CHILD SEX ABUSE
Smiling for no reason, talking without sense, throwing tantrums, playing silly games, sometimes naughty sometimes obedient, a phase of merriment, a phase of discoveries and a phase of learning that is what we called ‘CHILDHOOD’. Generally considered as the best time of a person’s life. An age of toys, games, play and fun. In this stage the tender mind comes across lots of things in life that actually moulds the person into what he/she becomes when they grow up. Every parent takes best care to give the best childhood and upbringing to their child. But does every person reflect upon their childhood in the same way. Is every childhood a merry go round ride filled with laughter and excitement? Or some people are even scared of thinking about their childhood because of those unusual experiences that are a horror to an adult too. Sex abuse is a trauma in itself and ‘CHILD SEX ABUSE’ is a trauma for life. It’s a scar on the tender heart and mind who does not know the differentiation between right or wrong and good or bad.
Children who go through this kind of horrendous experience in the early stages of life grow up into a very different human being. The impact of sexual abuse can range from no apparent effects to very severe ones. Typically, children who experience the most serious types of abuse—abuse involving family members and high degrees of physical force—exhibit behavior problems ranging from separation anxiety to post traumatic stress disorder. The sexual abuse and its aftermath may be only part of the child’s negative experiences and subsequent behaviors. Studies on who commits child sexual abuse vary in their findings, but the most common finding is that the majority of sexual offenders are family members or are otherwise known to the child. Children and adolescents who have been sexually abused can suffer a range of psychological and behavioral problems, from mild to severe, in both the short and long term. These problems typically include depression, anxiety, guilt, fear, sexual dysfunction, withdrawal, and acting out. Depending on the severity of the incident, victims of sexual abuse may also develop fear and anxiety regarding the opposite sex or sexual issues and may display inappropriate sexual behavior. However, the strongest indication that a child has been sexually abused is inappropriate sexual knowledge, sexual interest, and sexual acting out by that child.
Child sexual abuse can range from: kissing, touching child’s genitals, breasts or buttocks inappropriately, sexual or digital penetration, pornography (forcing the child to view or use of the child in porn acts), child prostitution, exposure or “flashing” of body parts to the child, voyeurism (ogling of the child’s body), verbal pressure for sex etc.
Children’s interpretation of the abuse, whether or not they disclose the experience, and how quickly they report it also affects the short and long term consequences. Children who are able to confide in a trusted adult and who are believed, experience less trauma than children who do not disclose the abuse. Furthermore, children who disclose the abuse soon after its occurrence may be less traumatized than those children who live with the secret for years.
These effects vary depending upon the circumstances of the abuse and the child’s developmental stage but may include regressive behaviors (such as a return to thumb-sucking or bed-wetting), sleep disturbances, eating problems, behavior and/or performance problems at school, and nonparticipation in school and social activities. Some children run away from their homes and even commit suicide to get rid of the pain of the trauma they suffered due to the sexual abuse.
In an attempt to better understand the ill effects of child abuse, psychologists and other researchers have studied what factors may lessen the impact of the abuse. More research needs to be done, but, to date, factors that seem to affect the amount of harm done to the victim include the age of the child; the duration, frequency, and intrusiveness of the abuse; the degree of force used; and the relationship of the abuser to the child.
Some researchers have begun to look at the question of whether someone can recover from sexual abuse, and, if so, what factors help in that recovery. Children and adults who were sexually abused as children have indicated that family support, extra-familial support, high self-esteem, and spirituality were helpful in their recovery from the abuse.
• The typical advice “Don’t Talk to Strangers” doesn’t apply in this case. Most sexual perpetrators are known to their victims.
• Let children express affection on their own terms. Do not instruct them to be over friendly with relatives.
• Teach your children basic sexual education. Teach them that no one should touch the “private” parts of their body.
• Develop strong communication skills with your children. Encourage them to ask questions and talk about their experiences. Explain the importance of reporting abuse to you or another trusted adult.
• Teach your children that sexual advances from adults are wrong and against the law. Give them the confidence to assert themselves against any adult who attempts to abuse them.
• Teach your children that their bodies are their own. That it is OK to say they do not want a hug or that certain kinds of contact make them uncomfortable.
• It is important to remember that physical force is often not necessary to engage a child in sexual activity. Children are trusting and dependent and will often do what is asked of them to gain approval and love.
One of the worst things to happen to a child is abuse – whether physical, emotional, sexual, and educational or health neglect by parents/guardians. Any form of abuse robs the child of his/her childhood, innocence and their faith/trust in the world. Sexual abuse of a child is difficult to define due to varied forms of the abuse. The majority of sexual offenders are family members or people known to the child. Sexual abuse by strangers is not as common as sexual abuse by family members. Research shows that there are more cases of men being sexual offenders compared to women. It’s very difficult to get accurate statistical evidence about child sexual abuse due to under-reporting, confusion about what denotes sexual abuse, the child’s feelings of guilt and the social stigma attached. The Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act, 2012 regarding child sexual abuse has been passed by the both the houses of the Indian Parliament in May 2012. The Act came into force from 14 November 2012.
The Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse is a multilateral Council of Europe treaty whereby states agree to criminalize certain forms of sexual abuse against children. It is the first international treaty that addresses child sexual abuse that occurs within the home or family. Strict reforms are needed to deal with this matter which is of a grave concern. There should be strict laws against those committing this heinous crime. There should be severe punishments for the culprit to make him/her realize the gravity of the crime as its spoils the entire life of a person.
Countries like India, Afganistan, Nepal and Pakistan where culture, moral values and ethics are considered to be an integral part of the society are the countries suffering from child sex abuse the most. Pakistan ranking top amongst them. Society needs reformation. These are not the times to shut doors on the topics that are considered to be indecent. Child sex abuse is an ancient disease which is now becoming an epidemic. Changing times need changing remedies. Continuous efforts are needed to tackle this problem and remove it from its very roots. NGO’s along with the schools should conduct workshops for both parents and children to make them aware of the situation. To make it a topic of discussion and deliberation. This would be a step to create a healthy childhood and in turn a healthy and happy society. A smiling and healthy child is the shining face of a prosperous and healthy nation.