Child Sexual Abuse
What is Child sexual abuse
Child sexual abuse can be defined as an adult's unscrupulous attempt on a child that leads to sexual deception. There are certain circumstances that will be present in order to confirm Child sexual abuse, such as great age differences between the perpetrator and the victim, i.e. adult and child, a position of authority over the child as well as when a sexual act is carried out on a child using ferocity or deceit. Child sexual abuse presents in two forms known as physical contact and non-physical contact sexual abuse.
Physical contact abuse includes an adult inappropriately and sexually touching any part of a child’s body as well as penetrating any part of the body with either genitals or objects which may or may not lead to orgasm. It also involves imposing or undressing a child to take part in sexual activity behind closed doors or in front of a camera, masturbation, taking their clothes off for others to see or touch inappropriately.
Non-physical contact abuse is the non-physical sexual activities that involve a child either by simulation, grooming or exploitation. It includes pressurising a child to watch pornography or coerce them to re-enact pornographic scenes, encouraging taking and sending pictures of their private parts via social media or text messaging, adults sending their private parts to a child for viewing, arranging and meeting a child with the aim of abusing after grooming online, as well as exploiting a child for money.
It is very important to understand Child sexual abuse and its forms because of the fact that many societies and cultures refuse to recognise child sexual abuse because of their cultural heritage. Activities such as child marriage have been recognised as Child sexual abuse regardless of the beliefs of indigenes of the country where such is performed. Some parts of arranged marriages can also be classified as Child sexual abuse in as much as it involves an underage child who is not fully informed to consent and an adult who is able to make every informed decision.
Grooming of children and other adults
Grooming of children has become an epidemic in our society in the last decade with cases surfacing more than ever before. Grooming of children can be initiated by an individual who starts to form a connection sensitively with a child, carer and the family to penetrate the confidence of the child and the family solely to sexually abuse, exploit or rape the child. Grooming of children can happen online via social media and can also happen with physical contact with the child. Perpetrators can be male or female, a stranger or someone is known to the child such as family members or friends of the family, a teacher at school or a member of church or mosque or other organisation the child belongs to. Groomers can be an adult as well as any child.
There are common tactics used by groomers when grooming a child, they can start by acquiring the child's trust by fulfilling all promises made to the child, they will go to extra lengths to make sure they do not let the child down whatsoever thus securing the child's confidence. Following on from this, the relationship will be formed with the child and groomers might become a benefactor to the child, whatever the child lacks will be provided very frequently, by this time the child might start keeping secrets from family, parents and carers.
The perpetrator will go further by asking personal questions once the child's trust has been gained. Questions that will assist to gauge how much of a risk is there from the parents or carer of the child. If the groomer senses that there is no solid closeness between the child and the family or there are loose ends in the child's parenting, they will continue to pressurise the child in order to detach from the family. Once this is achieved, the child is now defenceless and the groomers will lull the child into their sexual world by asking about sexuality, maturity and complimenting the child in a sexual way that will naively convince the child into giving in to conversations of a sexual nature.
At this stage of grooming, the predator has won over the child and the power and control are now in play where the groomer will control the child movements, actions and emotions. The groomer at this stage perhaps would have sexually abused the child either by kissing or touching private parts or sharing adult material with the child. They will use tricks and deceit to make sure the child keeps the secret. They will threaten the child will lose their perceived care, love and friendship if anyone were to find out about what has been going on. The child at this stage might very well believe the lies and actually enjoy the attention or otherwise hate the ordeal but still remain silent and suffer alone.
The fact that many children do not know or realise that they have been sexually abused when these activities occur, and also the fact that groomers prey on the most defenceless children, it is highly important for parents and carers to be watchful of their children and pick up on signs and signals of grooming of children. These signs can include; child keeping secrets, access to drugs and alcohol, courting a partner that are much older than them, possession of new things such as clothes, shoes, mobile phones, withdrawal from activities they normally enjoy, anxiety, aggressive behaviour, clinging, missing school, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts.
Early realisation of these signs by parents and carers can assist in exposing the groomer; rescue the child from the torment and prevent further occurrences of grooming activities of the child.
Adult grooming, on the other hand, is very similar to child grooming. The predators can also be male or female and will always target most vulnerable adults. Adult grooming is very common online where perpetrators connect with their victims via social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or dating websites. They use similar tactics to those grooming a child and once the trust is gained, they manipulate their victim and molest them. Adults will most likely keep quiet around the grooming activities because they might feel ashamed that people will laugh at them or feel because they are adults, they should know better by spotting the signs of grooming.
Unfortunately, these predators are professionals and are very deceiving at what they do hence the reason why both adult and children fall victim time and time again.
