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Empowering Children Against Sexual Abuse

Dr Gowher Yusuf

Dr Gowher Yusuf

  Hal 3rd stage, Bengaluru     Feb 9, 2017

   7 min     



Sexual abuse, meaning, abusive sexual behaviour by one person upon another. It is often committed using force or by taking advantage of another. When force is immediate, of short duration, or infrequent, it is called sexual assault. 

Sexual abuse in India is happening now and then, and the government has taken measures for women's safety. Women in distress and those facing the threat of attack, including molestation, could call on the toll-free women helpline numbers.

The word "sexual violence" is an all-embracing, non-legal term that applies to violations like sexual assault, sexual abuse, and rape. There are several types of sexual abuse, such as Child Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, Sexual Assault of Men and Boys, Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault, Intimate Partner Sexual Violence, Incest.

Talking in this article, child abuse, also known as child maltreatment, has become a very sensitive subject. It is any physical, emotional, sexual, psychological or other actions affecting a child with an intention to harm the child.

Data reveal that children are much more possible to be sexually abused by somebody they know and even trust–including older kids at different parties we go to during the holidays–than by some spooky guy in a van.

To empower the child against sexual abuse, we require to discuss it to our children. Being a parent, many of us feel awkward talking about such exploitation to our kids. By informing children about their body and talking frankly about sexuality, and boundaries, a child will be more endowed to tell us if something is making them uneasy. 

Effects of sexual abuse

Because of the trauma and negative sentiments associated with sexual abuse, survivors may be at risk of getting mental health conditions. The effect is as follows:

  • Anxiety: The decline in bodily autonomy can begin acute anxiety. Survivors may dread that the attack could happen again. While some may encounter panic attacks, others may incur agoraphobia and become frightened to leave their homes.
  • Depression: The loss of bodily autonomy is often tough to tackle. It can formulate feelings of hopelessness or discouragement. It may also decrease one’s insight into self-worth. 
  • Attachment issues: Survivors may discover it challenging to form good and strong attachments with others. This is exceptionally accurate among children who have been violated. 
  • Post-traumatic stress (PTSD): Someone who survived sexual attack may undergo strong memories of the abuse. In a few cases, flashbacks may be so troublesome they make a survivor to lose track of surroundings. 
  • Personality disruptions: Sexual abuse can sometimes end in personality disruptions such as borderline personality. The behaviour associated with personality disruptions could be an adaption to abuse. 
  • Addiction: Study intimates abuse survivors are 26 times more probable to take drugs. Drugs and alcohol can assist in numbing the pain of abuse.  

What we should tell them:

  • Nobody can touch your private parts; that is not tolerable.
  • Guide them it’s ok to say NO to someone if they aspire to touch you, even if they are adult.
  • Guide them it’s not ok for somebody to show you their hidden parts.
  • Inform them what parts of their bodies others can not touch.
  • Make sure to specify that the abuser might be a grown-up friend, family member, or older youth.
  • Start ahead and communicate often. Use everyday possibilities to speak about sexual abuse.
  • Be proactive. If a child seems upset and uneasy, or resistant to being with any adult, investigate further.
  • Finally, be very sensitive and alert to any abnormalities in a child’s behaviour. 

Having “The Talk”

Educating them with the difference between proper and improper touching will go a long way in guarding them against predators. As early as age 3, children should learn that parts of their body are private and that it's not okay for anybody to touch them.       

Guide into it by describing how some parts of their body, those covered by a swimsuit, are private. Nobody should touch them there except for parents (or prime caregiver) when they're being cleaned—and the doctor, too, but only if any of the parents is there in the room. 

Use real names for body parts. Avoid saying your child's hidden parts by made-up names. Don't shy away from telling a butt, vagina, vulva or a penis by their actual names and use the words they are identified by- not the softer and simplified nicknames such as 'hoo-hoo' or 'pee-pee'.

If the child knows the actual names, he/she can inform the parents what exactly happens. Dumbing down the names only puzzles the children.

Think beyond "stranger danger". Teaching your child to never talk to strangers is great advice. But the fact is, 80 to 90 per cent of abuse is acted not by strangers but by someone the child already knows well—and probably loves.

Don't keep secrets. Almost always, the sex abusers manipulate the children they molest through secrets. They'll tell kids, "This is our secret. You can't tell your mommy because she'll be very angry with you." Attention your child repeatedly that no adult should ever ask her to keep secrets. And that involves you. Inform your child that any secret which makes them feel uncomfortable and sad is a bad secret and its better to break it.  

Teach your child the difference between a surprise and a secret: A surprise is something you will be permitted to speak at a later stage; a secret is something you're asked never to tell.

Importance of saying "NO" 

From an early age, children are taught loyalty towards adults and to "Do as you're told!", and surely very young children can find it troublesome to differentiate between rules they ought to follow and rules they don't ought to follow. 

There are times that children are not allowed to say "no" and this is where the problem and confusion can happen. Make it clear to children that they have the freedom to say "no" to anyone who desires to touch their private parts. As the majority of child abuse is dependent on coercion rather than force, preparing your child to say NO! actively and strenuously really can make a big difference in many circumstances. 

Make it clear that they have the freedom to say "NO!" loudly even if this is an adult and that they will not get into difficulty. Direct children to trust their emotions and if something doesn't feel right - then say "NO!". 

You could play the "Okay NO! game" with them where you develop with some situation's and ask them if it is okay to say "NO!" in these circumstances. 

Have faith in your child. Build a relationship of confidence and trust with your kids. If you're always asking what they say, they may be more hesitant to tell you if anything has happened to them. Don't disregard what they say. If children tell "I'm scared," don't reply with "Don't be silly." Ask what they' are afraid of and how terrified they are. Help them realise their senses. 

What we should watch out for:

  • A child rolling restlessly in bed, night after night.
  • An unexpected loss of appetite or lack of interest in eating.
  • A child screaming herself to sleep, scared of the dark and/or undergoing night terrors.
  • Constant bedwetting
  • Unresponsive, quiet and isolated behaviour.
  • Unexplainable mood swings and disobedience of authority.
  • Aggressive and destructive behaviour that cannot be explained.
  • Anything that makes them hurt themselves.
  • Complaining of physical ache with no visible injury.

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Tags:  Mental health ,sexual abuse, rape, child abuse, child sexual attack, child trafficking

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