RAPCAN was established in 1989 by the University of Cape Town’s Department of Paediatrics and Child Health in response to the need for education and training in the field of child abuse prevention. Initially it was set up as a research programme, which has shaped the unique services we now offer, and was later attached to the Child Health Unit at the University. 

RAPCAN became an independent organisation in November 1997 and was registered as a company in terms of section 21 of the Companies Act in that year. RAPCAN registered as a non-profit organisation in 2000.