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 email@example.com. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.