Statistics detailing the extent of perpetration of child sexual abuse is hugely alarming. Projections show that this statistics will increase if something is not urgently done. Therefore, the urgency of the situation demands that I do not waste time on preambles. So I will just get on with it.
Cases of child sexual abuse are not receiving adequate attention. In fact, while the cases skyrocket, less and less people clearly and completely understand what it means to sexually abuse a child. So this work is an urgent attempt to educate(and perhaps re-educate some others).Urgent because it is very important that we start this discussion now in order to teach as many people as possible while our children can still be saved.
Child sexual abuse simply refers to the engagement in sexual acts with a person under eighteen. Note that the word “consent” is absent in my definition. The absence was not fortuitous. This is because, a person under eighteen cannot really give consent. So even if the person accepted your sexual overtures, it is still deemed sexual abuse as persons under eighteen cannot legally give consent (in some states in the US, it is 16). I believe that a lot of people do not know this. Thus if we try to explore cases of child sexual abuse using this particular criterion, we will find out that so many people would be found guilty of having sexually abused a child one way or the other. That is why it is important that this piece of information is shared.
There is also the tendency for people to believe that sexual abuse especially as it concerns children has to do with only penetration. This is not true. Child sexual abuse is not only conformed to actual penetration (either with the penis, finger or otherwise). Sexually abusing a child also involves the following:
- i) Exposing the child to the view of the sexual organs of others. This may be in the form of allowing them see pornographic materials; see the nakedness of others such as their parents, relatives, etc.
- ii) Engaging in sexual activities in the full view of the child. Note that sometimes when for economic reasons the parents or guardians of children are forced to engage in sexual activities in the same room where the children are, most times, the children are aware of these actions and consequently view them and are affected. Such action is thus a clear case of sexually abusing the child.
iii) Inappropriately touching the child.
- iv) Allowing the child to watch movies or programmes rated 18. Programmes rated 18 mostly contain sexual scenes and these scenes would impact the child and make him or her vulnerable.
The above listed underline something very important; that child sex abuse is not only limited to penetration, or touching of the body (in other words, it is not only physical),but also could come in the form of psychological abuses. It is thus very important that we re-educate ourselves and others so that we can guide against all forms of child sex abuse.
Earlier, I clarified that a person under eighteen cannot legally give consent (apart from some places where the legal age of consent is 16). Thus, it is now important that I explain that if for any reason, as an adult you have engaged in any form of sexual activity with somebody under eighteen(or 16), then you have sexually abused him/her. It is important that this is made known because a lot of people do not know that “dating” somebody under the legal age of consent is tantamount to child sexual abuse. It does not matter if he or she made the move or if you believe the child accepted to date you. No matter the excuse, the fact that you engaged in sexual acts with such a person simply means that you have sexually abused him or her.
Having pointed out the various forms of child sex abuse, it is now important that we evaluate some of the core ways in which one can know a sexually abused child. The points raised below are definitively not exhaustive but they frame the various ways in which one would know a sexually abused child:
- i) Pain in the private parts (vagina, anus, penis)
- ii) Discharges (especially foul smelling ones)
iii) Bruises in the private parts. This can be true for both the girl child and the boy child.
- iv) Psychological disturbances that could lead to abnormal behaviours such as bed wetting and defecating on himself or herself especially when this was not the case before.
- v) Strange behaviour by the child (such as trying to seduce somebody or showing signs of sexual knowledge; becoming withdrawn; performing badly in school; acting anxious; acting abnormally before a particular person.)
The above stated are some of the ways in which one may know an abused child. Once we notice any of the above, it is right to find out the truth and in the case that there has been a physical abuse, it is strongly advised that the child is immediately taken to a hospital for attention.
The importance of taking the child to the hospital immediately is so that tests can be run to determine if any sexually transmitted disease has been passed on to the child so that treatment can commence immediately. Also, in case the child has started menstruating, so that conception would be checked. This is why it is very important that such cases are reported within 72hours of their occurrence.
Statistically, the rate of child sex abuse in this part of the world is alarming. I believe that having gone through the various forms of abuses we discussed above, it is quite obvious that a large number of Nigerian children have been subjected to some form of sexual abuse or the other. The unfortunate thing is that child sexual abuse is perpetrated mostly by people who are around the children; fathers, mothers, uncles, aunties, cousins, maids, drivers, security men, neighbours, grand parents, teachers, etc.
I know that listing certain class of people above would raise eyebrows(like parents and grandparents),but this is the ugly truth as so many stories have confirmed. The child is mostly comfortable with people who are close to him or her and thus such people are the best positioned to take advantage of the child. It is thus strongly advised that in raising the child, extreme care is taken to ensure that exposure to people who may wish to sexually abuse him or her is reduced to the minimum. Also, the child should be taught to understand that his or her private parts are private and thus nobody(not even his or her parents) has the right to touch them inappropriately.
The Child Rights Act demands that we protect our children from any form of abuse. This legally empowers us to do all we can even for the children of other people. Thus we should all form a community police and ensure that our children are well protected from child sex abuse. When we notice a case of abuse, it is pertinent that we immediately swing into action by contacting any child right organization available and making sure that appropriate action is taken.
Also, it is important that the points shared here are conveyed to as many people as possible in order to engender a much needed public re-education. A lot of people in our society do not adequately grasp what it means to abuse a child sexually hence the need for this re-education.
The world as it is, is already mired in so many problems. While we struggle to find solutions to the many problems confronting our world today, it is pertinent that attention is also reserved for our future. By correcting and re-educating as many people as possible today, we can at least begin to create a better future. And the future as it is, is all about our children.