South Africa Research | Youth

Child Sexual Abuse in South Africa

Commissioned by the UBS Optimus Foundation, the Optimus Study is a first-of-its-kind national survey of the annual incidence and lifetime prevalence of child sexual abuse in South Africa, providing both a point-in-time and longitudinal perspective on South African child victimization. In the context of the study, sexual abuse is defined in both its contact and non-contact forms, including exposure (subjection to voyeurism, exhibitionism, and forced pornographic viewing), exploitation (involvement in sexual activities for pornography and/or prostitution), and contact (sexual assault and rape). With more than a third of schoolchildren reporting having experienced some form of sexual violence, the report offers a framework for addressing not only the high levels of abuse incidence, but also the negative outcomes associated with abuse including mental illness and lowered educational outcomes.


Percentage of South African schoolchildren reporting having experienced some form of sexual abuse

36.8% (boys) / 33.9% (girls)

Percentage reporting having been sexually abused, by gender

15 (boys) / 14 (girls)

Average age of first incidence of sexual abuse


Percentage who reported unwanted sexual touching by an adult


Percentage who reported being made to do sexual things by another child or teen


Percentage reporting being forced to have sex


Percentage reporting exposure abuse

0% (boys) / 31.0% (girls)

Percentage who reported abuse by a familiar adult to police


Percentage experiencing trouble with schoolwork and/or school attendance in wake of abuse

2x (anxiety and depression) / 3x (PTSD symptoms)

Likelihood of those who experienced abuse to report symptoms of mental illness relative to young South Africans as a whole

Optimus Study South Africa: Technical Report (The Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention and the University of Cape Town)

Perfect Storm of kids at risk: Why a third of SA’s children are sexually abused” (The Daily Maverick)
1 in 3 young South Africans sexually abused” (UBS Optimus Foundation press release, via Parent24)

Commissioning Organization: UBS Optimus Foundation