Perpetrators of Child Sexual Abuse
Perpetrators of child sexual abuse are overwhelmingly male; although females can also be perpetrators, these can include girls and boys under the age of 18. Most perpetrators of child sexual abuse will be known to the child, someone from within the social circle. Perpetrators who are unknown to the child are also common but not as common as someone known to them. The term ‘stranger danger’ has been used very loosely over time; parents and carers should be as observant closer to home as they are to strangers.
Perpetrators of child sexual abuse will always possess a high level of power over the child and then use it to sexually abuse the child. Their behaviour is driven by complex motivations which include sexual indulgence, autonomy, authority and control. This might have been triggered by an event that happened in their life during childhood, from which they have developed distinctive psychological vulnerability which then moulded them into the human beings they have become.
Perpetrators of child sexual abuse might wish to recreate such events in their life and that can often lead to the abuse of a child They will justify their actions within their minds and that if the child did not disclose the act, it means the child enjoyed it. Perpetrators will then feel much happier and better about themselves and refuse to see what they are doing is wrong. This assurance and happiness will encourage them to continue and repeat the process on other children over and over again. The more they do, the more it becomes a norm.
Impact of Child Sexual Abuse on the child
Effects of child sexual abuse on the child can be massively burdensome throughout their lifetime. The impact can be seen in a child emotionally and psychologically, physically, socially, academically, as well as issues affecting their faith and beliefs.
Mental and psychological impacts include depression, anxiety, anger, extreme fear, and panic attacks. Physical impacts on the wellbeing of a child can include constant pain around the genital area, bruises both inside and outside of the body, sexually transmitted diseases and poor hygiene routines. Socially the impact could include withdrawal from friends and family, introverted and extroverted behaviours, drugs abuse and alcohol dependency. The impact on the child academically can include, continuous absence from school, low grades, and lack of enthusiasm to studies. Religious and faith impacts can include questioning the faith, hatred towards the priest or Imam, blasphemy to God or use of faith as a coping mechanism. The child's career can also be impacted with lack of engagement or willpower to find employment, low grades obtained to secure dream jobs as well as lack of ambitions to climb the career ladder.
Long term effects of Child Sexual Abuse
Effects of child sexual abuse can be long term in many victims’ lives. Some victims might be lucky enough to overcome it at the early stage of their life depending on the severity of the abuse and the help available for them, for others the long-term outcome is very different. The long-term effects can cause devastation to the victims' life right from childhood into adulthood. Long term effects such as lasting anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), self-harm as well as suicide are very common in victims’ lives.
A child who has been abused could also face bullying thus affecting their confidence about achieving anything in their life. The bullying may also continue in adulthood as people will judge them as worthless without knowing their story.
Research suggests that sexual abuse has lasting far-reaching consequences which can be connected with unemployment and increased receipt of welfare which can reduce financial stability for the victim. The livelihood of the victim has truly been robbed away from them. Another long-lasting effect is poor hygiene and poor mental health; there will be reduced coping mechanisms for the victim to cope with normal day to day activities.
This, in turn, could become a strain on the state finances, as there will need to support the victims and also invest in much more services such as counselling, mental health institutes, awareness and education to support victims. The long-term effects can also affect parents and carers of the child right through their adulthood. Many parents and carers identity can be lost in the process of focusing on the child to lead a normal life.
Long term effects of child sexual abuse can reduce victims to nothing for the rest of their lives, makes it difficult to cope with daily life and routine, push victims into criminal behaviours and render them useless in securing a safe home for their future.
Understanding power and control dynamics
Unscrambling power and control dynamics behind child sexual abuse is a very complex issue. The reason why perpetrators choose to commit sexual abuse can be somewhat psychological. It is however understandable that power usually means that someone possesses authority over the other without the fear of being controlled by the subordinate. Being in control means that one is in command of any situation with ease. Therefore, to understand the power and control dynamics of child sexual abuse, the dynamism to have the authority and command over the victim is the reason why the perpetrator engages in sexual abuse.
The use of controlling behaviour, intimidating control and a range of tactics are some of the tool's abusers will use to suppress their victims. Abusers could have an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) without even knowing and this could be the force pushing them into abusive activities. To understand these dynamics, one should be aware of strategies such as positive approaches that include unlimited praise, gifts, sweet talk and undivert attention, as well as negative approaches such as broken promises and intentional infrequency. Psychological approaches include blackmailing, neglect, cursing and guilt trips as well as traumatic approaches which can include verbal abuse, physical abuse as well as full-blown rage.
Once parents and carers are familiar with these tactics, they will be able to pick up the signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse and seek help as soon as possible for their children.