Child Sexual Abuse – Myths vs Facts

Generally anything involving the word ‘sex’ is considered taboo in our society. So why this post on such a topic? Well, recently I interacted with someone who has done her Masters in Psychology during which she worked on studying child sexual abuse in India. She is not from India. This came as a boon since her observations were devoid of the prejudices and stereotypes of our society. The insights that I gained from her study challenged many of my perceptions I had on this subject. So here is a highlight of them.

Defining what constitutes child sexual abuse is not as easy as it may appear at first glance. But in the context of this post, it’s not crucial to define child sexual abuse formally. Still if you want to know, child sexual abuse as defined by 1999 W.H.O. (World Health Organizations) Consultation on Child Abuse Prevention states it as mentioned below.

Child sexual abuse is the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared and cannot give consent, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society. Child sexual abuse is evidenced by this activity between a child and an adult or another child who by age or development is in a relationship of responsibility, trust or power, the activity being intended to gratify or satisfy the needs of the other person.

In our society, we face child sexual abuse in two forms. One is the case of child trafficking carried with the intent of sexual exploitation. In such a scenario, we can’t play a major role unless we choose to become a part of the system/organizations fighting this problem since it’s a highly organized activity involving many socioeconomically powerful people. The other scenario involves the sexual abuse that happens in places as common as households with the children we may know. This is where we (yes! you and I) can play a crucial role in being part of the solution.

Here are few things that I found out which busted some myths and highlighted some reasons.

In India, among sexually abused children, nearly half of them are boys. It’s not something that happens to girls only. So we need to watch out for our boys as well. Bottom line is any child can be a target.

In our culture, we have this unsaid rule that elders are always right. We emphasize this even more to the kids. This adds fuel to the problem of child sexual abuse. Even a young kid has an intuition of safe and unsafe touch. But when an elder, who is not a stranger, does something to children that they don’t understand but which doesn’t feel good, they are left puzzled with the experience. The emphasis that we give to people’s righteousness based on their age often becomes one of the reasons why children don’t talk about the abuse to anyone.

One of the myths is that pedophiles are always child sexual abusers. This may sound too advanced to talk about in our society but I’ll take a shot. Pedophilia is a psychological disorder where an adult feels attracted towards children sexually. But this doesn’t make them an abuser. In fact some of the people suffering from pedophilia know that it’s wrong and try not to feel that way. Though there is hardly any support available for such people. The literature shows that more than half of the child sexual abusers are not pedophiles and many of the pedophiles never molest any kid.

Lastly, we don’t need to make the child feel like a victim by giving all the pitiful attention. That’s unwanted and unnecessary. Just let them know that it wasn’t their fault and help them move on from it.

Also don’t overhype this. Just inform the kids basic things like they have a right to their body and they can say NO to elders if things don’t feel good. Keep a keen eye towards kids. Create an atmosphere where kids are able to talk about if anything bad happens to them.

A little awareness can save an individual from a lot of troubles in future.

Hope this helps 🙂

P.S.: If you have anything to share on this topic, then comment or reach out to me at himshi.bachchas@gmail.com.

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