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    Father burns his little boys school uniform after an argument with mom.

    We are all thinking about rape at the moment in South Africa. I am also thinking about the ways in which men can hurt and abuse those who have depended on them and loved them.

    A young woman in the East Rand told me that her boyfriend and the father of her only child had burnt her home to ashes last year and then this weekend had got angry again. He had beaten her and then proceeded to burn her blankets and her sons new school uniform. It was his first school uniform. The one he wore proudly to his first day of school.

    She did lay a charge at the police station and the man has been arrested. Now this young woman has decided that she will raise her child alone. The money he contributed is just not worth this pain.

    But in the meantime this little 8 year old is waking every night shouting: ‘Are we burning? Are we burning?’ He also has started to become naughty when before he was a mostly well behaved child. He asked his mother ‘why did daddy burn my uniform?’

    This young woman has lost her parents and her siblings. Her brother died a year ago. It seems that her boyfriend became increasingly unpleasant to her after this and she feels it is because she is now alone and vulnerable and he feels he can take advantage of her.

    After he burnt her home she managed to collect together scrap zinc sheets and build herself a new one. It has 2 ½ small rooms. She is resourceful and a survivor – but the pain her son expresses each night by calling out ‘are we burning?’ makes her cry bitterly.

    My father died on Friday last week and I decided to do a small act of kindness in his memory and bought a new uniform for him and a few toys. I included a pack of crayons and some drawing paper and told her to tell him to draw a picture of what is making him angry, sad or afraid and bring it to her and tell her about it. Then she should listen and praise him for the courage he has shown in telling her and in drawing his feelings.
    I also suggested that she cuddled him often and found good things to do with him. Go to the library together, make his favourite food, tell stories, sing songs – all to give him a sense of the good the world has in it.

    I also said that when he was next naughty that she should explain that she knows he is confused, angry, sad and afraid and this makes him behave in naughty ways. But that he should rather draw his feelings or come and tell her about them. And that he should look inside himself for the well behaved, loving boy he liked being before he became so confused, angry and worried.

    She is going to try. And we will chat each week to see if this is helping. Getting him to play therapy is an option but it will be a process and although she would not need to pay taxi fees and taking time off work will be difficult for her.

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