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4Why should I know about child sexual abuse?
4"I thought child sexual abuse only happens in western countries".
4Why do people sexually abuse children?
4Are some children more at the risk of being abused?
4Are boys & girls equally vulnerable?
4Can children with disability be sexually abused?
Why don't children report about abuse?
4What kind of a person would sexually abuse a child?
Is it possible for sexual abusers to stop abusing?
4What are the inappropriate behaviors of abusers that can be indicative of sexual abuse?
4How can we keep our children safe from sex offenders?
4What can I do if a child has been sexually abused? How should I respond? What should I say?
4Is healing from sexual abuse possible?

Why should I know about Child Sexual Abuse?

We need to understand that any child we know is vulnerable to sexual abuse. And as adults, their well-being and safety is our paramount concern and responsibility. However, it is not always possible for adults to ensure a child's safety. It therefore becomes imperative to teach children on how to protect themselves. Besides creating safe spaces for children to talk to us, it is our responsibility as adults to learn, to notice, and to react when we see sexually inappropriate behaviors towards children and teens. Adults need to learn how to respond when we think a child is being sexually abused.

"I thought child sexual abuse only happens in western countries".

This is a popular misconception. Child sexual abuse is a universal problem affecting millions of children across the world. Though it exists everywhere, more reporting and research is available from the western countries. Statistics show that child sexual abuse is very prevalent. A World Health Organization (WHO) report in 1999 stated that 1 in 10 children is sexually abused. Extensive data on the prevalence of child sexual abuse in India is not available. However, some major research studies done in this field present following results:


In a survey with 350 schoolgirls in New Delhi by Sakshi (an NGO) in 1997, 63% had experienced sexual abuse by of family members; and 25% of the girls had either been raped, made to masturbate the perpetrator or perform oral sex.
4 Another 1997 study on middle and upper class women from Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and Goa by RAHI revealed that 76% of respondents had been sexually abused as children, with 71% been abused either by relatives or by someone they knew and trusted.
4 Samvada's 1996 study on students in Bangalore stated that 47% of the respondents had been sexually abused with 62% having been raped once and 38% having been repeatedly violated.
4 Tulir-CPHCSA`s study in 2006,conducted among 2211 school going children in Chennai,indicates a CSA prevalence rate of 42%.Children of all socio-economic groups were found to be equally vulnerable.while 48% of boys reported having been abused,the prevalence rate among girls was 39%.15 % of both the boys and girls were severely abused. Know More
Why do people sexually abuse children?
While child sexual abusers could belong to the categories of either pedophiles or child molesters, there could be a variety of reasons for their abuse of children. Pedophiles are fixated at being sexually attracted to children alone, while child molesters are people who have "normal" sexual relationships with adult partners and at the same time do not have any qualms about having sex with children as well. Know more…
Are some children more at the risk of being abused?
Though all children are vulnerable to abuse, certain factors increase this vulnerability and make some children more at risk of being abused than others. These vulnerability factors include:
4 Belief that "respect" means unquestioning obedience to authority
4 Lack of appropriate sex education, either by way of vocabulary or boundaries
4 Adult inability to teach children appropriate sexuality due to cultural norms and embarrassment
4 Social norms giving children lower status than adults
4 A child's predisposition to love unconditionally and trust implicitly
4 Desire to please
4 Values stressing family honour
4 Disability
4 Dysfunctional family
4 Low self-esteem of the child
4 Having few friends/ isolated
Are boys & girls equally vulnerable?
Yes, both boys and girls are vulnerable to sexual abuse. However, with most available research on child sexual abuse focusing on the abuse of girls, statistics show that more number of girls are abused than boys. The research that exists on boys shows that boys tend to report differently, more readily choosing to deny their abuse or to act like they enjoyed it. This suggests that more boys are abused than we know. More research is needed for an accurate picture of the abuse of boys.
Can children with disability be sexually abused?
Research at the international level has shown that children with disabilities are 3.4 times more likely to be abused compared with non-disabled children. Other studies have concluded that risk of sexual abuse is doubled when a child is disabled (Child Abuse & Neglect, Feb 2005 & Mar 2004). Considering that almost 12 million children in India are disabled (differently able), it is alarming to consider the possible prevalence of sexual abuse of disabled children in India. The issue assumes greater significance considering societal denial of child sexual abuse, compounded by the fact that children, especially those with disability, are viewed as "asexual" and hence kept away from any information on sexuality. The myth that disabled children cannot be abused, since abusers find them unattractive and feel sorry for them, is also widely held.
Why don't children report about abuse?
While a small percentage of children report about abuse when it happens, others may find it very difficult to tell because of a number of fears they hold in their minds that accompany disclosure.

These fears are
Fear Of Remembering: Sexually abused children often cope by pushing the experience as far back in their minds as they can, to "forget" and avoid feeling hurt again.

Fear Of Losing Love : Child victims often feel responsible for what happened to them. Because of these feelings, they worry that their parents and friends will stop loving them once they know about the abuse. They also fear the separation from loved ones that could result from their telling.

Fear Of Shame & Guilt: Children either know or can sense that their sexual experiences with adults are wrong. Abuse makes most victims feel "dirty". This makes telling someone and acknowledging it occurred shameful. Older children have also been known to suffer more from a sense of guilt than younger children.

