The Effects of Child Sexual Abuse

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WHEN a person discovers that his/her partner has cheated, the betrayal can be very hard to bear. In addition to the pain caused by the deception, being lied to on such a major scale can cause havoc to the victim’s self-esteem. Feelings of unworthiness, unattractiveness, emptiness, uselessness and depression may follow. Friends may rally around to offer the victim moral support, but the victim alone must find the courage and coping skills within, to move on.

Most adults have developed adequate decision-making, coping, and analytical skills, along with a reasonable sense of resolve, to get over the pain and heartache caused by infidelity. Nevertheless, when it comes to parting with someone you love, the gamut of feelings associated are many; some people have described the experience as equivalent to bereavement.

When you consider how hard it is for adults to overcome traumatic events that occur in their lives, even though they have honed the skills which enable them to see and think logically, you can then understand how the sexual molestation of a child, whose mind is still developing, can cause irreparable damage to his/her life.

Child molestation is the same as child sexual abuse. In severe cases children are raped or systematically forced by an adult (or older child) to have sexual intercourse. They are then bribed or threatened into keeping quiet about their ordeal. Children are not meant to engage in sexual activity and whatever their background or social standing, no child will initiate a sexual encounter. Adults alone are responsible for this ill in our society.

Even if a child appears to comply with the act, it is the adult who is accountable, by way of maturity to say the very least. Every adult knows that sex with a child is against the law and yet new cases are brought to light every day.

To the developing mind of a child, any type of sexual encounter does not have the same appeal or warped satisfaction that it has for the adult initiator. Children will always end up being worse off physically and psychologically, once they have been sexually abused, unless they receive guidance through counselling. Over the preceding years following the abuse, the trauma will manifest itself in different ways as the ‘child survivor,’ who is now maturing, tries to deal with the reality of what occurred.

Some mothers with teenage daughters blame them for being involved with their (fathers or) step fathers, when sexual abuse is uncovered or disclosed between the two. They fail to blame the grown man who is obviously so carnally minded that he regards a young girl as nothing more than sexual fodder to be used at his disposal. Only an insecure and irresponsible mother would take the word of a perpetrator over that of a child, or try to supress the ‘story’ to the detriment of the child’s credibility.

This is just one example of the kind of distressing situations that children have to bear and subsequently carry into adulthood. The effect of which could bring about low self-esteem, resulting in further victimisation in relationships. Child sexual offences can take place anywhere: at home, in school, even at a sports or recreational club. Statistics show that more children are abused by people they know than by strangers.

One of the most damaging forms of abuse however, must be parental incest. Parents should always be the main loving, guiding force in their child’s life; they should be trustworthy, reliable and sincere. It therefore must be devastating and confusing for children when they have to acknowledge either parent as a sexual predator. There is no doubt that some mothers are well aware of what is going on under their roofs and they do nothing to intervene, to defend or protect their child. They are just as much to blame as the man who is raping the child.

The majority of sexual offences against children are carried out by men against females (19%) compared to less than half that amount for men against young males (7%). The statistics for women carrying out sexual offences against children is pretty low, but women do offend between 14% to 40%, mainly against boys and 6% against girls.

Child sexual abuse doesn’t always involve penetration. Any type of touching, fondling or exposing of private parts, that is initiated by adults and involves children, is a criminal act that is punishable by law. Watching pornographic movies with children is against the law; making children do anything of a sexual nature to themselves or to someone else is against the law. The bottom line is, any sexual exploitation of a child for sexual gratification, is child sexual abuse and therefore, a crime.

If you are concerned about the welfare of a child call the CPA hotline on 227 0979 or write to us at childcaregy@gmail.com

A MESSAGE FROM THE CHILDCARE AND PROTECTION AGENCY, MINISTRY OF SOCIAL PROTECTION