Breaking down the silence and shame of Child Sexual Abuse

No one likes to converse about child sexual abuse. Yet, in our country – tens of thousands of children are sexually assaulted every year. Child sexual abuse, as with other forms of sexual violence, is the use of sex to exercise control over and impose harm upon another. In child sexual abuse cases, the target of sexual violence is a Child.

Shattered Dreams
I never felt secure or safe as a victim of child sexual abuse. It was difficult to trust anyone. When I became older, I always remembered the abuse as being my fault and felt like I deserved it since I assumed I must have permitted it to happen. If only I hadn’t experienced all of that as a child, life would have been different, I would keep telling myself.
As a child abuse survivor,it took me a long time to decide to go public when I wrote my first book. I was usually a very private person but, being silent will not keep children safe or prevent these bizarre things from happening. Speaking out might!Therapy eased meto put things in perspective. Life isn’t the same anymore. Today, I believe that what happened to me is a blessing in disguise, where I can reach out to many and relate to them and their pain.
Child sexual abuse can include child pornography, sexual exposure/voyeurism, sexual exploitation, child prostitution, exhibitionism, sexual jokes, penetration, invasive hygienic practices, genital contact, and beyond-concealed psychological and sexual fixations with a child. Sexual abuse can be compelled or manipulated by numerous means, from nurturing trust and a loving relationship to bestowing provisionson a child or young person’s needs or wants, to using power or force. Child sexual abuse is all too common, and cuts across all gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic boundaries.

No Happy Ending
Even if a child is subjected to sexual abuse for only five minutes, psychological harm and damage are endured for a lifetime.
The effects of child sexual abuse can be lifelong and affect the victim’s psychological health. Children who are sexually abused face tremendous trauma. When young children are hurt and sexualized, they may learn secrecy, shame, and silence that sex amounts to self-worth, their boundaries are not relevant, nobody can be trusted or reliable and the world is not safe at all.
If a system’s response to a child’s sexual abuse is to reject their trauma untreated at the best or shut them up at worst, where must their healing begin?
In the heart of Vakola, Santacruz east in Mumbai, Maharashtra is a drug addiction rehab for girls, there are more than 6 girls, aged between 12 and 16, who have been sexually abused either by their father, cousin brother, biological brother, uncle, step-father or neighbour. The considerable majority of child sexual abuse transpires in situations where the child trusts or is dependent upon the person abusing. The majority of child sexual abuse is carried out by someone very close to the victim, such as a family member, neighbour, or friend of the family.

protection from sexual abuse
When parents and kids work together, they can overcome any kind of adversity.Hence, I suggest, especially as a mother, an open-ended conversation about every inquisitive yet uncomfortable question arising in the mind of the kids. Their queries related to intimate body parts, casual vs inappropriate gestures, body touch, etc., should be catered to with immediate effect and special attention. Also, what I see in many cases is the ignorance shown by many parents when the child tries to convey to them a secret message stealthily. We should never ignore such secret inquiries or non-verbal messages our children try to convey.
Discouraging our children from complaining about close family members is the first and foremost on the list for me. Nobody believed me when I told them what I had been through as a child, I am aware of how significant it is to be heard.We, as daughters, sisters, wives, and so many more roles, forget that the various relationships are also humans and might have an inhuman instinct behind their civilised masks. Hence, the biggest mistake we can make as parents is to leave our kids alone with the same family members they complain about.
As parents, we must be on the lookout for signs of social withdrawal in our children, including sudden silence on their part, inability to focus, declining academic performance, loss of interest in their favourite pastimes and games, and an overall change in behaviour patterns.
I am certain that we can minimise this gap and engage the family with supportive services.I strongly feel that a few courageous parents are enough to bring about a change. Amongst a whole lot of socially insecure families, there are always a few clear-headed sets of parents who feel the need of spreading awareness and helping out other parents who are going through the ordeal. Hence, the ideal approach is to establish groups or forums with parents who are willing to speak up and share their experiences, thereby establishing a positive environment for healthy dialogue and a learning platform for all.When others see a few parents coming up with their issues so openly and guiltlessly, they will be motivated to share their piece of doubts and occurrences too.
The child, though innocent, can easily sense the uneasiness in the eyes of his parents and feels ashamed and insecure. Hence, it is our responsibility to accept and work for the healing of the child.

Dr. Patricia Dsouza Lobo is the author of ‘When Roses are Crushed’. She is Executive
Director of Kripa Foundation.

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