A YOUNG man in his mid-twenties told the story of a ‘big’ woman he stayed with when he was 17 years old. He said, ‘She told her husband I was her small cousin from her village, who’d come to spend time, but I was her lover, and when her husband was at work, it was me and she all day long’.
He spoke with bravo as if the experience was something to be proud of – he didn’t identify the woman as a sexual abuser. She gave him food and treated him better than he was treated by his dysfunctional family. Her concern, however, was not for his well-being but her own sexual gratification. Apart from ‘breaking him in’ as it is known in Guyana, she taught him to be deceitful, as he partook in the bare-faced lie she told her unsuspecting husband.
Children develop sexually and physically, and, at every stage, parents should guide and encourage healthy sexual development. When children lack guidance in this area, unsolicited sexual encounters may occur with adult predators.
Every child has genitalia; it is part of their physical anatomy; this cannot be ignored, but sexuality is not just about sex. It is about the attitudes, interactions and behaviours which children are exposed to by adults. Children do not think about their private parts in the same context as adults; that is why up to the age of 5, they usually have no qualms about stripping off their clothes and running about naked. But don’t be fooled; even at this age, they are learning about sexuality and what types of behaviours are acceptable.
It may be alright to strip off at home but not at playschool or even at a water park. Children discover and translate messages about their sexuality from their kinfolk and society. These messages help influence and form their approach and subsequent outlook.
In a family apartment that was much too small for a mother and child, a woman would have sexual relations with her ‘man friend’ believing her daughter was fast asleep, beyond the curtain that separated the small room. However, between sleep and wake, the child had grown accustomed to hearing the sounds, dialogue and movements associated with such rendezvous. She created her understanding of what was taking place and thought it sounded like fun. As she became pubescent, she was more sexually aware of the sensuous side of her mother’s encounters, and her curiosity grew.
Her mother fell ill and was hospitalised at some point, leaving the girl alone in the home with little adult supervision. When the ‘man friend’ came to bring food, the adolescent child opened the door wearing her mother’s nightgown. She then blatantly asked him to do to her what he does to her mother. She wanted to enjoy herself just like her mother did when he stayed there over the years.
Some people might blame the child for pushing herself onto the man. They may call her ‘hot’ and want to ‘cut her wings’, but children only know what they are taught – and with little guidance and a somewhat warped introduction to sexuality, the girl did not understand the consequences attached to her request.
Luckily for her, the man empathised and did not take advantage of the situation. Instead, for the first time, he spoke to her about being educated and leaving sexual exploration until she was older. Her mother should have instilled these and other values over the years and monitored the child’s positive progression instead of indirectly exposing the child to her consistent sexual encounters. It may have been wiser to arrange for a trusted family member to discreetly have the child on these occasions.
Adults often fail to teach children morals surrounding their sexuality or highlight important factors such as faithfulness (sticking to one partner) and abstinence – waiting until you are old enough for a meaningful sexual relationship or protection – avoiding unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases by choosing from a range of contraception. While some children sail through their adolescent years with little worry about their sexuality, others face a traumatic phase of doubt and an identity crisis, brought about through incidents and events that marred their sexual development.
It is not uncommon for mothers to leave children with other females when they are overwhelmed or travelling out of town. There are many reasons why a child may end up staying with a relative or woman they call ‘aunty’ to which they are not biologically attached. One such mother felt her daughter was in good hands when she departed for the United States to seek her fortune.
The girl, aged 6, was left with a distant female cousin. In fact, no one would have imagined that the cousin, in her position of trust, would groom the little girl and negatively affect her mind.
The cousin taught the girl a series of sexual behaviours that impeded and thwarted the child’s natural sexual development. Around the age of 14, when her social activity peaked, the child became confused and frustrated. Like all adolescents, she was seeking her identity and wanted to fit in with her peers – but her sexual preference had been altered by a highly perverted adult, and her mind was in turmoil. Learnt sexual behaviours can be unlearnt with the correct intervention and support. Parents should help children’s sexuality to develop naturally and not expose them to dubious sexual encounters or adult predators.
If you are concerned about the welfare of a child, call the CPA hotline on 227 0979 or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
A MESSAGE FROM THE CHILDCARE AND PROTECTION AGENCY,
MINISTRY OF HUMAN SERVICES AND SOCIAL SECURITY