Articles

 

CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE – A HIDDEN EPIDEMIC

 

Child Sexual Abuse is a hidden epidemic gradually eating deep into our society.  Unfortunately people hardly speak about it due to our culture and fear of stigmatization. Our children are sexually abused secretly even by the people they love and depend on.  This has brought about long term emotional and psychological effect on these vulnerable children. 

 

It is unfortunate that parents and guardians do not have enough information to help prevent this social canker from spreading.  While at work, the lives of our lovely children are entrusted into the hands relatives, lesson teachers, swimming instructors, domestic staff and family friends who at one point or the other secretly abuse our children. No parent will like to go through the effect of this epidemic which is sometimes permanent in the lives of children.

 

A TRUE LIFE STORY

 

I recently had a talk on sexual abuse with some teenage girls in a boarding school;let me share with you a pathetic true life story of one of them who at the age of five experienced sexual abuse.

 

Eight years ago, I was an innocent five year old girl looking forward to a beautiful holiday with my lovely grandma.  One day she left me with the gateman – Baba.  Yes Baba, that’s what I heard grandma call him. 

 

I can still remember that fateful day; yes the day grandma left me with Baba.   “I will soon be back”, Grandma said to me.  “Baba, please take care of her, I will not be long”, she continued.  Grandma waved at me, while I waved back holding Betty, my hairy doll on my left hand.  I then walked back to the corridor of my grandma’s three bedroom bungalow, playing with Betty.  Little did I know that trouble was lurking around the corner.

 

Then he called me, I mean Baba the gateman.  I ran into his small room, the gatehouse, leaving Betty on the floor.  Then he pulled my pants down.  I could not remember what Baba did, but it was very painful.  Then he said in Pidgin English, “No tell Mama o, I go kill you if you tell am”.  I nodded. 

 

How happy I was to see grandma back.  I sobbed.  She taught I was hungry.  “Oh dear, you must very hungry, I bought biscuit and orange juice for you”, she said.  Oh how I wanted to tell her that I was not hungry, rather how Baba caused me pain.

 

A week later, grandma had to leave me with Baba again.  “Please grandma, I want to go with you”, I said to her.  She declined.  “Baba will take good care of you, my dear”, she said.  Baba smiled at me. “No grandma, I want to follow you”, I insisted.  “Don’t worry, I will soon be back”, she said.  Mama left without me.  Baba did it again, this time it was more hurting.  He did it three times before my mum came for me.  When I returned home, Mum noticed that I was not eating well.  “My dear daughter, are you missing grandma’s cooking”? , she asked.  I could not just tell my mum about what Baba did, not when I think of his death threat. 

 

Each time my mum and I visit grandma, I always cling to her so tightly.  Baba always looked at me with his prying eyes.  I hated him with a passion.

 

Now I am thirteen years old, a teenager. Eight years after I still feel the pain in my heart.  I hardly socialize or make friends.  Sometimes I still experience nightmares and Baba’s image keeps appearing in my imagination. I heard Baba, the gateman died two years ago leaving behind the memory of his torture in my heart.

 

This is one true story out of thousands of children sexually-abused in our society.  I had the privilege of counselling this teenager and guess what? She broke the silence after eight years of emotional torture! You can imagine how many children are going through this without getting help.

 

FACTS ABOUT CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

 

-       World Health Organization Research has shown that one out of every three girls and one out of every six boys will have experienced one form of sexual abuse before attaining the age of eighteen.

 

-       In 1999, World Health Organization (WHO) declared Child Sexual Abuse a PUBLIC HEALTH EPIDEMIC.

 

-       In 2004, WHO declaredChild Sexual Abuse as a major factor fuelling HIV/AIDS and therefore declared it a SILENT EPIDEMIC.

 

WHAT IS CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE?

 

Child Sexual Abuse is the involvement of a child in any sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend and is unable to give informed consent to.  It is also any sexual activity a child is not developmentally prepared and cannot give consent. Child Sexual Abuse is a form of abuse in which an adult, a teenager or an older child uses a child for sexual stimulation to satisfy a sexual lust.

 

There are two categories of Child Sexual Abuse:-

 

1.      Physical Contact (Touch)

 

2.      Non-Physical Contact (Non-touch)

 

Physical Contact (Touch)

 

This involves an adult touching or fondling of a child’s private body parts such as the genital areas, laps, buttocks etc.  It also takes place when an adult forces a child to touch or fondle his or her genital area.

 

The physical contact involves fingering a child’s vagina, penis or anus with the intention of getting a sexual satisfaction. Fingering could be in the form of using an object or the finger.  When an adult rapes or forcefully have sexual intercourse with a child, then child sexual abuse has taken place. Non-physical contact also involves oral sex, vaginal or oral intercourse/penetration.

 

 

 

Non-Physical Contact (Non-Touch)

 

Non-physical contact as the name depicts, does not involve touching.  This is what makes child sexual abuse a silent/hidden epidemic.  Many children have been abused through this means without the knowledge of parents.

