Child sexual abuse is the most dilapitating thing a child could ever experience. Painfully, it is becoming more rampant than adult rape. A spurning feeling of disgust always stirs when news about a 40 year old raping a 2 year old child, for instance, comes on. You can’t help but wonder what kind of devil perpetuated such act. Child sexual abuse is any sexual activity between adults and minors or between two minors when one forces it on the other. This includes sexual touching acts like exhibitionism, exposure to pornography, solicitation of a child for prostitution, voyeurism and communication in a sexual way by phone, Internet or face-to-face.
About 70% of sexual assaults (including assaults on adults) are unreported, making it difficult to keep an exact record of assaults suffered. However, nearly 70% of all reported sexual assaults occur to children aged 17 and below. The large percentage makes it a primary concern to parents and authorities. There may be certain factors that make children susceptible to abuse but there is no vaccine that absolutely secures them. In other words, any child can be abused and by anyone. More rampant are cases where the child is abused by relatives or close family friends – in general, people they are familiar and comfortable with. Perpetrators report that they look for passive, quiet, troubled, lonely children from single parents or broken homes, or, children who are particularly trusting, establishing a trusting relationship with them (and their family) before abusing them.
Risk factors that increase the susceptibility of a child’s abuse range from (but are not limited to) family structure to gender, age and social environment but the most prevalent centers on the family. It is, in fact, the foundational problem. Children who live with both biological parents and in a stable modest home are at a lower risk of being abused than children living without either parents (adopted children), with a single parent, with negligent parents or parents who push sex education responsibilities to the school. Gender is also a major factor to consider as females are believed to be five times more likely to be abused than males. Children at all ages are at risk of abuse but most vulnerably at ages between 7 and 13. More than 20% of children are sexually abused before the age of 8. The environment the child grows in and interacts with is another keynote worth pointing out. The movies seen at home, unsupervised boy-girl relationships at mixed schools, the mode of dressing, languages used around the child all have a way of sending wrong messages that could reel a child into abuse before he/she even recognizes the situation as inappropriate.
Oftentimes, perpetrators use threats of violence or scary tales to keep children from disclosing the abuse. General threats and physical force are also used to prevent detection (because of the body’s ability to heal quickly). At other times, a child decides not to tell, choosing instead to bottle it up. However, there are detectable signs of possible sexual abuse viz genital irritation, infections or painful bowel movements, behavioural signs like depression, anxiety, anger, loss of appetite, withdrawal from normal activities, substance abuse, self mutilation, fear of certain places or people, bed-wetting, night sweats, nightmares and thoughts of suicide. Teen pregnancy, over-sexualized behaviour and STDs cannot be ruled out.
Is there a solution for this? Too many articles have been written about child abuse, too few reforms have been set in place to completely eradicate this crime. Long-term jail sentence and threats of extermination have done little to curb the increasing rate of abuse. The responsibility of tackling child abuse falls first to the parents. Parents should stop shifting sex education talks to the school. They are your kids, not the school’s. There are age appropriate sex education discussion for every age. Here’s a rough sketch:
Infant: Up to two years
Toddlers should be able to name all body parts including the genitals and be able to tell the difference between a male and female.
Early Childhood: Two to five years old
Children should understand the basis of reproduction: a man and woman make a baby together, and the baby grows in the woman’s uterus. They should understand their body is their own and the privacy around their body issues. They should know other people can touch them in some ways but not other ways.
Middle childhood: Five to eight years old
Children should know what the role of sexuality is in relationships and basic conventions of privacy, nudity and respect for others in relationships. Children should be taught the basics about puberty towards the end of this age span, as a number of children will experience some pubertal development before age 10. Their understanding of human reproduction should continue. This may include the role of sexual intercourse.
Tween years: Nine to twelve years old
In addition to reinforcing all the things above they have learned, tweens should be taught about safer sex and contraceptions. Tweens should understand what makes a positive relationship and a bad one. They should also learn to judge whether depictions of sex and sexuality in the media are true or false, realistic or not, and whether they are positive or negative.
Teenagers: Thirteen to eighteen years old
Teens are generally very private people. However, if parents have spoken to their child early about sex increases the chance that teens will approach parents when difficult or dangerous things come up, preventing them from being abused and abusing others.
If the foundation is solid and well laid, child abuse would be slowly but surely sucked out from the list of world’s menance. Let’s do all we can to save the next generation and the generations after that. It begins with a decision to try, and keep trying.