Durban parents say they have been left shaken after being leered at and – in some cases – approached by men wanting to photograph their children at The Pavilion shopping centre.
One woman, Lauren Sutherland, posted about her unnerving experience on Facebook.
Her post has since been shared several times, with a number of Facebook users recounting similar experiences in the comments sections.
In her original post, Sutherland described the experience as “horrible”.
She said she was shopping with her sister and her 4-year-old daughter and could “feel” someone staring at them.
She noticed that a group of five men were staring at her little girl “and talking amongst themselves”.
“When we exited the store feeling very uncomfortable two of them approached us and asked if they could take photos with my daughter, of course I refused and immediately walked away,” she said.
“After seeing these guys I ended up noticing more of a pattern, these guys were scattered all over Pavilion in the passages, sitting on the benches as well as in some of the shops.
“They where all busy on their phones with earphones in their ears, I assume communicating with each other.” She said she was “totally freaked out” and alerted security personnel before leaving.
“Please be careful and vigilant,” Sutherland wrote.
Branden Grant commented that while shopping with his wife and two small daughters in Dischem, he too had been approached.
“One of them asked me if they could take a photo of my 3-year-old in the trolley,” Grant said.
Mandi Janssen Bouwer said she and her 14-year-old daughter narrowly escaped the attentions of a group of men.
They were walking out of Woolworths when they noticed three men staring.
“It made me feel super uncomfortable… one guy approached me as we walked passed and I grabbed my daughter’s arm and moved faster,” she said.
Andrew Pillay said a group of men had also taken an interest in his 3-month-old nephew.
“So it’s not only older children,” he wrote.
She was from Westville and regularly went to The Pavilion.
“My daughter often goes there to watch a movie or get something to eat,” she said.
“And sometimes, if I don’t have anything to do there, she does go alone.”
But Bouwer had now decided that this would not continue.
The general manager of The Pavilion, Nisha Kemraj, said on last week the mall’s management was aware of Sutherland’s experience.
“Our security staff did immediately respond to the report by the customer concerned,” she said.
They had found no direct evidence that a crime had been committed but, Kemraj said, public safety was the centre’s “top priority” and all security personnel had been placed on alert.
Kemraj thanked Sutherland for reporting the incident promptly and encouraged other customers to report anything untoward.
The centre’s management would do its utmost to ensure the safety of young children in the busy centre during the festive season at all times, Kemraj said.
“We are also liaising with the SAPS who have a mobile satellite police station on site and carry out daily patrols,” she said.
But Kemraj also cautioned that risks to children’s safety were not restricted to a single shopping mall.
She urged parents taking their children into crowded parts of the city during the holiday period to be vigilant and ensure that their children were supervised and were not allowed to wander off unattended.