1. How can sexual abuse impact a child?
The impact of sexual abuse varies from child to child. Some children are more resilient to the effects and are able to channelize the coping mechanisms to fight and heal. For example if a child is naturally more resilient and accepts that it wasn’t his/her fault, they can channel the energy in ways that helps him/her grow out of this experience. For most, however the damage can be enormous with the impact still being felt in their adulthood, affecting several aspects of their life. Often children who face CSA have issues managing their feelings and can even develop a mental health condition such as depression and anxiety disorders.
2. How can we keep our children safe?
While it is quite unsettling to accept the reality of child sexual abuse, there are ways to prevent it. these are some measures we can take to keep children safe:
- Removing the shame regarding private body parts by teaching them the right names and giving age appropriate sexuality related information.
- Making sure to avoid one-on-one adult and child situations such as leaving one adult or older child alone with younger ones alone in a room.
- Intervene when you see someone showering extra attention to a child or group of children when it seems unnecessary. It can be done politely by just informing the person that the kid/s do not look okay with this kind of attention so s/he should let them be alone/ go to some other trusted adult.
- Community groups can be formed to talk about this concern so that people are available for support if needed.
- Letting kids decide their body boundaries and empowering them to say “No” when they are uncomfortable with anyone’s touch, which also includes saying no to an aunty who pinch their cheeks or even shaking hands with an uncle. Parents need to support their kids so they can politely decline such advances.
- Training communities and school staff etc to be more aware of this issue and keeping children safe.
3. Are boys safer than girls when it comes to child sexual abuse?
No. There is no such distinction when it’s about Child Sexual Abuse. Although due to gender stereotypes and cultural conditioning we tend to think that girls are more likely get abused, whereas various studies show that boys can get abused as much as girls. The MWCD (Ministry of Women and Child Development) study revealed that 53% of boys and 47% of girls, of varied age and background, have been reported of being sexually abused. Thus it is necessary that we take care of a boy’s safety as much as we care of a girl’s.
4. Which children can be more at risk for Child Sexual Abuse than others?
While it is true that any child can face sexual abuse, there are a few factors which can make children more vulnerable to it. Following are some of such factors,
- Children who are neglected or don’t receive affection from their family
- Children with intellectual or physical disability
- Children in war-torn or conflict-ridden places
- Children from marginalised communities such as children of commercial sex-workers, children who are transgender, etc..
- Children who are psychologically distressed or facing a mental health issues.
We need to keep it in mind that these are just some factors and may not be all inclusive. However things such as Child’s attire, social & economic status or qualification of parents do not make children more/less prone to CSA.
5. Will sexual abuse scar my child for life?
No, If the necessary steps are taken to help the child towards recovery the child can recover from the trauma that he/she has experienced and they can live a healthy life. The first two steps towards a healthy recovery are:
a) Instilling confidence in the child, that you believe in what they have said, and that you’re by their side, means a great deal for the child in these stages.
b) Assure them that whatever happened was never their fault and they had nothing to do with it as many children blame themselves for the abuse.
Beyond this, with professional help the child could benefit as most often emotional problems in adulthood stem from traumatic events they experienced in their childhood.
6. Why is it so difficult for children to tell their parents about sexual abuse?
There are many understandable reasons why a child victim of sexual abuse is not likely to tell anyone about their abuse. Some of the most common are:
- Most abusers “groom” the child in a way they feel too scared to share about the abuse. If the perpetrator is a parent or caregiver then children frequently remain silent to protect a non-abusive parent from upsetting information.
- Sometimes, a child may be confused if they experienced positive physical pleasure, arousal, or emotional intimacy from the abuse. This confusion can make it difficult for the child to speak up.
- A child may feel that they permitted the abuse and should have been able to stop it. Remember that there are no situations where a child is responsible for any sexual interaction with a more powerful child or adult.
- Perhaps the child is unable to express such an encounter because of lack of communication between the child and his/her parent or any other adult, specially regarding such context.