My Piece of Sky.
Memories of child sexual abuse.
Photographs by Mariella Furrer.
Schilt Publishing, 2010. 192 pp., 80 duotone and 40 color drawings, 6¾x9".
On 27 August 1994, Thea Pumbroek died in a room of a Holiday Inn
in Amsterdam. She had appeared in a number of pornographic films
and died from an overdose of drugs whilst being filmed in yet another
pornographic movie. Thea was 6 years old.
In October 2005, in Johannesburg, South Africa, Michaela Ganchi
was abducted, raped, sodomised and brutally murdered. After trying
unsuccessfully to kill Michaela by pounding her head with rocks,
27-year-old Ronald Jones cut her throat with a broken bottle. The
pathologist at the trial described the physical trauma to the child’s
vagina and anus as so severe that there would have been lifelong
consequences had Michaela survived. Michaela was 6 years old.
And the list of innocent children who have been sexually brutalised
goes on and on…
Thankfully, not all children who are sexually abused are murdered,
but all sexual crimes against children represent horrific abuses of
power and expressions of brutality. The scars from sexual abuse are
felt for the rest of a victim’s life and affect an individual’s ability to
grow to his or her potential.
‘A part of me died many years ago. I have been mourning it my whole
life…’ Garth, a 39-year-old man, was sexually abused by several people
from a very young age. By the time he was 13 he was doing drugs and
taking money for sex. On April 23, 2008 he committed suicide in a
police cell. Garth’s life story is a testimony to the damage that
paedophiles inflict on children, for the rest of their lives.
This project is a personal journey that began for Mariella Furrer over
30 years ago when she was molested by a stranger. Since then she
has explored the world of child sexual abuse with her camera and
a sound recorder, documenting both the brutality of child rape, the
resilience of its young survivors, and the dedication of all the people
working to protect them.
Furrer chose to focus her attention on South Africa, a country dealing
with an epidemic of child sexual abuse. South Africa has one of the
highest incidents of child rape and child sexual abuse in the world.
An estimated fifty child rapes are reported every day in the country,
but child rights activists say that thousands more crimes go
unreported and that because children are even less likely to report
their abuse, they estimate that the real rate of child rape could be 20
times higher than the reported rate. If that many children are sexually
abused daily in South Africa alone, globally the figures must be
staggering. Although Furrer has focused her attention on this issue
in South Africa, the sad reality is that the sexual abuse of children is a
global issue, and one that is rapidly on the rise.
Mariella Furrer has worked on this project, on and off, for almost
seven years now, inspired by the strength of the young victims and
their families, and the passion and perseverance of the policemen
and childcare workers who toil around the clock to look after them.
In this time, she has produced and gathered a large body of work
consisting of photos, journals, in-depth recorded interviews,
artwork and poetry.
This book will give a voice to the countless children who have
endured this ordeal, and give people a better understanding of
what exactly it means to be sexually abused as a child.
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