects of domestic violence on children.
If this angle had been explored, however, the journalist would have to be extremely careful in interviewing the child, only doing so with a counsellor present, or interviewing an expert familiar with similar cases. This further exploration of the issue, along with the inclusion of the comments made by the wife, where she implores readers to “…speak out and get out of abusive relationships”, could have supported the informative value of the story.
In missing this opportunity, and indirectly identifying the child involved, this article is of little value, and is not in the best interests of the child.