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When saviour turns predator

A study in Chennai has found that as many as 42% of school kids are sexual abuse victims, writes Chetan Chauhan.

india Updated: Mar 31, 2006 16:01 IST

The spectre of child abuse just gets more and more alarming.

A study in Chennai has found that as many as 42 per cent of school-going children are victims of forced sexual abuse.

And in most of the cases, the perpetrators are either close relatives or family members.

According to Chennai-based NGO Tulir, which released the survey in Delhi on Thursday, the 42 per cent figure could be a suggestion of the prevalence of sexual abuse in the country.

The magnitude of the problem can be gauged from the fact that 38 per cent of the population is less than 18 years of age.

The study was conducted between September 2005 and January 2006 in 24 schools in Chennai and 2,211 children studying in Class XI were interviewed.

It found that contrary to popular belief, boys (48 per cent) were more sexually abused than girls (39 per cent).

"There is a myth that boys are not sexually abused and it is reflected in parental, familial, community and professional attitudes. The study refutes this myth," the report says.

Not only is the number of abused boys more, they are also the victims of the worst forms of sexual abuse.

As many as 21 per cent of boys who were abused suffered from trauma resulting from severe form of abuse.

In comparison, only 11 per cent girls were severely abused. "This is because most believe that boys are more safe than girls," the study states.

And giving more credence to the growing belief that sexual predators are closer than you think, the study found that over 75 per cent of offenders were friends or close family acquaintances.

In only eight per cent of cases were the abusers complete strangers.

For most children, abuse takes place between 11 and 15 years of age. At that age, many of them don’t have the courage to speak about the wrong done to them.

The few who do are asked to conceal the trauma for the sake of the family’s honour. "Only a few cases are reported," the report says.

Another myth the reports wants to nullify is that sexual abuse of children is more among the lower strata of society.

The study found that most cases of abuse against children came from the higher income group. About 55 per cent of children from higher income groups who were interviewed reported abuse while the least was from the lower middle-class.