Optimus Study: South Africa
The Optimus study in South Africa was designed specifically to estimate the annual incidence and lifetime prevalence of child sexual abuse and maltreatment in South Africa. Prior to this study, no nationally representative data on the extent or impact of child sexual abuse existed. In order to obtain a comprehensive picture of the nature, extent and impact of child sexual abuse in the country, the study drew on two data sources. The first was a population study conducted with a sample of 15 to 17 year old adolescents recruited nationally from schools (n=4086) as well as households (n=5631), while the second was an agency component that consisted of a series of in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with front-line staff and child protection agency directors servicing the communities or geographical spaces identified through the population survey sampling process. Through a thorough exploration of these areas, the study identifies where resources can best be targeted, provides a local evidence base for the development of effective interventions, and identifies whether intervening in one form of abuse or neglect might also have the potential to address other forms of violence.
In the population study, two separate surveys were carried out, one in schools and the other in households. This was done to ensure that the views of 15-17 year old adolescents who were not attending school at the time of the study were also captured in the study. For the household survey, to obtain a nationally representative sample of the population, a multistage stratified sample was designed with province, geographic area (urban/rural) and race group being used as explicit stratification variables. The participating schools were clustered according to the enumerator areas identified in the household survey component of the population study.
In both schools and households, the main questionnaire was administered by an interviewer. The study was designed to assess a) the prevalence and incidence of child sexual abuse - in the context of other forms of maltreatment; b) the consequences of maltreatment; and c) the risk and protective factors for maltreatment. In designing the questionnaire, the study drew on the Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire (JVQ; Finkelhor, Hamby, Ormrod, & Turner, 2005) as well as the Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children (TSCC; Briere, 2001) to estimate the prevalence and incidence of child sexual abuse and to assess the chief mental health consequences (anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress symptoms). The questionnaire also assessed other consequences of abuse namely educational problems (failing or doing poorly at school, and dropping out of school) and sexual problems (sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, and engaging in risky sexual behaviour. The risk factors that were measured included sleeping density, family and household structure, frequent violence in the home, harsh parenting, parental psychiatric hospitalisation, parental substance misuse and child disability.
In addition to the main interviewer-administered questionniare, each respondent was also asked to self complete a short one-page version of the questionnaire that allowed them to respond to the questions covering the main forms of maltreatment more privately.
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