Child Molestation: Be the Voice and Break the Impasse
“They sexually abused me in front of secret cameras … they came back a week later and showed me the video, and said if I did not do what they wanted, they would show it to my friends and school colleagues.” (BBC News, 2015)
The crime of committing sexual acts with children up to the age of 18—including touching and exposure of genitalia, taking of pornographic pictures, rape, and inducement of sexual acts with the molester or with other children—defines the cruel term ‘child molestation’ (Frederick, 2010). As a child cannot consent to any form of sexual activity, a perpetrator engaging with a child in any such way is committing a crime that leaves lasting effects on the victim.
According to Sahil, 2054 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in 2014 in Punjab; of the total alarming number of 3,508 cases, 58% were reported from Punjab, 25% (875 cases) from Sindh, 8.5% (297 cases) from Baluchistan, while the remaining cases were reported from KPK, Gilgit-Baltistan and Fata. Despite the number being enormous, it is still believed to be underreported as cases of sexual abuse are seldom reported and more often hidden in fear of dishonor (Express Tribune, 2015).
Recently, however, a gang of more than 25 criminals who were active since the past ten years and involved in countless cases of extreme child abuse faced arrest in Hussainkhana Wala village of the Kasur District in Punjab, 8th August 2015. Investigations revealed the making of around 400 videos involving 280 victims of sexual abuse by the gang (Geo TV, 2015).
Child sexual abuse and exploitation is a serious violation of children’s rights which dramatically effects their physical, mental, social, and other aspects of well-being. As such, the human tragedy of Kasur played a major role in dragging me to the forefront of this issue.
The United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) clearly states in Article 34 that every child has the right to be free from sexual abuse and exploitation, i.e. coercion to engage in any unlawful sexual activity, prostitution or pornographic performances (Carr, 2011). Despite this, child molestation is a highly prevalent issue in Pakistan for a number of reasons:
Firstly, poverty renders parents unable to deliver their duties in an effective manner, ultimately forcing them to give away their daughters (children) as replacement of compromise stems (Khan, n.d.).
Secondly, due to lack of sexual education and parental attention, parents themselves are not aware that their child is vulnerable to sexual abuse. Consequently, the child himself/herself is also left unaware as to the implications of sexual abuse and the measures they need to take if they become trapped in such situations.
Thirdly, many children in one family increase the risk of children being tended to ineffectively. Cultural values of respecting elders and not pointing out their mistakes, religious values that hamper the initiatives of sex education, young parenthood etc. all perpetuate this unawareness.
In Pakistani society, people are discouraged to discuss this sensitive topic. If a child goes through sexual abuse, they often blame themselves and feel too ashamed to tell their parents. They not only fear punishment for bringing shame on themselves and their families, but also that they will be doubly victimized if they openly accuse their abusers.
In addition, “Mental torture, social injustice and police tyranny faced by victims in hospitals and district courts further creates frustration in people which draws parents to not to report such things,” (Sluggett, 2003). This leads to children becoming a source of sexual gratification, and the videos made after abusing them are sold in other parts of countries in order to earn money.
In order to stop this cycle of exploitation, we as healthcare providers must not undermine the importance of sexual awareness session and campaigns. According to the health belief model, healthcare providers can change the patterns of care by educating parents and children; we can explain to them that we are living in a country where child abuse rates are high and bring consequences like PTSD, cognitive distortions, depression. This can increase their sense of perceived susceptibility and severity.
Next, we must guide them about the possible measures to take, such as maintaining the security system, listening to their child, and guiding them about how to protect their own selves. By explaining the advantages of these protective behaviors, we can help parents and community members to perceive the benefits of implementing safer actions. This is followed by teaching and planning on a community level as healthcare providers and answering questions: what is the better type of security system for the safety of children? How, when, and where to report such an incident? This will break barriers for families and communities alike.
Moreover, frequent follow-ups, reminders and information about recent facts and figures will make parents and children ready to take action and, finally, will build their confidence (self-efficacy) in themselves. Learning individual-level life-protection skills like taekwondo can expedite change in the different communities and will ultimately help to reduce child sexual abuse rates (Gilbert, Sawyer & McNeill, 2011).
Healthcare professionals shoulder the responsibility to educate parents about their child’s rights and the importance of discussing this sensitive topic with their children in different communities. This is necessary to enable child to notify their parents as soon as they feel any insecurity. Then, children should be taught how to differentiate between ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’, when and who has the right to touch them, ways to protect themselves if encounter a molester, and to never hesitate to tell those they feel safe and secure with about their abuse. These teachings can be given at schools by school nurses as well.
Community participation should be ensured by ingraining in every citizen the responsibility for his or her own behavior and their obligation to report to the responsible agencies any knowledge they have of potential victims or offenders in their neighborhood or workplace. In conclusion, effective actions taken towards children, parents, and communites as a whole will help protect our generation from the lasting effects of child molestation by lowering its number.
BBC News,. (2015). Pakistan child sex abuse: Seven arrested in Punjab. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-33843765
Carr, J. (2011). The Internet dimension of sexual violence against children.Council of Europe, Protecting children from sexual violence-A comprehensive approach, 281-282.
Express Tribune,. (2015). Crimes against children: Study shows 17% rise in abuse case reports. Retrieved from http://www.geopakistan.net/2015/09/crimes-against-children-study-shows-17-rise-in-abuse-case-reports.html
Frederick, J. (2010). Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Boys in South Asia. A review of research findings, legislation, policy and programme responses.
Gilbert, G. G., Sawyer, R. G., & McNeill, B. (2011). Health education: Creating strategies for school and community health. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
Khan, A. N. (n.d.). Country Report- Pakistan. Retrieved from http://www.unafei.or.jp/english/pdf/RS_No69/No69_16PA_Khan.pdf
Geo TV,. (2015). Pakistan’s biggest child abuse scandal unearthed in Punjab | PAKISTAN. Retrieved from http://www.geo.tv/article-193619-Pakistans-biggest-child-abuse-scandal-unearthed-in-Punjab
Sluggett, C. (2003). Mapping of Psychosocial Support for Girls and Boys: Affected by Child Sexual Abuse in Four Countries in South and Central Asia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan. Save the Children Sweden Denmark.
Keywords/tag: Child molestation, child sexual abuse,
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