WHAT IS CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE? (CSA)
Child sexual abuse or child molestation is a form of child abuse in which an adult or an older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation. Forms of child sexual abuse include asking or pressurizing a child to engage in sexual activities(regardless of the outcome), indecent exposure to a child with the intent to gratify their own sexual desires or to intimidate or groom the child, physical sexual contact with a child or using a child to produce child pornography. – (Wikipedia)
The effects of child sexual abuse can include depression, post –traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and likelihood of further victimization in adulthood apart from physical injury to the child. Physical effects of CSA in most cases can be observed as injury (depends on the degree of force used), infections and neurological damage caused due to the stress occurring as a result of such abuse. – (Wikipedia)
Do not make the mistake of thinking that such things do not happen to our children. CSA can happen to any child anywhere, especially if the child is vulnerable due to lack of awareness or is unable to access the parent to confide such delicate issues. Children and adolescents, regardless of their caste/creed, sex, culture or economic status seem to be vulnerable for sexual abuse.
The most common and shocking thing is that majorities of sexual offenders are family members or are otherwise known to the child. Sexual abuse by strangers is also a common possibility. But many cases are reported where in the known uncle, cousin, friend, brother’s friend, van driver, school helper, office boy or house helper etc have been the offenders. Men are known to be more common offenders than women.
THE EFFECTS OF CSA:
A child who has been sexually abused can suffer many psychological and behavioral problems, from mild to severe, in both the short and long term. These problems may include sulking, anger, frustration, being moody, apathy, depression, anxiety, guilt, fear, sexual dysfunction, withdrawal, and acting out. There are times when victims of sexual abuse may also develop fear and anxiety regarding the opposite sex or sexual issues and may display inappropriate sexual behavior.
A child who has been abused or is being abused need not necessarily suffer from or display some or any of the above mentioned symptoms or conditions. Another important issue is that a child suffering or displaying any of the above listed symptoms or conditions need not be a case of CSA too. The list above is of generally observed conditions which have been put together by a host of researches. Just like each child is unique, so are their reactions to the stimulus or situations. But it always helps for you to know the effects of CSA and be alert and aware.
HELPING A CHILD RECOVER FROM CSA:
Children’s recollections of the abuse, whether or not they disclose the experience, and how early they report it, affects the consequences of abuse. It is found that family support, extra-familial support like counseling; high self-esteem and passage of time were helpful in their recovery from the abuse.
The abuser may have even threatened the child to keep it a secret or something will happen/ he will cause harm to the parents. Reassure him that you will be safe and his sharing this experience with you will not result in the abuser harming him or yourself.
It is important for the parents to help the victim of abuse to be free of guilt about the abuse.
Counseling and other support services are also important for the parents of abused children and for the abused child too.
One of the main contributing factors to the child’s quick and complete recovery from the abuse experience is the amount of trust, support, empathy and unconditional love the child gets from the parents when he is victimized.
PROTECTING OUR CHILD FROM CSA:
- Your usual advice “Don’t Talk to Strangers” doesn’t apply in this case. Most sexual perpetrators are familiar to their victims.
- Basic sexual education is a must for any child. Keep the information you give them on sex age appropriate. Teach them that no one should touch the “private” parts of their body and also that they should identify the “good” touch and the “bad” touch even as early as the child is 3 years old. For a 5 year old, teach them not to allow anyone to touch their private parts. In case there such an event, instruct them to scream and get help.
- Teach your children that their bodies are their own. Please remember not to use words like dirty or shame while talking about the private parts. Inform your children that sexual advances from adults are wrong.
- Do not instruct children to give relatives hugs and kisses. Let them express affection on their own terms.
- Develop strong communication skills with your children. Encourage them to ask questions and talk about their experiences. Explain the importance of reporting abuse to you or another trusted adult.
- Give them the confidence to say ‘NO’ to any adult who attempts to abuse them.
- It is very important for you to know your child’s friends and their families. When they plan a stay over party, please be aware of who the adult in charge of the children is and how responsible the person is. Ensure that the children are safe and are not exposed to strangers without surveillance.
- Advise your child to never get into an unknown car or a house.
WHAT TO DO IF A CHILD REPORTS OF CSA?
From the beginning, bestow your child with a safe environment in which he can to talk to you or another trusted adult. Encourage the child to talk about what he has experienced, but be careful to not suggest events to him or her that may not have happened.
Be very guarded against displaying emotions that would influence the child’s narration of the event. Reassure the child that he or she did nothing wrong in a comforting tone. Do not panic. Instead, control your emotions at that moment and focus on the child’s frame of mind. Never shout at him or react violently to the episode. This will only make it more miserable for the child and he feels he is guilty.
Arrange for a medical check-up with your pediatrician. Before you take your child to the doctor, explain to him about the doctor examining the private parts. Good family support helps your child recover from this experience.
The abuser might have threatened the child of dire consequences if he discloses this to the parent. Comfort him and reassure him about your safety. Please be interactive with your child.
Prepare him/her for the ways of the world. Use the right words so that they don’t get scared of people. Reinforce their ability to trust people.