Timely counselling in case of a minor’s sexual assault can help heal wounds: PGI doctor
The childhood trauma, if not treated on time, can leave marks on the psyche of child for lifetimepunjab Updated: Jul 26, 2017 11:57 IST
She was eight, when her neighbour started sexually exploiting her. The child approached her parents for help, but they did nothing as the neighbour was influential.
It continued for over a year, until a relative came forward to help.That one year transformed that child into a rebellious adolescent: she started smoking, became carefree, aggressive, irritable, and would insult her parents.
She stopped going to school and her grades started falling; she suffered insomnia, loss of appetite and other behavioural issues.It was after a year of counselling that the girl could get over the emotional trauma. Her scores started improving; she quit smoking and is no more a rebellious teenager.
But she is still at risk of suffering from depression, anxiety or psychosis in case she comes across a difficult situation in life. According to a doctor at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), cases of sexual violence against children have witnessed an increase, with more number of children becoming victims at a younger age.
‘VICTIMS SHOW EXTREME BEHAVIOURAL CHANGES’
HT interacted with one of the psychiatrists from the PGIMER, who is an expert in child psychology, to know how sexual abuse transforms the victim’s life.
Dr Susanta Padhy, associate professor, psychiatry department, said: “How a child reacts to violence depends upon her resilience (ability to recover). In case she has good resilience she might not develop any symptoms or will overcome them very soon. But the challenge is with those who have poor ability to recover or are victims of prolonged sexual abuse or multiple abuses.”He said that such children show an extreme change in behaviour.
They will either internalise stress, i.e. withdraw themselves from society, become introvert, talk less, go into depression, or will externalise stress, i.e. become aggressive, disrespectful, violent or anti-social elements.
“The children who have become victims of childhood trauma are more likely of becoming perpetrators,” he said.
The childhood trauma, if not treated on time, can leave marks on the psyche of child for lifetime.“A victim of sexual abuse will have difficulty in building new relationships, especially with the life partner. Chances that it may impact their sexual life as men might have erectile dysfunction and women would have anorgasmia.”
When asked if the symptoms appear immediately or appear later on, Dr Padhy said: “A child might show acute symptoms when exposed to sexual abuse. Anxiety, emotional numbness, hyperarousal, suicidal tendency, fall in academic grades, getting into substance abuse, loss of appetite, insomnia are some of the symptoms that might occur immediately .”
“Apart from this, the symptoms might present in milder forms for a long period and flare up when the child encounters any tragedy and is more likely to go into depression, anxiety or psychosis,” he said.
‘WE BUILT TRUST’
Talking about the importance of psychiatrists and psychologists for such children, he said: “We build trust with the child. Various issues are discussed and together we find out a way as in how to go ahead in life, rather that bringing it to an end.”
He advised parents to have open mind and become vigilant in a balanced manner. They should observe any change in behaviour of the child and talk to her about various aspects. He said that children should be taught about good touch and bad touch when they are around six years old.
The psychologist said that children can be protected from sexual violence provided parents build a bond of trust with them and note behavioural change on time.