Understanding Child Sexual Abuse

A survey conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the Government of India, Prayas and UNICEF shows that out of 12,447 children in, 53% reported sexual abuse and 21% reported severe sexual abuse in 2007.

Child Sexual Abuse

File Illustration: Neetu Shahi.


Contrary to popular belief, recent reports say that 52% of boys fall prey to ravishing sexual appetites, compared to 47% percentage of girls.

Understanding CSA

What is child sexual abuse?

  • Touching the genitals
  • Violating the child’s privacy
  • Exposing children to adult sexuality
  • Behavior involving penetration and
  • Exploitation

One adult abuses several children. So it is essential to ensure that such individuals are identified and isolated.

Although it usually begins when children are about five years old, peaks of CSA are recorded when they are around 12-14 years of age. As per a Government report, it begins to decline then but can continue into adulthood. One of the youngest victims of sexual abuse was a one and a half months old baby!

Symptoms of CSA

When must parents begin to suspect that their child has been abused sexually? When a child:

  • Becomes an introvert and refuses to participate in group activities.
  • Becomes insecure and clings to a trusted adult, becomes excessively fearful, occasionally violent and easily enraged.
  • Tries to avoid coming in contact with a particular person.
  • Begins to neglect personal appearance, deliberately tries to look unhygienic, shabby or unattractive. May begin to wear multiple layers of clothing, inappropriate for the weather.
  • Declines in academic performance – poor concentration, distracted, sleepy (since abuse may cause sleepless nights/nightmares/disturbed sleep), lack of interest. 

  • Begins replaying the abuse with another child generally younger or same age.
  • Eats less and loses weight or eats excessively, thus putting on weight.

Unwillingness to discuss sex

Especially in orthodox households, parents tell children that anything to do with the genitals is dirty. When they are fondled or touched – even by people whom they have grown to love, sometimes within the family – they find that they have no one to open up to. Taking advantage of their submissiveness, the abusers keep at it. The children, afraid that they will be reprimanded for hiding it for so long and accused of doing ‘dirty things’ if they confess, don’t open up to their parents at all.

Often, this leads to

  • Depression
  • Post traumatic stress disorder
  • School refusal and avoiding people
  • Bed wetting
  • Aches, pains and general ill health.

Sometimes, children are even threatened by the abusers, so they are even more afraid to tell others.

How to avoid CSA?

How can this be avoided?  Parents have to create opportunities for the child to come out with his/her problems. They can try things like – "Most uncles and aunties are very nice, but one or two may be bad. Come to me if you find any bad ones, okay?"

When children are allowed to open up like this, they may come to parents complaining about trivial matters like a bad uncle who didn’t give them a chocolate when they were promised one, but will definitely approach their mother or father at a time when an auntie is hugging or kissing them too much and they don’t like it.

Parents must also make their children understand that

  • They are the master of their bodies
  • No one should be allowed to touch their genitals except the doctor and mother (to keep them clean).

Dealing with an abused child.

When a child makes up his/her mind to tell the parents about an abuser, they must

  • Tell the child they believe her/him
  • Praise the child’s courage in coming and confessing
  • Tell the child it was not her/his fault
  • Tell the child that you would like to take the help of other adults, with the child’s permission
  • Not make false promises like "I will send the abuser to jail, I will beat him/her up" etc.
  • Not question or blame the child
  • Not ask the child to "Forgive" "forget" or "adjust".

Edited by Maitri Vasudev. Content provided by http://www.enfoldindia.org/

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