The Sound of Silence by Ishika Paruthi

1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys have been sexually abused before the age of 18 and in most cases, by someone they knew. “Perpetrators of child sexual abuse and assault are most typically:
• Male (more than 90%)
• A person known to the child (approximately 50%)
• A member of the child’s family (approximately 25–33%)
• Over age 18 (76.8%), although it is important to note that nearly 20% of perpetrators are between ages 12 and 17”

The effects of it is long lasting, traumatic and costly. Survivors usually feel powerless, exhibit depressive and self-harming behavior, may have unwanted pregnancies and experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD].

When the report on child sexual abuse was being released in 2011, the former women and child development minister Renuka Chowdhary said “Child abuse is shrouded in secrecy and there is a conspiracy of silence around the entire subject.” “One of the major problems in understanding the scope of the subject of ‘child abuse’ is that it is extremely difficult to get responses from children on such a sensitive subject because of their inability to fully understand the different dimensions of child abuse and to talk about their experiences. It is therefore difficult to gather data on abused children.” hence, most of the cases are not even reported. There is a very big need to raise awareness as to how to treat the survivors; we keep telling people what sexual abuse really is but we rarely tell them how to handle things if someone has been sexually abused.

According to CRY:
• 8,945 children go missing in India every year
• 500,000 children are estimated to be forced into the sex trade every year
• Approximately 2 million child commercial sex workers are between the ages of 5 and 15 years
• Approximately 3.3 million child commercial sex workers are between 15 and 18 years
• Children form 40% of the total population of commercial sex workers
• 80% of these children are found in the five metros – Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore
• 71% of them are illiterate.
Majority of these children are sexually abused! There is a need to teach not only the parents but also the children about the laws against child sexual abuse:
1. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act: it protects children below the age of 16 from being used for commercial sex.
2. The Juvenile Justice Act Section 26 (Exploitation of Juvenile or Child Employee): if a person employs a juvenile for hazardous employment, his law provides punishment for the same.
3. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act: this law makes it a punishable offence to marry girls under 18 years of age and boys under 21 years of age.
4. Protection of children from sexual offences (POCSO): this act provides a framework to protect children from sexual assault, harassment and pornography.
We need to understand that child sexual abuse, if we think about it properly, is about POWER. The victims are usually from a poor family and are harassed/abused by upper class people. People who commit these heinous crimes do it carelessly and know that the child won’t speak up and if he/she does no one would believe them. Hence, we need to sensitize our children about sexual abuse, private parts of the body, etc from a young age so, if something happens with them, they know what to do!
Teach your children to be sensitive, and to raise a voice if they see something wrong happening around them specially your male children.

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