By World News Report Bureau
Here are a few uncomfortable facts which no government or parent may want to face.
Nearly a quarter of young adults have experienced sexual abuse (contact and non-contact), by an adult or by a peer during childhood and around 11% of young adults experienced contact sexual abuse during their childhood a study by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) a charity campaigning and working in child protection in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands observe.
According to yet another UNICEF report over 10 per cent of the world’s female population has experienced some form of sexual abuse before reaching the age 20.
The report, entitled “Hidden in Plain Sight” analyzes data gathered from 190 countries and goes on to reveal that 20 per cent of all murder victims are underage.
Latin America and Africa have the highest incidence of per-capita violence against children. Homicide is the leading cause of death for males aged 10-19 in Latin American countries the report observes.
“These are uncomfortable facts — no government or parent will want to see,” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake says.
“Too many children worldwide are affected by such violence, yet it is rarely acknowledged, in part because it is so commonplace,” the report observes.
The worst part of the story is that in most cases child sex abuse go unreported.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines child sexual abuse as: “the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared, or else that violate the laws or social taboos of society. Children can be sexually abused by adults or other children who are – by virtue of their age or stage of development – in a position of responsibility, trust, or power over the victim (World Health Organisation, 2006: p.10).
Perpetrators of sexual abuse can be a family friend or to be acquaintance – even a parent. Girls are at a greater risk than boys of being abused by a family member. Boys are at a higher risk of being abused by a stranger.
A majority of reported abuse is carried out by male abusers but it could even be the act of female abusers. An analysis of the calls to ChildLine where children talked about being sexually abused found that 17% of the calls pertained to a female abuser. In cases where the victim of the abuse was a boy then the proportion of male and female abusers was roughly the same. For girls, over two thirds (67%) of the perpetrators were male and only 6% were female.
Sexual abuse can happen to any child but certain circumstances can increase a child’s vulnerability. Some abusers target children who are neglected by their parents or children who don’t have many friends as they are more likely to be receptive to the attention of an adult. Disrupted home life can make children particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse. Domestic violence can push children out of the home and make them susceptible to people who seem kind and show them affection.
Inappropriate relationships where an older abuser has a measure of power over their victim. This could be physical, emotional or financial and in many cases, the victim will believe that they have a sincere or loving relationship with their abuser.
The boyfriend model. Cases often involve the abuser and victim entering into an almost conventional relationship with the exchange of gifts and other dating activities. This model can lead the abuser to manipulate the victim into undertaking sexual acts with other people.
Organised exploitation and trafficking. Children are abused by more than one adult as part of a network that may involve the movement of victims into and exchanging of images of abuse. Children of parents who misuse substances may have homes where lots of adults are coming and going or they may be left alone for long periods of time while their parents are out. This can leave those children vulnerable especially when the adults in the house may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Social media, chat rooms and web forums are places where children could be groomed, persuaded to meet an abuser in person or persuaded to send pictures of themselves or perform sexual acts in front of webcams. However, it should be recognised that the internet has also brought huge benefits to children.
Victims of sexual abuse can show a range of symptoms during and years after the abuse. Usually, the emotional and psychological effects do more long term damage to victims. The consequences of child sexual abuse can include depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress and an impaired ability to cope with stress or emotions. Self-blame, self-harm and suicide are commonly mentioned as consequences of sexual abuse. Children who are sexually abused can be manipulated by their abuser to believe that the abuse is their fault. The feelings of shame and guilt that come from the abuse can reduce the likelihood of that child making a disclosure.
Child sexual abuse can affect brain functioning, where a child’s brain becomes damaged by the abuse they have suffered. The effects of sexual abuse can include memory impairment, reduced social functioning and confused ideas about appropriate relationships and behaviour. As a result, some victims may block out the memory of the abuse and also forget parts of their childhood. It can also lead to post-traumatic stress symptoms. The damage can be life-long.
Sexual abuse can also have consequences like sexually transmitted diseases to pregnancy which can compound the emotional and psychological damage inflicted by the abuse.
Often there are no clear physical signs that a child is being sexually abused. Only changes in the way the child usually behaves can indicate a possible trauma and may indicate child sexual abuse.
Sudden emotional or behavioural changes especially fear of being alone, sleep disturbances, nightmares as well as problems at school like difficulty in learning, poor concentration and declining grades could be the result of sexual abuse. Other signs that a child is upset might include: social withdrawal, depression and suicidal ideation, eating disorders, anxiety, self-harming, drugs, alcohol misuse and using sexually explicit language that is not usual for a child.
Unfortunately, there are often no clear signs that a child is being sexually abused so detection often relies on a child being brave enough to tell someone.
Child sexual abuse may often remain hidden with many victims waiting years before telling anyone. Research suggests that one in three children who have been sexually abused do not report it at the time. In order to make a disclosure, a child has to find someone they can trust and who they feel safe telling. Victims of sexual abuse can be reluctant to tell anyone because their abuser may have told them that they will not be believed. Much of the control an abuser has over their victim can be based on the child’s fear that they will not be believed, that the abuse is their fault or a fear of what their abuser may do if the child tells. Providing a safe space for a child to talk can be key to preventing further abuse.