Wednesday, 1 November 2017

One of the most hidden forms of abuse against children is sexual abuse which many times is committed by persons closely related to the child. Child sexual abuse is not a new phenomenon. It is present in every country since time immemorial. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic groups and affects children of all ages, including infants. Both boys and girls are sexually abused although girls are more at risk. Child sexual abuse has been known to originate in many places such as their homes, the homes of relatives and family friends, foster homes, schools, child care institutions, churches and  other community locations.

When child sexual abuse originates within the family sphere, such  abuse is commonly referred to as incest and is usually perpetrated by males who are in positions of trust and intimacy and power such as fathers, fathers-in-law, grandfathers, stepfathers, older brothers, uncles,  older cousins and other male relatives.

Incest is a sexual abuse generally understood as meaning sexual intercourse between biologically-related siblings and between children and biological parents; however, in many countries incest is also defined as including sex with non-biological parents such as stepparents and adoptive parents.

 I should point out that the true meaning of sexual intercourse is not necessarily penis to vagina. In includes all other forms of sexual activity.

Child sexual abuse may or may not involve actual physical contact however it includes penetrative acts (e.g. rape or buggery) and also non-penetrative and non-contact activities, such as involving children in watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually explicit ways and exposing them to inappropriate sexual material. Child sexual abuse also includes involving children in prostitution and pornography.

In the majority of cases of sexual abuse, perpetrator is a person who the child knows and trusts such as a parent, other relative, caretaker, teacher or neighbour and even an older friend or a stranger of the same or opposite sex.

Child ‘sexual abuse’, including ‘incest’ usually happens secretly behind closed doors. Putting the emphasis on these two concepts of sexual abuse but more specifically, incest and addressing them together, non-abusers  explain the word “incest”  by explaining to children the taboo around it.

Incest has historically been condoned by the tacit silence and the passivity displayed by the law-enforcing machinery, which considers family relations as being harmonious, and tied by affection and solidarity and equated family with sanctuary.

Family environment has been considered as strictly private and the belief that children have to be protected from all forms of external interference. This myth has allowed perpetrators (parents) to practically enjoy impunity for their acts and maintain their child victims under their grips. It moves the focus of a wrongdoing away from the family member who is the perpetrator.

Because incest usually happens between children and biological parents or siblings and/or relatives who commit incest, it means targeting the parents and family relations and putting the emphasis on sexual abuse more broadly in order to provide opportunities for family members to be apprised of the dangers of such abuse of their children that can occur in the family home and even outside of the family settings. It allows family members to regain trust in one another and of protection systems that are mandated to address the problem, and play a more active role in ensuring environment where children encountered themselves are safe.

 Because of inadequate data for most countries in the Caribbean (for instance Belize, Jamaica, Suriname, Guyana and Haiti) it is difficult to get an accurate picture of the occurrence of incest and sexual abuse in all its manifestations on Caribbean children.

However studies conducted in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean countries such as Trinidad and Tobago suggest that the incidence of child sexual violence and abuse in the Caribbean is alarming, No country in the Caribbean can claim to be free of child sexual abuse. But then, no country in the world is free from sexual abuse of children. Studies conducted in the region show that between 70-80% of the children victims are girls, that in 50% of cases, the perpetrators live with the victims, and that in 75%, they have a direct relationship with the victim. Results from a World Bank Report also shows that the Caribbean has the earliest age of sexual debut in the world with many young people being initiated into sexual behavior as a consequence of child abuse as early as five years old in some countries and ten years old or older in others. The same study indicates that the abuse usually continues until the child reaches mid-adolescence.

According to a study on child abuse in Guyana and Suriname, Anguilla, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, child sexual abuse is often socially accepted. Most cases of child abuse taking place in the home (in most cases by family members) happen with the complicity, silence, denial and failure of other adults to take appropriate action. The study also reveals that around 20% to 45% of people in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean have experienced behaviour that could be described as child sexual abuse. A study by the University of the West Indies on Trinidad and Tobago indicates that children are often reluctant to disclose the abuse because of coercion and manipulation by the perpetrator, feelings of guilt and shame, and a fear that they may not be believed. Even where disclosure is made, the abuse may not be reported for a number of reasons including the tabooed nature of the crime, family dynamics, and reluctance to expose the child to the criminal justice system and a rejection of the child‘s complaint, among other rasons.

A wide swathe of authorities in India, including political leaders, bureaucrats, police, and judges, have publicly condemned the sexual abuse of children. Yet, poor awareness, social stigma, and negligence have facilitated the continued perpetuation of such crimes.