 

The non-touch involves an adult forcing a child to expose his/her private body parts.  When an adult also exposes his/her private body parts to a child, then child sexual abuse has occurred.

 

Voyeurism or “Peeping Tom” is an act of peeping to see the nakedness of a child with or without his/her knowledge.  For example, peeping through the door hole of a bathroom to watch a child having her bath.  Non-physical abuse also takes place when an adult asks a child to watch him/her masturbate or have sex.

 

Exposing a child to sexual materials such as magazines, watching “blue films” or x-rated films, pornographic pictures etc are all sexual abuse.

 

Taking the picture of a child naked i.e. child pornography is also a non-touch form of child sexual abuse. Child Sexual Abuse also takes place when an adult or an older adolescent “flashes” genitals at a child.

 

Incest also takes place when a blood relative (parent, siblings, cousin, nephew, aunty etc) have sexual intercourse with a child.

 

CHILD SEXUAL ABUSERS

Research has show that over 90% of sexual abusers are people they are familiar with.  They are people we entrust the lives of our children to. Children look up to these categories of people for protection in one form or the other. Sexual abusers could male or female of any age, different socio-economic groups, ethnic classes, educated or illiterate, employed or unemployed, rich or poor.Unfortunately it doesn’t show on the face! Adults who take delight in sexually abusing only children are called Paedophiles.

Let us see a graphical analysis of child sexual abusers:-

 

      30% relatives – siblings, fathers, mothers, step-fathers and mothers, uncles, cousins, nephews, aunties and other blood relatives.

      60% - friends of the family, nanny, neighbors, gateman, Driver, Gardner, lesson teacher, swimming instructor, school teacher, the Clergy etc.

      10% - strangers.

WARNING SIGNS OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

Often there are no clear external signs of child sexual abuse, but some signs can only be detected on physical examination by a physician.Although not all these signs could necessarily indicate that a child has been sexually abused, they may help adults/parents recognized that something is wrong with their child.

The possibility of abuse should be investigated if a child shows a number of these symptoms or any of them to a certain degree.

These signs are Physical, Behavioural or Psychological.

Physical Signs

-       Difficulty in walking or sitting.

-       Feeling pain while urinating or having a bowel movement.

-       Vaginal Tears

-       Medical problems such as chronic itching, pain in the genitals, Veneral diseases, HIV/AIDS

-       Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

-       Nightmares – waking up at night sweating, screaming or shaking.

-       Baby removing pampers and deeping finger into the vagina.

-       Resuming Bedwetting

-       Signs of blood, bruises on the laps, breast etc.

-       Teenage pregnancy.

Behavioural or Psychological Signs

-       Showing aggressive behaviour toward family members, teachers, friends etc.

-       Always isolated and withdrawn.

-       Depressed and Lonely

-       Loss of appetite (Insomnia) or compulsive eating.

-       Showing unusual fear of a certain place or location especially when a child says, “Mum, I don’t want to go there anymore”.

-       When a child is scared of being left alone and child says, “Please do not go without me”.

-       Having unexplained periods of panic, which may be flashbacks from the abuse.

-       Indicating a sudden reluctance to be alone with certain persons.  When a child says, “I don’t want to stay with him anymore”.

-       Withdrawing from previously enjoyable activities, school performance changes and lack of concentration.

-       Asking unusual questions about human sexuality.

-       When a child does not want to change clothes in front of others.

-       Runs away from home.

-       Suddenly drawing sexually explicit pictures.

-       Being too affectionate for the child’s age.

-       Engaging in persistent sexual play with friends, toys or pets.

-       Self-mutilations, such as sticking themselves with pins or cutting themselves.

 

EFFECTS OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

If a sexually abused child does not undergo proper counselling and rehabilitation, he or she will definitely experience short and long term effect of child sexual abuse.

The impact of sexual abuse on children can be overwhelming and long-lasting. Since children are offended by someone they should be able to trust and depend on, they may not comprehend the fact that the abuse was wrong and not their fault.

Sexually-abused children usually feel that something is wrong with them and that the abuse that took place is their own fault.  Parents tend to show disbelieve when their children tell them of an abuse.  This will cause a devastating effect on them.  Consequently, these victims may feel embarrassed, isolated, guilty, shameful, and powerless. The effects of sexual abuse are powerful and will definitely reflect later in life.

Immediate effects of child sexual abuse

The victim's initial response to sexual abuse is usually horror and disbelief. This may be followed by fear, maybe due to the threat of the sexual offender. Sexual abuse may or may not result in physical injury. He or she feels dirty both internally and externally which could affect the self-image and self-esteem of the victim.

The victim of sexual abuse may become confused, frightened and depressed. These emotions can continue for a very long time. A child victim may become withdrawn and isolated. The abused may even carry the blame in his heart. They may be overwhelmed by guilt and shame.

