Child Abuse Starts at home, So Should Protection be
In our society we are taught by our elders that every men entering home is father-like and brother-like, no matter what relation do we have with them. They praise us, make us comfortable on their laps, give us lollypops and take us with them to markets and parks. We play with them thinking that if our parents are not around, its oaky, we are safe with our father-likes and brother-likes. In joint family system those father-likes and brother-likes are replaced by uncles (Chacho, Mamo, khaalo, phopha etc.) and cousins. We are told that our home is our comfort zone, the safest place where we can be whatever we want to be; the genuine us. But when we get out of our homes we need to be very careful and cautious. Our wits should be sharp enough to understand the meaning of the gaze on us. But what to do with the ill-gaze on us by our “father-likes and brother-likes”? What kind of safest place is our home, where our dignity is not safe even from our own family members? I wish parent would tell their child to stay as cautious at home, from father-likes and brother-likes, as from outside strangers, because child abuse starts at home.
Susanne Babbel, a German therapist, shares some of the most startling statistics unearthed during research into sexual abuse, that children are three times as likely to be victims of rape than adults, and stranger abuse constitutes by far the minority of cases. It is more likely for a child to experience sexual abuse at the hands of a family member or another supposedly trustworthy adult. This doesn’t only shatter the trust of children but also obstructs them to trust anyone in their life again. The rigidity that such incidences inculcate in children stays almost forever.
According to Association Une Vie, an NGO contributing to the spread awareness to protect children from the risk of sexual abuse, 1 out of every 3 girls and 1 out of every 5 boys are sexually abused before they reach age 18
According to Association Une Vie, an NGO contributing to the spread awareness to protect children from the risk of sexual abuse, 1 out of every 3 girls and 1 out of every 5 boys are sexually abused before they reach age 18. Accordingly, sexual abuse starts before 11 for 1 victim in 2 and before 6 for 1 victim in 5. In more than 90% of cases the perpetrator is a relative, 1 child in 2 is abused by a family member. In the United States, more than 4 children die from child abuse and neglect on a daily basis. Over 70% of these children are below the age of 3Worldwide, 1 in 10 girls under the age of 18 has been raped, amounting to 120 million and this trend is ever increasing. So, consequently, 1 victim in 2 abused during childhood tries to commit suicide.
These and many other statistics, from developed and underdeveloped states alike, are as alarming as the spread of virus from flesh eating bug. Where this bug quickly sweeps through the body eating the body’s soft tissue, having been subjected to violence in childhood can result in the loss of up to 20 years of life expectancy.
Finkelhor D. Briere JN, Elliott DM. and Levesque RJR. in their research works have indicated that sexual abusers of children, in the cases of both female and male victims, are predominantly men in many countries. Studies have consistently shown that in the case of female victims of sexual abuse, over 90% of the perpetrators are men, and in the case of male victims, between 63% and 86% of the perpetrators are men.
There is dire need to ponder upon the crucial questions; what has made humanity this mercilessly frustrated and brutal-animal-like? What has made us forget the enormity of relations? What stops child from expressing what is happening with him/her? What effects does it leave on child’s personality and how is it affecting the overall society as a whole? Once expressed or complaint about such abusive incident, what role do the family plays and what is the ideal way of dealing with it? These and many other questions are as crucial to address as the treatment of the abused child.
Pakistani society is a constituent of family systems. A continuous flow of interactions binds the families with a very sensitive and emotional thread. Any support taken at the time of a turmoil hitting a family, may also make them dependent to others, which most of the times also obliges them to be grateful and courteous in various aspect of life. And this social structure may play a huge role in stopping the victim child from expressing the abuse he/she is going through. As Boszormenyi-Nagy stated in his 1986 book, Between Give and Take: A Clinical Guide to Contextual Therapy, “Even very small children are sensitive barometers; they know when their parents are overburdened with anxiety, guilt and mistrust. Moreover, they want to do something about it.” (p.35). If important relatives are dependent in some way on the perpetrator, children are naturally reluctant to create problems for those relationships. Another reason for not expressing could be “incomprehension, shame, fear of retaliation, and the misperception that the child is to blame”, noted by Richard Kluft in an article in the December 2010 issue of Psychiatric Times. This the reason that child sexual abuse cases in Pakistan have increased from nine cases per day in 2017 to 12 cases per day in the first six months of 2018, a report by Sahil states.
Some of those who do reveal suffer negative consequences, such as being blamed for “seducing” the perpetrator or being accused of lying. One study showed that 52 percent of those who reported mistreatment to a parent were still being abused a year after the disclosure. A research study by Farah Malik, PhD, Chairperson, Department of Psychology, GC University, Lahore, Pakistan, indicated that in comparison to mildly abused children, severely abused children perceived their parents more rejecting.
It is important to note that the consequential effects of not being able to express or not being trusted by the parents or other caretakers can be disastrous. A research on Child Abuse and Neglect by Parents and other Caregivers mentions that it is not uncommon for children who have been sexually abused to exhibit symptoms of infection, genital injury, abdominal pain, constipation, chronic or recurrent urinary tract infections or behavioral problems. To be able to detect child sexual abuse requires a high index of suspicion and familiarity with the verbal, behavioral and physical indicators of abuse. Many children will disclose abuse to caregivers or others spontaneously, though there may also be indirect physical or behavioral signs.
The more people are informed about child sexual abuse, the fewer victims there will be. And it has to start from nowhere but home. Parents and other caretaker are required to give awareness to their children about child abuse. Children should be given enough confidence at home,so they could talk to their parents as freely as they talk to their friends.
No government policies have ever been proved conducive in this matter. Yet, government and its policies are the last resorts for having a larger impact in country. Willingly or unwillingly we have to look up to the elected ones to fulfill their responsibility of protecting its society from social, physical and psychological harm. It is hoped that Prime Minister Imran Khan proposing death penalty be fixed for all those involved in child abuse, could prove to be as colorful for children as their world should be.
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.