If, as a society, we allow our children to be destroyed through crime and other maladies, our nation is poisoned at its source – that is why The Child Witness Institute must be commended for their exemplary act of not moaning in the darkness, electing to take initiative to light a candle instead. So said Advocate Thuli Madonsela at the launch of the institute’s supporting arm, the Child Witness Foundation, in Sandton on 6 September, where she delivered the keynote address. “Straight-jacketing children into a criminal-justice system designed for grownups simply fails our children,” said Madonsela, relating a case that the Public Protector’s office became involved in, where a child who had been raped was subjected to 48 postponements of her case over nine years, before the perpetrators were finally brought to book. The life of the child, now a young woman, had been destroyed in the process. “It is imperative that the judiciary and all the role players who come into contact with child witnesses in the justice system be trained in social-context awareness to be able to approach cases involving minors in a responsive way.” The moving testimony of another survivor of child rape at the launch highlighted the difference the intervention of the Institute can make in the long-term recovery of children affected by sexual violence. Lucretia’s emotional story of recovery touched everyone in the audience, and Madonsela lauded her for her bravery in speaking out. An urgent need for stepped-up research into prevention programmes, and expanded training resources for officials who deal with these traumatised children, is what spurred on the launch of the new Foundation. Says CEO of the Child Witness Institute Dr Karen Müller, “We have achieved significant milestones over the years, but it has become evident that we have to scale the work to have a broader reach, to address this scourge.” That is why the funding of a comprehensive research project into cause and effect will be the first priority for the Foundation. “Currently, the majority of victims have no access to therapy and trauma counselling, and we will focus on establishing what kind of simple, sustainable and affordable therapy we can introduce,” says Müller.