In Pakistan, Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is one of the least acknowledged and yet most serious form of child abuse. There have been a number of cases of Child Sexual Abuse including the brutal rape of a 5-year old in Lahore a year ago that caught the media’s attention. We know though that as tragic as these cases were, there are thousands of sexually abused children whose cases are unreported and who are unable to get the support and attention they so desperately need.
The biggest hurdles are the lack of awareness of this issue, the non-availability of supporting data specific to CSA and the absence of effective laws for the protection and safety of children.
Let’s learn more about what exactly CSA is and what myths actually make it harder to protect the innocent.
What is Child Sexual Abuse?
Child sexual abuse is any activity in which an adult or older child uses a child in a sexual way. Child Sexual Abuse is one of the least talked about forms of child abuse. A child may be sexually abused by a stranger or by someone s/he knows. When the abuser is the child’s relative by blood or by law, this is called ‘incest’.
Examples of child sexual abuse include:
- Sexual touching
- Exposing children to adult sexual activity or sexual movies/videos/e-mail/photographs; or having children pose, undress or perform in a sexual way on film/video/computer or in person
- Showing a child one’s own sexual organs
- “Peeping” into bathrooms or bedrooms to spy on a child
- Sex talk/comments/jokes with a child
- Oral sex
- Rape or attempted rape
MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
Child sexual abuse occurs mostly in the uneducated class and slum areas.
Fact: Research from all over the world has shown that CSA can occur in all socioeconomic classes and in families with varying educational levels.
Boys are almost never sexually abused.
Fact: Boys are as vulnerable to child sexual abuse as girls. While girls are more likely to be victims of incest, in the case of boys, the abuse usually takes place outside the home.
Sometimes it is the child’s fault if s/he is sexually abused.
Fact: Sexual abuse is never the fault of the child. The responsibility of the abuse always lies with the older person, who knows the adverse effects of this act on a child.
If a victim of abuse talks about his/her experience, it does more harm than good.
Fact: Clinical experience has shown that it is very difficult for the child to forget an experience of sexual abuse. Studies have also shown that children who were given emotional support upon disclosure were able to cope with the abuse better than those who were not given any support.
Abusers are usually strangers to the child.
Fact: In the majority of cases, abusers are older children or adults known to the child. Many times, abuse occurs by people the child trusts and respects.
Sexual abuse is usually accompanied by violence or force.
Fact: No violence or physical force is used in the majority of cases of child sexual abuse. Instead the abuser is able to convince the child not to tell by using bribes or verbal threats.
Very young children are not abused. It usually happens to adolescents.
Fact: Child sexual abuse can and does happen to children of every age. However, 6-10 years is reported as the most vulnerable age.
Abusers look abnormal and are mentally ill.
Fact: Almost all abusers appear quite normal and are not mentally ill. These people can be rich or poor, educated or uneducated. They may even be people holding important and responsible posts and whom people trust completely. They could be judges, teachers, doctors, nurses or lawyers.
Often, children make up stories or lie about being abused.
Fact: It takes a lot of courage for a child to come out and talk about a thing like abuse. The fact is that in the majority of cases, children do not report the abuse.
Women cannot be abusers.
Fact: Women can also be abusers, although the percentage is much smaller than that of men.
Child Sexual Abuse happens because the abusers are sexually frustrated.
Fact: Individuals who are sexual offenders against children do not seem to be motivated primarily by sexual frustration. In fact, Child Sexual Abuse always takes place when the abuser is or thinks s/he is more powerful than the victim.