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The Least Talked About: Surge In Child Sexual Abuse Cases In Lockdown

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

*Trigger Warning: Child Sexual Abuse*

During these two months of lockdown, as the world dealt with an unprecedented pandemic, another paralytic bane of society grew unchecked. Child sexual abuse witnessed a dizzying rise during this period of lockdown, as reported by numerous news agencies across the country. 

The rise in these instances of violence within the family could be majorly attributed to the lockdown, but it highlights a more concerning situation. This lockdown seems to have only exacerbated an already abysmal situation in the country. More than 100 children were abused every single day in the country in the year 2018. 

Child sexual abuse increased during the lockdown.

The impact of the virus originating from Wuhan was most tangibly seen in sectors of the economy and social landscape. The lockdown was aimed at combating the detrimental effect on these sectors. What remained untouched was the mental health of people, which led to a huge spike in domestic violence and child abuse. 

The distress calls received on the child helpline 1098 increased more than 50% after March when the lockdown was announced. A letter had been written to the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde requesting him to take suo moto cognisance of an increase in the number of child abuse cases during the lockdown. 

What has been equally distressing is the rise in consumption of child porn by more than 95%, despite the government’s efforts to ban websites that had content related to child pornography. 

It is not considered safe for children who have been abused sexually to stay at home as it results in further suffering and trauma at the hands of their family members. During the lockdown, however, there has been no other alternative available to these children. The isolation has led to the absolute devastation of help networks and focus groups aimed at helping survivors and tackling child abuse.

Given the situation and the statistics, the government should take immediate steps to mitigate child abuse. The lockdown, which undisputedly led to increased psychological distress, mental health problems, financial stress and numerous other issues, has worsened the situation, with no aid in sight for the survivors. 

The most pertinent reason for the rise in cases could be attributed to survivors’ lack of access to safety. In normal times, someone living with an abuser and feeling unsafe might be able to place a phone call to a help hotline, police or a friend or family member who might be able to help when the abuser is at work or out of the house.

Under the lockdown, however, the abuser may never leave the house long enough for that call to take place.

This trend is not only in our country but all over the world. Children who have been abused, worldwide, have suffered through literally the worst 2 months someone could have possibly imagined. Several factors have played a role in bringing the situation to this alarming level, screaming for immediate action by child welfare committees, governments and other bodies focused on tackling child abuse.

This also raises questions as to whether the lockdown itself was worth all this hassle — and if yes, then what steps could have been forethought and prepared to prevent such an atrocious situation for children who have been abused.

Featured image provided by the author

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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