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6 Ways In Which Sexual Abuse Can Impact A Child, And 6 Ways In Which You Can Help

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By Hemangi Chakravarty:

Paedophilia and Child Sexual Abuse are just as true and, sadly, as omnipresent as any other social evil. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 defines Paedophilia as a disorder due to which a person experiences intense and recurrent sexual urges and fantasies about pre-pubescent children. These raging feelings compel one to act on the same, and cause distress and difficulties until their gratification occurs. This is one of the main causes of child sexual abuse, in which an adult uses a child or an adolescent for the former’s pleasure and sexual gratification.

Child Sexual Abuse is an issue that has been found to be deeply rooted in societal history, and it mars even the early history of the nation (Deb,2002; Iravani, 2011). Around 18-50% of the nation’s children have experienced it in some form (Deb and Walsh, 2012).

While half of the perpetrators were found to be family members, someone from the family knew in 80% of the cases (Iravani, 2011). Nevertheless, Andy Beckett reports that the first responses of most people range between paranoia and denial.

It is certainly devastating to even imagine our beloved friends, siblings, relatives and children to have ever undergone such an experience. However, we just cannot let a child be harmed by any further delay in acknowledging the problem.

Even if cases of male child sex abuse aren’t really brought to light, this doesn’t negate the occurrence of the event in any way. Researchers have often reported finding little or no difference in the actual occurrence of Child Sexual Abuse between either gender, all over the world. According to some, boys were subjected to such abuse more often (John Jay College, 2004; Parkinson et al., 2010).

Further evidence suggests that male victims are more likely than female victims to have experienced same-sex molestation, greater violence. and physical harm during the abuse, and are more likely to have been victimized by multiple perpetrators (Steever, Follette, & Naugle, 2001). 13 to 61% of children who come out of the closet as homosexual, transsexual, or queer also face such social evils as a part of hate-motivated violence.

As you must have figured out by now, Child Sexual Abuse has a nightmarish effect on the rest of the survivor’s life. Some of those effects are:-

1) Such experiences have a strong probability of leading to anxiety-related disorders, low self-esteem, and self-destructive behaviours like alcohol abuse.

2) The survivors may continue to be fearful of anyone who looks similar to their abuser, and thus face difficulties in social relationships.

3) They may also face difficulties in forming adult relationships, particularly if physical intimacy is involved in it.

4) The survivors of child sexual abuse tend to have dysfunctional or developmentally inappropriate shaping of their own sexuality, as well as their idea of intercourse. In fact, they might even grow mistrustful of adults and withdraw into their own shells.

5) Furthermore, these survivors would naturally feel anger towards their perpetrator. It’s also very likely for them to lose trust in the adults who were unable to protect them. However, they would feel powerless and stigmatized because their personal space and body is violated repeatedly against their will.

6) Lastly, it is unfortunate that they often have 13.7 times greater likelihood of falling prey to re-victimization, suicidal ideation and attempts to end their own lives.

Isn’t it important to respond in the right way to every form and incidence of Child Sexual Abuse? Here are a few tips for the same:-

1) Look out for symptoms: If the child has suddenly become cranky, shows signs of regression, seems extremely afraid of someone or a certain type of people, has trouble sleeping and seems to have withdrawn etc, something might be troubling them.

2) Be open to what your child is trying to tell you: It is usually very difficult for a child to define the issue of their abuse. However, any experience of this kind will harm them immeasurably. If your child is trying to express any matter or experience that is even hinting at sexual abuse, it is best to listen to it with an open mind.

3) A child will not always spell it out for you: Many children are unable to talk about such experiences out of shame, fear, or just not knowing how to “talk” about it. They may be unbelievably young in some cases. However, they might describe their plight by drawing, enactment, storytelling and playing.

4) Help the child understand it is not their fault: Usually, the molesters make the child feel like the molestation is their fault and the world will hate the child for it. Help the child understand they are not at fault and will be loved nonetheless. Also, help them feel more protected. Distancing them from the molester is crucial.

5) The molester must be punished: It doesn’t matter whether the molester was a stranger or a dear one. They deserve punishment for harming the child, whatever excuse they may have. The process may be liberating for you in some cases and hurtful in others, but a heinous crime committed by a dear one is just as heinous, if not more so.

6) Consult a therapist: Such experiences are certainly traumatizing for the child, even if they seem to be too small to understand it. It is mandatory to take the help of a counsellor to help the child deal with the trauma in a healthy manner.

We may thus conclude that child sexual abuse is a menace that can ruin the lives of children. Nevertheless, you can safeguard as well as help yours by taking the right steps.


The author is an editor and junior therapist at ‘Mind Solace‘.

If you are a survivor, parent or guardian who wants to seek help for child sexual abuse, or know someone who might, you can dial 1098 for CHILDLINE (a 24-hour national helpline) or email them at dial1098@childlineindia.org.in. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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