Child Sexual Abuse: An Overview by Nayanshree Hemlani

In the summer month of May, Steven was walking the lane which led him to his home. It was awfully quiet. His friend, Eric, was too sick to get out of bed today. Eric’s stupid jokes were better than this walk alone from school. Steven saw a man buying groceries from the supermarket. He looked at him and smiled. He smiled back. The man waved a candy at him, maybe he wanted me to cheer me up, Steven thought. He went towards that man to get that candy. The man asked him to get in his car, so that he could give him that candy. He went and sat in the car with him. But instead of giving him the candy, the man took Steven’s hand and kept it in his private place. He felt weak. He wanted to run away but the man didn’t let go of his hand. When he was done, he gave him the candy and opened the car door for him. He ran home. He did not tell his mom about the incident. He did not know what it was, only knew that it was bad.

Almost every child has a memory of sexual abuse from their childhood. Touching private parts in a crowded place (accidentally), showing pornographic images, masturbating, fondling, having intercourse etc are some of its forms. The list is long and the list of cases reported are negligible. The primary reason for the low rate in reporting of the abuse is the familial relation between the abuser and the child (almost equal to 90 percent). Fear of society, and family’s respect bound people from speaking against the crime. Another important reason is the lack of education about sexual abuse. In the story, the kid knew that it was bad, but he didn’t know that it was a crime.

Child sexual abuse traumatizes a child mentally and emotionally. They are more prone to post traumatic stress and other anxiety symptoms. The child who is abused can later engage into substance abuse and can cause the same harm to other children. Apart from this, the abuse severely affects the adolescent years of a child both mentally and physically. However, some children are at a higher risk of abuse than the others. Children who live receive less supervision or live with a single parent or whose parents are involved in drug abuse are at a greater risk. Social and economic factors are not the primary risk factors of child sexual abuse.

The problem of child sexual abuse is a challenging one but it can be overcome by taking a few steps towards identifying and dealing with it. The first step is providing awareness about the issue both at the urban and rural level. It is important for parents and schools to provide sex education to children below the age of 18. The second step can be to create a safe space for a child. With support and care, the child would feel comfortable sharing his/her experience of sexual abuse (if faced any) with the parents. If these steps are taken effectively, I hope that we can help children like Steven.

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