Despite commitments to ensure the protection of children, the Indian government has failed to generate effective oversight mechanisms that could prevent much of the child sexual abuse from taking place. Additionally, existing child protection schemes, and many police departments, courts, local government administrations, children’s institutional care facilities, schools, and doctors, are simply not doing enough to help victims after sexual abuse has been identified, or to ensure that perpetrators are punished.

An independent commission investigating child sexual abuse in Germany released an interim report after conducting interviews and gathering responses from hundreds of victims and witnesses.
The report found that a majority of reported cases occurred within the family or close social circles, followed by abuse in institutions such as schools. The vast majority of victims are female; however male children are also sexually abused but not as often as female children.

It is a sure thing that there are significant hurdles to crafting effective responses to this still largely hidden problem. Fear of social stigma or lack of faith in police and/or government authorities prevents many people and/or victims from reporting child sexual abuse.

In many countries, deep-rooted cultural norms discourage the open discussion of sex and make it hard for a child to complain about an older relative or a person in a position of authority. Child sexual abuse around the world is shrouded in secrecy and there is a conspiracy of silence around the entire subject.

There are two main reasons for this unfortunate dilemma of keeping silent—shame and embarrassment. Victims of sexual abuse should not be ashamed. However, it is difficult for such a child to speak out of such abuse because it will embarrass him or her.

There is another reason why children of abuse will not disclose that they have been the victim of a parent that has abused him or her. They are afraid that if they tell the other parent, the family will dissolve as one unit.

When I was a young kid, I and my friends would speak about sexual matters but we never spoke about sexual abuse even though I am convinced that some of them were probably sexually  abused as I was.  In Canada, one in six boys experience unwanted sexual abuse which supports my belief. As many as 95% of child sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator who in all likelihood, is a family member.  

I speak as an authority on this subject. When I was eleven, my father raped me twice while my mother was out of town. That didn’t surprise me considering the fact that he raped my mother resulting in me being conceived. The day after he raped me the second time, he left our home and moved three thousand miles away. My mother then later arranged for me to live with a retired school principal in North Vancouver, B.C. 

 The man sexually abused us all of us four boys every night in our individual rooms. Even when I and one of the other three boys who lived in the former school principal’s house, never discussed the principal’s sexual abuse he was submitting us to. That was because we were too ashamed and embarrassed to admit that we had to submit to his groping fingers.   

One of the other boys and I had enough of the sexual groping so we away and were found the next day by the police partway up the mountain behind the principal`s home. When they asked us why we ran away, we said nothing about him sexually abusing us every night. It was only when my mother visited me and saw photos of naked boys hanging on the walls of the principal`s bedroom. that she became concerned. She ask me if the principal had touched me improperly. I said he didn`t. I was lying of course. She subsequently spoke to Children’s Aid and then I and the other boys were removed from the `groper` a week later. I was then sent to live with a school teacher. He never improperly touched me at all.

I was taken to a psychologist and he asked me to tell him what happened to me when I was in the principal’s home. I told him nothing about the principal or my father because I was too embarrassed to tell anyone. I never even told my mother since I didn’t want her to feel guilty for leaving me alone with my father and then sending me to another paedophile. She died at age 91 and never knew to her dying day what those two pedophiles did to me.

Without question, sexual abuse against children is a taboo topic of the masses. It causes deep-rooted mental and emotional anguish across all sectors of the population. While predatory sexual behavior knows no race, class, economic status, religion, or gender, the cultural conditioning that occurs within our communities creates the perfect breeding ground for inter-family sexual abuse.  Far to0 many young girls and many young boys who are born into many such families, will be sexually abused by their  older family members.
The manner in which members of society intervene post abuse can be traumatizing for the victim. When a child musters up the courage to confide in someone they trust and that person does nothing, we are essentially telling that child they are not worthy of protection. When a person does not feel safe in their environment, he or she will naturally develop intense anxiety. By forcing children to exist in the same environment as their offender, they will spend most of their life at home in fight or flight mode.

 Statistics show that one in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. This is an enormous problem that has to be dealt with. And remember this. sex offender will molest an average of 120 victims, and here is a really scary figure to consider. Many of the victims when they grow up will end up doing the same thing to other children.

What is interesting about that report is that the children were willing to speak about their abuses. However, I have to presume that their names were never mention in the reports and that was the reasons why they were willing to open up to their interviewers.

Children nowadays have to be taught either by their parents or alternatively by their school teachers or Sunday school teachers that sexual abuse against children is not only morally wrong, it is also legally wrong. The sooner they learn this important lesson, the sooner there will be less unwanted sexual abuse by family members or strangers. Unless that lesson is learned, the terrible acts of child molestation will continue to plague children everywhere in the world.  

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