Abusing the innocent

While passing by the canal one day when it was raining, the sight of innocent children diving into the canal and enjoying the rain made me think how blissfully unaware these children are of the dangerous times we live in. They have no idea what kind of vultures inhabit the same planet, ready to pounce upon innocent children whenever they get a chance.

“A boy gunned down a man who sodomised him 10 years ago in the suburban area Lehri Potha…” – ‘Sodomy victim kills assailant after 10 years’ (The Post, September 2, 2006). “A father subjected his two-year-old daughter to sexual violence in the suburban area of Korotana…” – ‘Father rapes two-year-old daughter’ (The Post, August 30, 2006). “Accused Malik Arif, a resident of Mohallah Usman Ghani, along with his accomplices kidnapped the 12-year-old girl of the same area with the help of a woman and took her to a house in a deserted place where he subjected her to sexual violence for one year” – ‘Minor kidnapped, raped for one year’ (The Post, August 25, 2006). “A married youth kidnapped his seven-year-old cousin and tortured her to death after failing to rape her in the Dohman police station area Monday” – ‘Girl, 7, tortured to death after rape bid’ (The Post, August 22, 2006). “A bank officer along with his four accomplices abducted a 15-year-old girl and gang-raped her for 16 days, besides scarring her body with hot iron rods and cigarettes…” – ‘15-year-old girl gang-raped by five for 16 days’ (The Post, August 20, 2006). The list of such – or even worse – incidents is endless.

Child sexual abuse is a menace that plagues all societies – Eastern or Western – alike. It is an issue that is considered taboo in this part of the world, but sadly it is a harsh truth. Everybody knows it happens, yet no one is ready to talk about it. There is not enough awareness about this issue in our society. We do not educate our children that if an uncle or an aunt, a driver or a maid, a teacher or a peer, etc., touches a child in an inappropriate way, the child must inform the parents immediately without feeling ashamed. Instead what we teach our children is that talking about sex is dirty. “Shhh,” we say, while the child goes on to suffer at the hands of sexually frustrated predators.

The other day on the talk-show Oprah, they showed a teenage girl who was addicted to self-mutilation in the past and has now been rehabilitated. She used to use a razor blade to cut her face, wrists, legs, and private parts. She said that when the blood oozed out of her body, she felt clean. During her therapy, she confessed that she was sexually molested by three different people during her childhood, one molester being her grandmother. Nearly half of those who self-mutilate have been physically or sexually abused during childhood, according to the US National Mental Health Association.

“A wide range of psychological, emotional, physical, and social effects have been attributed to child sexual abuse, including anxiety, depression, obsession, compulsion, grief, post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms such as flashbacks, emotional numbing, pseudo-maturity symptoms, and other more general dysfunctions such as sexual dysfunction, social dysfunction, dysfunction of relationships, poor education and employment records, eating disorders, self-mutilation, and a range of physical symptoms common to some other forms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), such as sensual numbness, and loss of appetite” – Wikipedia. Creating awareness is the key if we do not want our children to face these miseries. Parents should never be shy of disclosing the bitter realities of life, merely because they think it would affect the innocence of their children. It is a better option to discuss these issues with children than being sorry for the rest of your life. It must be understood that child sexual abuse can take place within the family – by a parent, step-parent, sibling or other relative; or outside the home – by a friend, neighbour, teacher, tutor, maulvi sahib, servant or any stranger.

Sexual abuse is not solely restricted to physical contact. It could include non-contact abuse such as exposure, voyeurism, and child pornography. If there are sudden changes in behaviour such as extreme mood swings, withdrawal, fearfulness, excessive crying, bed-wetting, nightmares, fear of going to bed, other sleep disturbances, bruises or unexplained injuries, a fear of certain places, people or activities, the parents must talk to the child about the causes. Such behavioural changes may not be due to sexual abuse, they may relate to some family, medical or school problem, but it is better to act with prudence.

Parents must take every precaution to prevent sex abuse that happens close to home. Children are innocent and do not know when people might start taking advantage of them. Perhaps some children initially cannot resist curiosity, and even if it is not curiosity but a feeling that they do not exactly mind at the time, it would leave a psychological impact on them as they grow up. As for those children who are disgusted by it, the guilt attached to something ‘wrong’ being done to them and/or fear is what prevents them from telling their elders. Therefore, a child must be told that if someone tries to touch their body or do things that make them feel uncomfortable, he/she is to say no to that person and tell the parents right away. If a child comes and hints at something about sexual abuse, encourage the child to talk freely and assure the child that he or she is not to blame or to feel guilty for what happened to them. Most children believe that somehow they caused the abuse or may even view it as a form of punishment for imagined or real wrongdoing. It is the responsibility of the parents never to part with their children unless they are in trusted hands. Children are the most precious assets for parents, and if a person is unwilling to leave his/her precious household things to someone who is not completely trustworthy, the children should never be left with such people either, especially a new maid, servant, driver, tutor, etc. It is dangerous even to leave children with relatives (uncles/aunts) or older cousins who themselves may be going through adolescence, as he/she is quite prone to subject the child to all sorts of experiments just for fun. One may never know who the molester can be, but be sure to know where exactly your child is when he is not with you, and who he is spending time with.

Poets over the centuries have written so much about the ‘innocence of a child’, but the victims of child sexual abuse can never relate to that much-talked about ‘innocence’. They were never able to enjoy that innocence, since it was nipped in the bud by sick people. Children are our future and it is our moral duty to protect them from harm by making sure that they are always protected from evils that can inflict permanent psychological wounds. After growing up, the victims of child sexual abuse tend to spend most of their energy in balancing out their emotional stresses, resulting in great loss of possible productivity. We should always keep in mind the probability of such a mishap and keep a watchful eye on our young children to protect them from this menace.

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