News Update

The Menace of Sexual Abuse in Children, What Parents Should Do

By Gloria Ibesi

Her breasts stink. But worse than its horrible smell is this annoying salty taste that won’t leave my tongue for the next four days until we are forced again to suck Nnenna’s breasts. I am eight. My older sisters are ten. These are non-identical twins that share an identical fear for Nnenna’s fire punishment. I remember the day I decided to revolt.

After waiting for so long for Iquo and Oqua to take the lead in breaking us out of our maid’s dirty ritual, I decided to take action.

‘I’m not a baby, Aunty Nnenna. I’m not sucking your breast.’ The slap that followed and the death pangs of hunger as a result of food starvation were enough to melt the resistance I was building on the inside. I want to tell mother, but I’m afraid. Too afraid. What if Oqua and Iquo refuse to testify to the truth? I’ll be facing double punishment from mother for lying and from Aunty Nnenna for daring to sabotage her excellent reputation. Mother says she is the best thing that has happened to her.

While other children run wild in their parent’s absence, the neighbours testify to her how quiet and coordinated we always are. I wish I could tell her. I wish she could see through the tension in our hugs when we say good bye. Smell the fear on our skins every time we kiss her, see through her busy schedule and blind trust, see the truth that Nnenna was twisting our minds and stealing our childhood with sexual abuse. Except that this abuse is silent. So silent I sometimes do not hear it. I think I’m dreaming.

Father’s case is worse. I see him twice in a month. He’s the reason we live in this comfortable home. But it’s not so comfortable anymore. Its beauty can’t shield us from the pain and shame of an abuse his presence could have stopped.

Maybe when I become a teenager and my muscles are fully grown like Dad’s, maybe then I’ll be the manly defence for my sisters, snatch the peeled plantain from Nnenna before she inserts it in their bodies, before they cry in pain and tremble in fear. But today, I’m just an eight-year-old boy. So I watch and participate, helplessly.

Copied from Mercy-Hephzibah Ndifon, Content creator @ Journal of a Jesus Girl.

Still on our children and how they should be tended during the holidays to avoid the deploring statement of Had I known.

Many children taste terrible traumatic experiences during childhood due to negligence or inattention by their parents in their lives. These experiences impair them physically, emotionally and psychologically, sometimes shaping their sexual orientation and entire outlook on life. Just as some children who witness domestic violence from time to time will likely grow up as abusers and over defensive or callous adults.

Many adults today who are guilty of child molestation, domestic violence, sex addiction, and others who struggle with low self-esteem, possess a violent nature developed from chronic abuses at their tender age.

As specified by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, “Child Sexual Abuse is a significant public health problem and an adverse childhood experience. Child sexual abuse refers to the involvement of a child (person less than 18 years old) in sexual activity that violates the laws or social taboos of society and that he/she does not fully comprehend; does not consent to or is unable to give informed consent to, or; is not developmentally prepared for and cannot give consent to.”

Child sexual abuse encompasses a series of illegal sexual activities which a child is exposed to by an adult or an older child such as penetrative sex, inappropriate touching or fondling of a child’s sensitive parts of the body, engaging in any kind of sexual in activity in the presence of a child, encouraging a child to perform sexual acts, exposing a child to pornographic videos or images, among others.  This menace of child sexual abuse is not gender based as both male and female children alike are prone to sexual abuse though female children are at more risk of being abused than male children.

Worse still, greater cases of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by people known and trusted by the child or child’s family members. This includes house helps, care givers, teachers, neighbours, church leaders, older siblings, parents and close family relations and mostly occur in situations where parents are too engrossed in their undertakings; having little or no time for the children, especially during the holidays when the children do not go to school.

Another common case of child abuse occurs amongst children who have access to pornography or those who witness sexual activities by adults who may be their parents or elder ones. Some parents or older people steal children’s innocence through engaging in sexual acts with their partners before children, ignoring their presence, unaware that such register in their minds. These children who may be driven by what they have seen but may not understand, may seek avenues to practice them. They either use their younger ones or introduce their peers to the act which can lead to addiction.

The traumatic experience, also known as Child Molestation, which may be acute or chronic, often advance in short and long term physical, mental or behavioural health consequences that can result to physical injuries, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancy, post-traumatic stress disorder, increased risk of involving in incautious sexual behaviour and sexual violence, et cetera. In most circumstances, the victims often develop Agraphobia which is the irrational fear of being sexually abused and may be haunted by the trauma for a lifetime.

In several cases, just like in the excerpt, the child is unable to relate the experience to their parents due threats from the abuser, lack of confidence in parents or due to the physical and/or communication distance between them and their parents as seen among children living with people other than their parents.

There are many cases of sexual abuse in children which are rarely either not reported, under reported or never talked about due to fear of discrimination, shame and lack of confidence in authorities. However, The Child Rights Act adopted by Nigeria in 2003 requires that the well-being of every child must be respected and considered paramount and provides that sex with a child is rape, and anyone who has sexual intercourse with a child is liable to imprisonment for life upon conviction. Also, some sections of the Nigerian Criminal Code prescribe life imprisonment for rape; 14 years jail term for attempted rape; and life sentence for defilement of a child aged 11 years or between 12 and 15 years, etc.

Signs and Effects of Sexual Abuse in Children

Children who are sexually abused may exhibit such signs as: avoid, dislike or seem afraid of a particular person or places; develop health problems which may include soreness in genital areas and anal areas; experience pain while using the toilet. Other signs can be unusual poor performance in academic work, over or under eating, unusually scared or shows signs of depression, withdrawal from peer groups, aggressiveness, clinginess, bedwetting, as well as regular nightmares, etc.

A study published by the Journal of Adolescent Health disclosed that sexual abuse in children accelerates puberty ahead of its standard biological timeline. Also, chronic sexual abuse in children leads to extended exposure to sex hormones which may lead to reproductive cancers and complications with menstruation and fertility. However, these signs does not necessarily mean the child has been sexually abused but will help in monitoring a child more closely when noticed in them.

What parents should do?

Parents, especially mothers, should avoid engaging in jobs or businesses which are much time consuming and will not avail them time to be with their children.

Parents should not shy away from schooling their children on necessarily Sex Education tips from childhood to avoid them learning the negative ones from people outside.

Parents should strive to teach their children to freely express themselves and always encourage them to report when anybody touches them in sensitive parts of their body.

Parents should endeavour to bathe and dress their children themselves when they are still tender and by so doing observe their children’s bodies from time to time.

It is also advisable to teach children, especially the girls, some defense mechanisms to help them defend themselves in face of troubles.

Children at a tender age should not be made to live in homes out of their parents reach.

Parents should take care to observe their children closely to note who they associate with, people who give them special treatments, offer them gifts and usually seek opportunity to be alone with them.

Children with disabilities who may not be able to express themselves should be properly monitored.

Parents should avoid giving children access to mobile devices that can give them undue access to the internet, social media and pornography.

Researches reveal that children who witness sexual activity, especially from their parents, are likely to practice with other children. Parents should take proper measures to prevent their children from witnessing their sexual activities.

In situations where children are left under the care of people that are not theirs; Parents should take some time to appear unannounced to see what their children are doing.

In conclusion, greater percentage of child sexual abuses occur as a result of negligence on the part of parents. Parents should desist from involving their children at a tender age in businesses such as pub business, hawking, etc. that will expose them to relating with strangers from time to time. Some children’s futures are ruined due to sexual molestation, hence parents should try as much as possible protect their children from such harmful experience.