NON-REPORTING OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
Recently, I had the opportunity of speaking with adults who were sexually abused as children. Most of them remembered the incident quite clearly, but confessed that they never spoke up about it until they were much older and had progressed in their lives. The following are the key findings of my research, highlighting why these individuals held back from reporting what happened to them.
1. Perpetrators were family members – In most cases of child sexual abuse the abuser is either a family member, close relative or neighbour. Children share pre-existing familial ties with their abusers and do not speak up for fear of causing rifts within the family. The power dynamics between the abuser and the child often leads to the child remaining silent.
2. They did not understand that what happened to them was wrong – Since the abuser is often a family member whom the child trusts, they perceive the abuse to be part of a normal loving relationship. When the person who is expected to teach a child about what is appropriate and inappropriate themselves engages in egregious behaviour with the child, the child would not know any better. This is how the abuse would go completely unchecked.
3. They were afraid of repercussions – When the child does perceive a type behaviour to be inappropriate they would be afraid to report the behaviour to someone because they would be afraid that if the abuser would find out they will suffer worse consequences.
4. They did not think that people would believe them – If the abuser was a close family member, the children worried that no one else in the family would believe them if they reported the incident. This belief was also something which the abuser ingrained in the child.
5. They thought their friends would tease them – Even outside of the family, the children were reluctant to report their experiences to friends or teachers, for fear of being ridiculed.
I concluded, from my findings that the only way to combat this prevalent practice is to improve our communication with children, making them comfortable about reaching out for help and protect themselves, and also, to spread awareness so children know, that if they are being abused, they have a right to justice.