Started in 1992 by Jackie Branfield, Operation Bobbi Bear rescues and upholds the rights of sexually abused children while aiming to minimise their risk of HIV infection. This includes provision of Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) to children who have been raped. Through on-going support the organization helps children and young people towards wholeness. Bobbi Bear is a community-based response to a complex set of issues that undermine children’s rights and deprives them of their dignity. Children who have been victims of sexual abuse are thrown into a criminal justice system that is ill equipped to enable them to communicate about their ordeal in a way that safeguards their well-being. The added trauma of children struggling to communicate with police officers who are not trained in working sensitively with abused children means that justice is often not done for the child. Children often experience this failure of the justice systems as secondary abuse. They are too often subjected to insensitive handling by police as they try to extract a statement from incredibly traumatised children, with the experience of being medically examined compounding this trauma. The impact on the child can be devastating and result in them becoming confused, particularly if they have to deal with several adults. All children of sexual abuse are counselled and risk assessed for HIV with referral for additional care made at the point of rescue. Sadly, despite these measures many children are infected with HIV as a result of their abuse. Bobbi Bear reaches around 4,000 children per month as part of their school outreach programme. The programme aims to raise children’s awareness of sexual abuse and highlights to them where they can get help. As well as working directly with children, Bobbi Bear trains and empowers the local community. This includes providing training to local Child Safety Officers, promoting this work as a prototype for national expansion. By training local communities in child protection and identifying Child Safety Officers, Bobbi Bear works to ensure greater awareness of the rights of the child to help prevent further cases of abuse. Their vision is to have at least 2 Child Safety Officers in every community in South Africa who are equipped to intervene and assists the criminal justice system to safeguard the best interest of any child who is a victim of sexual abuse.
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