The Sad Reality of Child Sexual Abuse in India

Naseema, a 14-year old girl was sexually abused multiple times by her father because he believed that he would get rid of his STD if he had intercourse with a virgin who had not yet attained puberty. It is quite obvious what the result might have been of this heinous crime. Yes, the innocent girl got infected. The affliction had no effect on the cruel father who inflicted, even more, tortures on the girl and ultimately sold her to a brothel.

The crime was extremely shocking, but what was even more shocking was the fact that a girl was sexually abused by someone in her own family and the reason for it was a blind superstitious belief. But this is not the only case where a child has been sexually abused by a family member. In more than 90% of cases of child sexual abuse, the abuser is someone who is close to the family of the victim or inside the victim’s family. This fact may seem to be shocking, but when analysed properly, it is realised that the trust between the culprit and the victim and the victim’s family presents the abuser with more chances to abuse the child. 

Moreover, a child doesn’t realise that he/she is being treated in an inhuman way until he/she grows up and by that time the scars of the crime penetrate deep into the body and mind of the child. In cases, where the child feels that something is wrong, the child is either manipulated and threatened to stay silent by the abuser, or the child’s complaints are brushed away by the family elders in the name of ‘maintaining family reputation’.

Consider this case of sexual abuse of a 9-year old boy by his stepfather. The 9-year old had no complaints about the activities of his stepfather. When, finally, the boy was discovered suffering from an infectious ailment, the facts stunned the doctors who were treating him, the hospital staff, the police and lastly, his own mother. Besides the physical pain and injuries, the child had no complaint against his stepfather. In fact, he was content about being close to his stepfather as he had been brainwashed by the man that this was their secret way of expressing love to each other and sharing it with anyone else would make their love go away.

When is the Crime Identified 

In most of the cases, the crime is discovered at a later stage, and this is one of the main reasons, why most of the child sexual abuse victims face prolonged trauma because of the sexual abuse. The symptoms of the crime are visible, only when it has taken place for some period and the pain inflicted on the child because of this becomes unbearable. Even then, the child is silenced, the crime continues and ultimately, what results is serious physical injuries to the child (which are not curable in 75% of the cases), but more than that, mental shock and trauma, which remains with the child for a very long time. The short-term effects of child sexual abuse include regressive behaviour (such as thumb-sucking and bed wetting), sleep disturbances, eating problems and low academic performance. 

These symptoms and effects aggravate with time and have serious implications such as severe anxiety problems, depression, alcohol and drug abuse and in some cases, self-destructive behaviour. Severe genital disorders, organ malfunctions, physical scars and respiratory problems are also seen in the victims of child sexual abuse.

Child Sexual Abuse Numbers in India

The numbers in India related to child sexual abuse are shocking with the number of cases being discovered on a rise with each passing year. The number of cases registered for child abuse rose from 8904 in the year 2014 to 14,913 in the year 2015, under the POSCO Act.

A survey conducted by World Vision India with a sample of 45,844 respondents uncovered some shocking facts related to this crime in our country. In the 12-18 age group, across 26 states in the country, one in every two children are or have been sexually abused. It was also revealed that one out of five children does not feel safe because of the fear of being sexually exploited. The most shocking revelations out of the survey were that 98% of rapes were being committed by people known to the children and 25% of the families do not come forward to report when a child is sexually abused.

These numbers point towards how widespread the crime is in India, and how one of the main problems while dealing with it is the silence of the child and the parents, and the fact that a relative or a close person to the child’s family is the offender in most cases.

How should the crime be dealt with?

The first step that we can take to deal with this crime is by making a child aware and give him/her the comfort and protection that if the child feels that something wrong is happening with him/her, he/she can express about it with the parents and other trusted guardians. Parents should check their child’s activities and should act wisely if they suspect any signs of abuse to their child. Along with making children aware, parents should also be made aware about the threats that a child faces physically and mentally if he/she is continuously abused so that the child or the parents don’t remain silent after the crime has taken place.

Steps the Government can take to combat Child Sexual Abuse

The government can enforce stringent laws to prevent the crime and punish the offenders so that if not moral values, the fear of being severely punished can stop the crimes and if a crime is committed, the offender is punished as soon as possible. The elders of the family who remain silent can also be punished to improve the percentage of the number of crimes reported as compared to the number of cases committed.

The ideas of awareness campaigns and counselling sessions can be implemented at the state and national levels only by the co-operation of the government and it should allocate proper funds for this purpose. Improving the judicial system, medical facilities and the security system in the rural, as well as urban areas, can go a long way in preventing and dealing with the crime as well as ensuring the physical and psychological well-being of the child who is being abused. The Indian government can take leaves out of other countries’ pages to deal with the crime. On the whole, the government needs to review the current set of laws in place and make the system of dealing with the crime more effective and efficient.

To conclude, it can be said that child sexual abuse is multi-faceted and more often than not, the abuser is someone who is around or inside the family. Crime poses a serious threat to humanity. It is not the just the abusers who need to be punished but also those family elders, who ignore the child’s voices and are equally at fault and must be seriously dealt with.

The government, as well as the society, needs to take steps to deal with the crime. The sad reality of child sexual abuse can be summed up by Ronald C. Summit’s statement, “A child molested by a father or other male in the role of parent and rejected by the mother is psychologically orphaned and almost defenceless against multiple harmful consequences. On the other hand, a mother who can advocate for the child and protect against re-abuse seems to confer on the child the power to be self-endorsing and to recover with the minimum sequel”

“Believe a child, until you prove, without a doubt, otherwise. The first time they tell you might be the only time.”

- Purab Nayak 

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The Sad Reality of Child Sexual Abuse in India The Sad Reality of Child Sexual Abuse in India Reviewed by EMN on June 29, 2019 Rating: 5

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