Fear Of Not Being Believed: Children fear that they will not be believed when they disclose about the abuse, which results in a feeling of helplessness. Furthermore, many people to assuage their own feelings of helplessness and discomfort, or through sheer ignorance, tend to believe that children lie and make up stories about abuse. On the contrary, children are almost always speaking the truth when they disclose regarding abuse.

Fear Of Being Blamed: Children fear that they will be blamed for any kind of sexual activity and that they were willing partners. People also tend to believe adults more than they would believe children. Offenders often make the excuse that their victims "asked" to be touched sexually. Children ask for affection and attention, which is their right, and not for sex about which they do not as yet have appropriate context for consent.

Fear Of Further Harm: Offenders often threaten their victims with harm to their families as a means of maintaining control. Victims then carry the burden of keeping their families safe by not telling.

Another very important factor that keeps the children from disclosing is their lack of vocabulary of their private parts and therefore the resulting inability to describe acts of sexual abuse. Children are usually not taught the correct names for the private parts, and are told that "nice girls/boys" don't use those words that refer to private body parts or sexual behaviour.


What kind of a person would sexually abuse a child?
Sexual abusers children could be anyone. Fathers, mothers, siblings, stepparents, grandparents, and other family members (uncles, aunts, cousins), neighbors, caregivers, religious leaders, teachers, coaches, or anyone else who is in close contact with children. While more cases of men being sex abusers are reported, there is a small proportion of women molesters too. At this juncture, it is important to mention that studies show 30-50 percent of abusers started their sexual offending behaviour as juveniles. Know more...

Is it possible for sexual abusers to stop abused?
With specialized intervention programs, child sex offenders may learn to control their abusive behavior. An important aspect of these programs is acceptance of responsibility by the abusers for their behavior. While these programs are an essential part of the criminal justice system in developed countries, efforts in this direction are still in their nascent stages in India.
What are the inappropriate behaviors of abusers that can be indicative of sexual abuse?
Have you ever seen someone playing with a child and felt uncomfortable with it? Maybe you thought, "I'm just over-reacting," or, "He/She doesn't really mean that." Don't ignore the behavior; learn how to ask more questions about what you have seen. The checklist below offers some warning signs.
Do you know an adult or older child who:
4 Shows undue attention towards a child?
4 Insists on hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling with or holding a child even when the child does not want this affection?
4 Is overly interested in the sexuality of a particular child (e.g., talks repeatedly about the child's developing body)?
4 Constantly maneuvers to get time alone or insists on time alone with a child?
4 Spends most of his/her spare time with children and has little interest in spending time with someone their own age?
4 Buys children expensive gifts or gives them money for no apparent reason?
4 Frequently intrudes a child's privacy, for instance walks in on children in the bathroom?
4 Allows children to consistently get away with undisciplined behavior?

How can we keep our children safe from sex offenders?
We need to teach children about Personal Safety. We, as adults, also need to educate ourselves about sexual abuse and the risk factors or warning signs of sexually abusing behaviors. Here are some things that you can do to prevent the sexual abuse of a child you know.

Adults need to:
4 Teach children to trust their feelings and that it is OK to say "no" when someone they know and care about does something they do not like.
4 Set and respect family boundaries.
4 Speak up when "warning sign" behaviors are seen or reported.
4 Get comfortable talking about difficult topics such as sexual abuse and saying the proper names of body parts before teaching them to children.
4 Instruct children the differences between Safe touch and Unsafe touch and that secrets about touching are not OK. Children also need to understand that people they know could be capable of doing hurtful things.
4 Encourage affirm and acknowledge a child's opinions and feelings - giving them a sense of self esteem and confidence.
4 Involve your child in setting up a safety plan that is easy to remember.
4 List for yourself and your child whom to call for advice, information, and help.

What can I do if a child has been sexually abused? How should I respond? What should I say?
It is not uncommon to feel shock, disbelief, denial, self-blame, anger, confusion and/or doubt, if a child tells you she/he was abused. The following guidelines will help you in addressing the situation:

Believe the child: Children rarely make up stories about sexual abuse. Believing the child is a major step in healing the hurt caused by abuse. Tell the child that it is not her/his fault.

Remain calm: Children are sensitive to and worry about your feelings. If you respond with anger, the child may feel you are angry with her/him. Children need to feel that they are no different from others because of the abuse. Remaining calm will help children to feel normal.

Affirm the child's feelings: Children must be allowed to voice their feelings and have them affirmed and taken seriously in order to continue the telling and healing process.

Tell the child what will happen next: Children who have been abused lack control or options. They need to know that other people need to be involved to overcome sexual abuse. However, children need to feel participants in this process.

Support the child: Sexually abused children often feel that they are alone, this has happened to no one else, or no one will believe them, and so they need as much positive adult support as possible.

Is healing from sexual abuse possible?
Yes, healing from child sexual abuse is possible. Impact of child sexual abuse on each child may vary. A timely, proactive and appropriate response that is based on the strengths and resilience of each child in conjunction with the innate ability of the human spirit to prevail, does eventually lead to an optimally lived life.