A mother in South Africa has accused a staff member at a school for kids with disabilities of raping her 13-year-old son.
The man, who was reportedly a groundskeeper at the school in Benoni, allegedly locked the young teen, who has with Down syndrome, in a classroom and sexually assaulted him, the South African daily newspaper Sowetan reports.
The teen’s mother, who remained anonymous to protect her son’s identity, told the paper that she was “frantic” when she came to pick him up at school on Aug. 5 and he wasn’t waiting for her in his usual spot. When all the buses and other transport had left the school, the distraught mother got out of her car and began crying. She said a teacher and the vice principal helped her search for her son.
“We walked around the school calling out his name but he did not respond,” she told Sowetan. “I was scared and confused and didn’t know where else I would look for him.”
The mother said she eventually saw the groundskeeper running in the hallway and he slowed his pace to a walk when he saw the teachers with her. The worker asked them what was wrong, the mother said, and then told them that the missing teen was probably asleep in one of the classrooms.
“[The groundskeeper] went to one classroom and unlocked it. It was strange that my son came out immediately — not like someone who was asleep, but like someone who had been up and was waiting for the door to be opened,” the mother told Sowetan. “I didn’t pay much attention to it because I was happy to have found him.”
The mother noted to IOL News, another media outlet in South Africa, that her son’s face was red and he looked as if he had been crying. She said when the two got into her car, she realized there was a “foul smell” coming from her son.
At home, she decided to bathe him and discovered semen on her son’s anus, according to an interview with SABC News, a South African news channel. There were bloodstains and semen on his underwear as well, she told Sowetan.
“I asked him what happened and he started crying,” the mother told IOL News. “He said an ‘Uncle Martin’ did that to him. He said when I was screaming, looking for him, he could hear me, but the man had his hand over his mouth. This is the worst thing for me. I couldn’t save my son.”
She told Sowetan she took her son back to school the next day to report the incident and then went to the local clinic. Doctors confirmed that the boy had been raped, she said.
The mother said that the school didn’t immediately suspend the suspect and allowed him to continue working on the grounds.
Steve Mabona, spokesperson for Gauteng province’s Department of Education, denied the latter claim, however, and said that the worker was suspended immediately and that he is due to appear at a disciplinary process in due course.
“The matter has been reported to the police and we will request the police to escalate this sensitive case to the province for necessary attention,” Mabona told Sowetan.
Benoni police spokesperson Capt. Nomsa Sekele told IOS, “I can confirm that a rape case has been opened and no one has been arrested yet.”
In the United States, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are victims of sexual predators at a rate that is seven times higher than those without disabilities, according to a 2018 report produced by NPR in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice. People with I/DD are often victimized by someone they know. Perpetrators choose them because they assume that a person with I/DD can be easily manipulated and will have trouble testifying in court. NPR’s report also shows that police and prosecutors are often reluctant to take these cases because they’re difficult to win in court and that these crimes often go “unrecognized, unprosecuted and unpunished.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.