Sexual abuse has devastating, irreversible impact on children: Study
Children who have been sexually abused experience a range of psychosocial problems and are affected in devastating and often irreversible ways, a study by the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation has found.
Out of the 96 victims and their families contacted by Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s foundation, only 14 or 15% agreed to participate in the pilot study to assess the psychological impact of child sexual abuse.
And out of the 14 families of victims from eight years to 16 years old approached for final interaction and interview, two refused to sign the informed consent form.
“Sexual abuse puts the child in perpetual trauma and shock affecting her/his physical, mental, psychological as well as social well-being and placing her/his overall growth and development in jeopardy,” it says.
“Such acts can have devastating and often irreversible impact on young children, and recent trends in India have revealed an urgent need to improve and strengthen the response (at societal, government, legal and judicial levels) to check such crime and offer effective support for survivors,” it adds.
Survivors of child sexual abuse lack confidence, feel alienated, fear going out alone, sense a change in the behaviour of family members and in case of children above 15, there is a tendency of self-blame and self-harm, the study says.
“New facets could include losing contact with all friends, finding the social network limited to a minimum and getting handicapped by limited movement in the vicinity of the home,” the report said.
The study found that sexually abused children feel unloved, which points “how the family itself can trigger long-term adverse impact on the survivor’s self-esteem and confidence”.
The report also pointed out that in cases where family support was available to the child survivor, they turned out to be confident.
“Even if they (family members) see me crying they do not stop me nor try to console me. I used to be loved so much before but now things have changed,” a 17-year-old survivor said when about the love and affection received by them from their families before and after the incident.
It also talks about the experience of the victims and their families with legal and other support systems and says that case pendency and delays are found to be one of the major hurdles in bringing them back to the mainstream.
“None of the respondents were found to be happy with this. This is a serious barrier to the nation’s ability to curb such crime, and most of the cases recorded here have been pending in courts as complaints for over two years, even though POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012,) stipulates fast-track justice,” the report points out.
Satyarthi said while speaking to the Hindustan Times that a National Child Tribunal (NCT) must be constituted to fast-track the cases of sexual offences against children.
“The current criminal law system we have, we focus so much on the punishment to the offender. But what about the victim who has lost childhood? There is a gap in actual incidents and FIR registration because of stigma. It’s time to focus on the rehabilitation and apart from the survivor the family also needs counselling as their support is very important,” Satyarthi said.
The child right activist called for all political parties to unite for the cause with 90,000 cases of the POCSO act pending in courts across the country and only 30% conviction.
“There could be hundreds of reasons to divide but there is at least one reason to unite and that is how we can save our children,” Satyarthi said.
Child sexual abuse has been in focus after the gang-rape and murder of the eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district hit the headlines and sparked nationwide outrage and criticism of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
Since then, there has been an overwhelming rise in the number crime against children forcing the Union cabinet to approve the death penalty to those convicted of raping children below 12 years.
According to government figures, a child is sexually abused every 15 minutes in India. The National Crime Records Bureau report for 2016 shows a sharp spike in cases of rape against children with an increase of such incidents by over 82% as compared to 2015.