“It’s as if over the past six months there’s been an acceleration of child abuse, child neglect and child rape cases.” These are the sentiments of People’s Search and Rescue Unit investigator, Elmarie Potgieter, who is involved in many of these cases. And her views are shared by thousands of South Africans.

In the same week when the so-called ‘House of Horrors’ case made national news headlines – in which a Springs father on Gauteng’s East Rand was found to have kept his children captive for many years, trapped in a highly dysfunctional and abusive home – Special Assignment gets to know about another horror case, also on the East Rand, involving five children, all related cousins from one extended family.

The five children – all between the ages of three and six years old – are believed to have been molested, raped, physically-, emotionally- and medically neglected and exposed to a drug-induced, violent life at the hands of their mothers and uncle. But the true horror lies in the seeming extent of police bungling of the case since the extended family initially tried to report the matter in 2012, without success. This has led the state prosecutor with such a weakened case that any successful prosecution seems highly unlikely. “The processes involved often don’t match the trauma experienced by the victims” says Bonita Meyersfeld, law expert at WITS’s Centre for Applied Legal Studies. “Couple that with a fatigued or disinterested officer, and you often find that these cases take the longest time to move one step forward.”

Is our criminal-justice system failing the thousands of child victims of rape and abuse across South Africa? Experts in law, psychology, civil society and the extended family of the child victims of this story certainly think so. Follow the journey of the extended family as they seek justice for the five children in a seemingly hostile and uncaring criminal-justice system that seems to be working againstthe victims of abuse.

Is this the same likely fate facing tens of thousands of similar child victims trapped in homes of horrors across South Africa?

“HOMES OF HORRORS” was produced by Adél van Niekerk and airs Sunday, 17 August 2014 on SABC 3 at 8pm.