Child Sexual Abuse
WRITTEN BY Mehreen Binte Talha
A report named “The State of Pakistan’s Children” (SPARC, 2015) disclosed that approximately 10 children are abused every day in Pakistan. While nearly 70,000 cases were found of violence against children.
An annual report by Sahil, a dedicated organization focused on eradicating and dealing with child abuse in Pakistan, named aptly perhaps; “cruel numbers” in 2015 concluded that the total number of cases of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) stand at a startling 3,768 which is a 7% increase in cases compared to last year’s report, 1974 of the victims were female while 1794 were male.
Wherein out of 5,483 abusers 1,943 were acquaintances of the victims while 829 were complete strangers.
If these statistics were not harrowing enough any discussion of child abuse in Pakistan must mention one of the most horrific child abuse scandals in Punjab but certainly not our last it seems.
These reports and researches are only based on the cases that have been reported to authorities or organizations dealing with these situations.
We must also take into account the reality of our society, where the only way to deal with these crimes is to pretend they never happened in the first place.
Children, as highly vulnerable parts of our population, find it extremely difficult to articulate their experiences
and are often too confused and traumatized to understand that a criminal act has occurred in the first place.
We can add to that our own pervasive culture of silence propagated to effectively stifle any discourse of a sexual nature.
These realities prove that these reports present a fragment of the actual frequency of child molestation currently happening in Pakistan.
It is understandable in some ways that in a conservative society like ours these subjects are likely to be avoided. However at this rate it’s causing more harm than good.
It creates an atmosphere where if such crimes do occur there is no social protocol in place in dealing with its ramifications or taking care of the victim themselves.
It’s ironic that in our ignorance we have created the perfect environment for these kind of heinous acts to occur, it is our society that validates the abusers and shames the victim.
Unsurprisingly most child abuse cases show that the perpetrator is someone related or known to the child such a family member or family friend.
It’s an epidemic yet the sexual exploitation of children (even infants in some cases!) in our society is treated like a diseased limb which must be amputated at some point.
We must acknowledge that a number of other reasons also exist that have made Child Abuse so easy to perpetuate in our country such as poverty, poor implementation of the law,
insufficient government effort etc but it is also true that holding silence over a crime makes you complacent of it.
These facts are hard to swallow and make it seem as if is it impossible to protect our children,
but it is also true that for alarmingly significant part of the child population there is no protection, there is no escape and there is no hope.
The government has failed us in this respect which is again not surprising,
The recent Stanford sexual assault case with brock turner ignited furious protests country wide in the US due to the light sentence he was given.
It also led to change in the laws that allowed such a sentence in the first place.
That is the kind of society we should try to be, where an assault on anyone’s dignity and body,
let alone a child should be seen as something completely unacceptable.
We as a nation need to desensitize ourselves to these kinds of crime.
The thought of them, the occurrence of them should be utterly repugnant, should arise in us such anger and indignation that we try our hardest to make sure this poison in our society is removed.
Protest, spread awareness, speak up.
Lest we assume the responsibility of 5000 children next year who were silenced, who lost hope, who broke.
Children who are abused face devastating effects for the rest of their lives. Many become victims of PTSD, depression, suicidal thoughts, self-harm and may turn to alcohol or drugs later in life. They are also more likely to get sexually abused again beginning a cycle that just won’t end unless we do something.
We have so far seen how much of an issue Child sexual abuse is in our country and that our system allows no protection for our children.
So what can we do? Is there any way we can educate children and concerned individuals about child safety?
There are in fact a number of ways you can teach children to become aware of sexual predators and to save themselves from potentially harmful situations.
- Teach children about consent.
- Consent in any kind of intimacy is a human right and children should be aware of that, teach them that their ‘No’ matters. Research has shown that abusers attempt to make connections with children and establish a relationship in order to legitimize the abuse.
- If your child is particularly uncomfortable hugging or being in physical contact with relatives or friends don’t force them. Teach them their consent matters
- Be involved with your child’s life.
- This should be a no-brainer but I’ve seen so many parents that are content leaving their children in the care of maids, nurses etc.
- but think about it, you have no idea how they are being handled, what they are told and this often creates chances for them to be maltreated. Make time for them, listen to them children are not oblivious to the world and might notice strange individuals or actions that they can’t make sense of. Switch around duties; employ help for domestic tasks but make sure you are the only one taking care of your child.
- Teach your children about their body.
- Teach them the names of each body part and tell them which areas must not be touched by others.
- This will allow them to approach you if they are touched inappropriately.
- Let your children know that they can talk to you about anything at any time. Let them know that they are loved and that their safety and happiness matter most.
- This should be emphasized by both parents.
- The main motivator to child sexual abuse is that abusers know their victims can be shamed into maintaining their silence.
- Tell your child that no matter how uncomfortable the subject they can approach you.
- Abuse is perpetrated in many cases by relatives and family of the child, in that case teachers should be aware of the children in their classes.
- However much we believe it children are not idiots they are intuitive beings and when they show certain behaviors we should take them for the signs they are.
- Children who act out or are difficult are often so for a reason, the other extreme shows us children who are very withdrawn.
- These are all signs that something is wrong. Be observant of the child; if they appear malnourished or injured these are also signs of abuse and neglect.
- I cannot emphasize how important it is to teach children about boundaries.
- Teach them expressly as they get older that they are human beings and deserve to have their boundaries respected and conversely should respect others boundaries as well. Teach them about personal space as a right.
- Most importantly, speak up! You see someone luring away a child, abusing them please stop them, make a scene, don’t be compliant and maybe you could stop that child from becoming another statistic.
These points are not only important for stopping and identifying abuse but also for encouraging children to grow as confident, empowered citizens.