‘At Home or Outside: How Safe is my Child?
A very good morning to all of you and a warm welcome to this seminar on ‘At Home or Outside: How Safe is my Child?” Thank you for sparing your valuable time to be here to discuss and deliberate on an issue that is slowly making our society hollow and will cause a major collapse of all value systems if timely action is not taken. It can be very difficult to talk about child abuse or more specifically child sexual abuse, which we are discussing today, and even more difficult to acknowledge that sexual abuse of children of all ages including infants happens every day. This has become the subject of great community concern and the focus of many legislative and professional initiatives. This is evidenced by the expanding body of literature, public declarations by adult survivors and increased media coverage of child rape issues. According to the World Health Organisation, child sexual abuse is the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society. It targets sexuality and/or sexual organs, involves sexual gestures, words, pictures, actions. It can result in both short-term and long-term harm, including psychopathology in later life. Indicators and effects include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, poor self-esteem, sleep disturbances, and dissociative and anxiety disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder. While children may exhibit regressive behaviours such as a return to thumbsucking or bed-wetting, the strongest indicator of sexual abuse is sexual acting out and inappropriate sexual knowledge and interest. Victims may withdraw from school and social activities and exhibit various learning and behavioural problems including cruelty to animals, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Teenage pregnancy and risky sexual behaviors may appear in adolescence. Child sexual abuse victims report almost four times as many incidences of self-inflicted harm.
According to Wikipedia the global prevalence of child sexual abuse has been estimated at 19.7% for females and 7.9% for males, according to a 2009 study published in Clinical Psychology Review that examined 65 studies from 22 countries. Using the available data, the highest prevalence rate of child sexual abuse geographically was found in Africa (34.4%), primarily South Africa; Europe showed the lowest prevalence rate (9.2%); America and Asia had prevalence rates between 10.1% and 23.9%. In the past, other research has concluded similarly that in North America, for example, approximately 15% to 25% of women and 5% to 15% of men were sexually abused when they were children. Most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims; approximately 30% are relatives of the child, most often brothers, fathers, uncles or cousins; around 60% are other acquaintances such as 'friends' of the family, babysitters, or neighbors; strangers are the offenders in approximately 10% of child sexual abuse cases. Most child sexual abuse is committed by men; studies show that women commit 14% to 40% of offenses reported against boys and 6% of offenses reported against girls. Some shocking statistics from India- 53% of children have faced some amount of sexual abuse; 6% of children report having been sexually assaulted; in 50% cases the abuser was in a relationship of trust with the child.
It is important at this stage, to separate the broader issue of child abuse from the specific one of child sexual abuse. Child abuse is primarily emotional and mental or even physical and encompasses a much wider gamut of actions.
While releasing the report on child abuse in India, Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury said, “Child abuse is shrouded in secrecy and there is a conspiracy of silence around the entire...