Long-term effects of child sexual abuse

For long term effects, victims of sexual abuse may develop of symptoms of stress disorders. For children, the guilt, fear, shame, andanger brought on by sexual abuse, if attention is not given, can last into adulthood.

Longterm effects of sexual abuse can include chronic anxiety, low self-esteem, and problems with intimacy and sexuality. Some victims may have hatred for the opposite sex.  Victims may become severely depressed and even suicidal. They may suffer from alcohol or drug abuse. Many victims also experience marital and family challenges.Other effects include sleeplessness (insomnia), social isolation, and Relationship problems such as an inability to trust, poor social skills or reluctance to disclose details about themselves. They also experience sexual difficulties such as fear of sex or intimacy, frigidity, indiscriminate multiple sex partners or difficulty in reaching orgasm. Some victims may even become promiscuous or homosexuals as they grow into adulthood.

HOW TO PROTECT CHILDREN FROM SEXUAL ABUSE

Prevention is better than cure.  Parents do not have to wait until the deed is done before looking for preventive measures.  Every child is at risk of being sexually abused.  Sexual abuse in children is a crime that we can go a long way to prevent. 

 

EDUCATE YOUR CHILD

Knowledge is power. In our day to day lives, we educate our children about the danger of fire, electricity, snakes, cars, crossing the road, social etiquette, respect for elders, using the seat belt etc.Unfortunately, we hesitate to enlighten our children about the dangers that exist in sexual abuse. Some people are worried that information about child sexual abuse can scare children.

Though it can be a scary topic, but so is drowning, burning or being knocked down by a car. Other people are concerned that this information may undermine a child’s innocence but nothing undermines a child's inexperience like the experience of sexual abuse. Besides, most children are taught not to talk to strangers because they can be harmed, but there are some known family members who can harm your child. Most children are not assaulted by strangers but by people known and trusted both by children and their parents.We do not want to teach children that they cannot trust any adult because most adults are not possible sex offenders, but we do need to teach children and adults to be familiar with danger signs and to emphasize children's strengths and abilities in reacting to unsafe situations. A handbook for children authored by me on child sexual abuse is now on available to give our children proper information on what sexual abuse is all about.

TEACH YOUR CHILD THE PROPER NAMES OF BODY PARTS/SEX EDUCATION

Even as adults, we prefer giving some parts of our body pet names such as “private part”, “down there”, “the part where swimming suits cover”.  There is nothing wrong in teaching our children the proper names for their body parts.   When you teach children the proper names for their body parts, they will be in a proper position to name what is happening to them should someone touch them in an offensive manner.  If a child uses proper names, everybody will be in a position to know exactly what they are referring to, and minimizing the likelihood of misunderstanding.  Experts advice that parents should commence teaching their children sex education from age three.  From my experience, many parents do not even know what to say to their children. I’ll advice that you get books and other materials that will give you more information on sex education.  If you don’t teach them, someone else will, which may definitely be the wrong information.

TEACH YOUR CHILD DEFENSIVE SKILLS

Parents have to teach their children that their body belongs to them! They have a right to decide what they do with their body, who touches their body, and how someone touches their body. They also have a right over their bodies as adults do.

Teach your child to value their body by teaching them to respect other people's body.  Adults should also respect children’s wishes.  Let them know that no one has the right to touch them without their permission.  Do not force your child to hug or kiss any relative if he or she doesn’t want to. Allow them reject such gestures politely.

Children must know that it is not right if anyone forces them to touch his or her private body part. They must say “NO” to whoever gives them a sexual touch. Children should tell the person “I don’t like it” and the touching must stop immediately. If the person continues, they should call for help and get away from such person. Children can scream as loud as they can as they will not be punished for shouting. They must get help and tell a trusted adult and never stay alone with that person again.

TEACH THEM TO SAY “NO”

In our culture, children are normally taught not to say NO to an adult, this shows a sign of disrespect.  Sexual abusers generally take advantage of this to perpetrate their plans. Teach your children that they have the right to say “NO” when someone touches their vagina, penis, buttocks or breast. Tell children to trust their feelings and if they are not comfortable, it’s okay to say “NO”. Let your children know that it is not appropriate to keep secrets!If an adult touches a child in wrong places, that should not be a secret.  The child has to tell.

COMMUNICATION

It is very important to keep an open communication with your children.  This way, children will know that they are free to discuss anything with their parents. Your relationship with your children must be positive. You have to be a 21st Century parents or else you will be left behind.  Keep your “doors” always open for children to come in.

Apart from communication, you will need to spend time, I mean real quality time. We live in a society where work and money is at the center of our lives.  Parents have to take a decision to make their family first in their lives. Make your family priority no matter what. Always pay good attention to your children.

Finally, let me assure you that the best way to prevent child sexual abuse is to spend time and pay attention to the day to day live of your children.The only reason why child abuse is alive today is because we as adults fail our children, when we fail to listen to them.  Listen to a child today.  Heather McClane

Follow us...
 
 
Watch Our Videos


Facebook Fan