Sexual Abuse

Sexual Abuse Michael Stiefvater Sexual Abuse At one time I thought about how child sexual abuse was growing concern in our society. Stories and interviews on TV and in the paper would keep me aware, but I always thought about how it was always happening to everyone else. One figure that lingered around in my mind was that one in six children would be a victim of sexual abuse. Having six children of my own I thought of these statistics. Knocking on wood so to speak, until it happened in our family.

Sexual abuse can destroy a family, especially when the perpetrator is considered a member of the family. It is frustrating when someone that is trusted betrays that trust. Family members become angry , divided and deny that anything is wrong. The effects on the victim is the toughest thing to deal with. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) defines child abuse and neglect as at a minimum, any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

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Some states have exceptions, but the term child refers to someone not yet 18. Then CAPTA defines sexual abuse as: the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexual explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or the rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or any other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children.

Sexual abuse

The manchild is the most helpless compared to the little ones of all other species. To begin with, it has to depend for all its needs, locomotion, food, protection, etc., on others. Later, its thinking mind further complicates affairs. Unlike animals, whose sole purpose in life is survival, the child learns the necessity of satisfying many people. First it is the mother than the father too, then the school-teacher and later, friends, boyfriend /girlfriend, wife/ husband and the society in general, if it is to have a successful life. Sometimes it gets confused regarding the criteria for this satisfaction, because those in authority, or superior to it in the use of their faculties, i.e. the elders impress upon it a criteria that is not correct.
In the west the criteria or sense of values, to which much importance was given previously, have declined. Honour piety, family ties, in fact all abstract values have today acquire a new meaning. Today they have all been, in varying degrees been sacrificed to the god of progress. With the U.S having made homosexuality and lesbianism legal and sex being accepted as the correct behaviour, the fabric of values is bound to be torn to shreds. Compassion and kindness, are some of the other values, that have been so sacrificed.
Child abuse is the result of the general ineffectiveness of our value system. Its incidences are on the rise every year. In Ontario, Canada alone, 933 cases have been reported in 1988, as compared to 286 cases in 1980. In Quebec, there were 27940 case reported in 1988, as against 17145 cases in 1981-1982. There is a possibility that actually the cases of abuse are higher than reported.
Obviously, as in the case of adults, blame cannot be placed wholly or partially on the children, for their abuse, specially if it involves sex. However there are certain types, who are more likely to be abused than the others. These may be those who belong to families whose members are not at peace with each other, there is a constant turmoil and tension prevailing within it and children are neglected. As the number of broken homes or disturbed families increases, so does the incidences of child abuse. The increase in incidences of sexual abuse is quite alarming. The Canadian Royal Commission Report of 1984 stated that every one in two males and one in three females, have been victims of unwanted sexual acts and 80% of these assaulted as children. Fathers, step-fathers, boyfriends and other males have been culprits in 90% of the cases. This brings out the fact that 65% females and 50 percent males who were subjected to illegal sex, were quite willing. If illegal sex is so common and acceptable in Canada, and acceptable, that is not a cause for worry. Only very small children- almost infants, need to be concerned about. Children of 4 1/2 months old, to some in their late teens have been victims in many cases. Fear gratification of elders and familial neglect have all played their parts in making abuse victims of normal children. Apart from the categories mentioned above, others, even priests have been culprits in such cases. A total of 19 lay brothers and other members of the catholic church have been charged with or convicted of sexually abusing boys in Newfoundland, says the report.
Those that are assaulted, suffer from long term psychological problems. Low self esteem (efficacy) and depression are two of the reported results of sexual assaults on children. Some such children are known to have tried to commit suicide, while others suffer from multiple personality disorders. The good news is that in about five years, most of the victims surveyed, seem to have recovered reasonably. However,27% of the case have gonre into deeper trauma. ( Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry)
The culprits of child abuse, fall into two broad categories: one, that finds release from worries eg. Financial in sex. The other, pedophiles, who abuse children out of love and affection, the feeling of power and control it gives them and out of aggressiveness in their character. Research at Royal Ottawa hospital indicates that biological disorders maybe the root-cause of pedophilic behaviour. Some of the pedophiles feel a life long attraction for children. Each offender has a different need and is satisfied by molesting children.’ Says Roual La Torre, co-ordinator for the BC Sex Offender assessment and treatment programme in Vancouver. The society is making all attempts to rectify the situation.
The attempt has to be two-fold. On one hand it has to be the abused child who has to be treated for his trauma, and on the other hand the offender has to be treated, in such a way that he does not repeat his conduct – he has to be taught more self-control. It is difficult to detect the abused child, except by those who have been specially trained for the purpose, the may be school teachers counsellors etc. organisations such as the BC Child Abuse Research and Education Production Association, are their best to educate the concerned. Once detected cure of the abused children may be easy for psychiatrists. The scars ma6y be deep, but they can be healed.
The offenders, however, are not easy to take care of. If the offender is the parent of the abused child, it is likely that he can be successfully be counselled to avoid repetition of the act. However, one can never be certain about the pedophiles. They are likely to re-offend. It may become necessary in some cases that a chemical or drug is administered. These are known as anti-androgens; they reduce the pedophiles sex-drive, through decreasing the production of male hormone torestrones. It is in effect like a’ chemical castration.’
The reduction of the male hormone torestrones may be helpful in cases, but the real cure for the society lies in the reduction of permissibility on the society. If the child is bombarded day and night by pornography, and if the society permits illegal and immoral sex among consenting adults, the child is likely to take influence from it. A girl, say of 16 years, is but a child only. Therefore being permissive about her liaisons, is child abuse in every sense of the word. Not she and not the offender alone, but the entire society is guilty of child abuse by default. Similarly, the neglecting parents of the boy who is victim of abuse, are guilty of the abuse too. We have to improve our own morals, in order to make sense talking of child abuse.

Achenbach T. Edel brock CS (1991) Manual of Child Behaviour Checklist/ 4 -18 and 1991 Profile Burlington; University of Vermont Department of psychiatry.
Bene E. Anthony J. (1978) Manual of Children’s Version of Family relations Test London: NFER- Nelson.

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Conte Jr. 1887, The Effects of Sexual abuse on Children: Result of a research project Newyork. Academy of Sciences.

Everson MD Hunter WM, Runyon DK, Edulsohn GA, coulter ML(1989), Maternal Support following Disclosure 0f Incest. AM J Orthopsychiatry, 59: 197-207.

Gomez-Schwartz B, Hoeowitz J, Cardarelli A (1990), Child Sexual Abuse: The Initial Effects. New bury Park, CA : Sage.

Goodyer IM, KolvinI, Gatzanis S (1987), the Impact of recent Undesireable Life Events on Psychiatric Disorders in Childhood and Adolescence. Br J Psychiatry 151: 1 – 142
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