According to Wikipedia, sexual assault refers to any sexual act in which a person is coerced or physically forced to engage in sexual acts, which are against the individual’s will. You can simply say it is a non-consensual sexual touching of a person. Apparently, child sexual assault would include any form of abuse on a minor, in which an adult or older person ask, pressurize, or exploit the child into partaking in sexual acts. Irrespective of the basis on which the molester carries out the assault, any sexual act on a child is criminal. This is because no child is matured enough to engage in such acts by themselves. Furthermore, most sexual assaults on children are carried out to satisfy the selfish sexual urge of the abuser. Assaulting children sexually is a crime against humanity.
Sexual abuse on children can take different forms. These include the following:
- Rape including all forms of forceful vaginal, anal or oral penetrations
- Child grooming
- Sexual threats
- Child marriage/Prostitution
- Sexual intercourse
- Forced kissing
- Child pornography
- Lustful digital or online interactions
- Forceful exposure to adult sex acts
According to studies on the global incidence of sexual assault on children, it was estimated that Africa had the highest prevalence of sexual abuse (34.4℅). A large number of the abuse in Africa were reportedly from South Africa. The cases were estimated at 23.9℅ and 9.2℅ for Asia and Europe respectively. Most abusers were found to be men, and female children were the most victims of these crimes. More worrisome is the fact that most of the assaulters are persons who are well known to the survivors. These people include parents, caregivers, neighbors, friends, uncles, teachers and other acquaintance. Most of the times, the abused children find it difficult to report such incidence to the relevant authorities. Some are bribed or threatened, while others are scared of not being believed or afraid of hurting the molesters. Younger children are essentially naïve and might not be able to comprehend or describe appropriately what they are being put through.
The inability of parents/caregivers to detect traces of abuse early or of the victims to report cases of abuse have many dire consequences. Some of the effects are usually short-termed (2 years or less); others take time to heal. The abilities of the victims to survive some of these effects is largely dependent on the age they were abused, how long they were subjected to the assault, and how close the abuser was to them. Some major effects of sexual assault on children are discussed below:
- Psychological Effects: Frequently, victims of sexual exploitation are manipulated by their exploiters into believing they were guilty of the assault. This is done to scare them from telling anyone about it. The short-term effects of this could be really intense. For instance, the survivors are made to hate themselves and possibly dissociate from their bodies, as a way of punishing themselves for being responsible for the assault. They lose their self-esteem and may result in drug and alcohol use in comforting themselves. Also, trying to erase the memories of the attack could lead to amnesia. In extreme cases, the survivors might suffer psychopathic disorders and may submit themselves to suicide thoughts.
- Emotional Disorder: These include depression, isolation, trust issues, eating disorders, temperamental issues, Post-Traumatic Disorder Stress (PTDS) and impaired emotions.
- Mistaken Identity: Most survivors of sexual abuse at adulthood find it extremely difficult to accept that they are different from their abusers. This is majorly in incidence where the abuser and the victim were of the gender.
- Physical Injuries: During the assault, the molester is likely to inflict some physical injuries on the minor. These include burns, cuts, bites, and other wounds. It is also likely for the survivor to suffer vaginal or anal soreness from the assault. Some of these injuries can take considerable time to heal up, and some are usually short-lived.
- Boundary Issues: As a result of the horrible experience, a large number of the survivors find it difficult in maintaining their boundaries with persons of the same sex of their molesters. Many sexually abused individuals tend to avoid interactions or contact with people who share features with their abusers.
- Sexual Dysfunctions: Due to the unprotected exchange of fluids during most of these attacks, the survivor is exposed to many infections. These include Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), abnormal vaginal or anal discharge and HIV in severe cases. Also, older children are at risk of getting unwanted pregnancies. These disorders may affect the sexual relationships of the survivor later in his/her life. The trauma of surviving through the sexual assault and the proceeding infections may color the victim’s sexuality, thus, limiting their chances of enjoying a healthy sex life in adulthood. Survivors may be forced to sabotage relationships.
- Excessive Sexual Behaviors: In instances where a minor was sexually abused online, there is a high chance of him/her becoming addictive to certain sexual acts online. For example, the survivor might become addicted to sending or posting raunchy images online or even engaging in sexual conversations. Most times, victims of sexual abuse have distorted views of sex.
- Social Defects: During the process of recovering from the assault, survivors tend to isolate themselves from others due to their apparent trust issues. Excessive dissociations from social activities may affect their behavioral development as human beings. This may possibly lead them to become societal misfits and criminals. Furthermore, there are chances of the abused minor exhibiting regressive behaviors such as thumb-sucking, bedwetting, insomnia, nightmares, loss of previously acquired skills, loss of enthusiasm, redundant growth and poor hygiene.
The impacts of being a survivor of sexual abuse as a child are undoubtedly pernicious. However, it is crucial to know as a survivor that the abuse was never your fault. You were naive and helpless. The sooner you understand that fact, the better you can recover. It is also important for you to confide in someone you trust about it. The trusted person may be your family member, friend, colleague, or even a counselor. Recalling the scenes of the sexual assault can be extremely horrible, but allowing the trauma to continue interfering with your lives can be more devastating. So, get up and start the recovery process now!!
Photo Credit: Writingforecovery