CSA FAQ by Arpan Part 1
Arpan has sent us a very well compiled FAQ document which we will be posting as a 9 part post. Here is part 1
Q1. What is Child Sexual Abuse?
Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is a form of child abuse where a person uses a child for his/her sexual gratification. Child Sexual Abuse is committed by someone who is in a position of power and/or authority, and sometimes, even in a position of trust. This is because it is much easier for such a person to take advantage of the child’s helplessness and vulnerability.
CSA may involve touching and/or fondling a child’s private body parts(vagina, breast, penis, testicles, buttocks, anus), forcing the child to touch and/or fondle one’s private parts, oral, vaginal or anal penetration or any sort of contact made with the intent of one’s sexual gratification. CSA may also involve non-contact abuse such as exposing one’s genitalia to a child, using sexually explicit language when talking to a child, showing the child pornography etc.
Child Sexual Abuse is a violation of the child’s body as well as of the child’s trust. The violation can have a significant impact on how the child, as a victim, and later on as an adult survivor, sees and experiences the world. The effects of Child Sexual Abuse can be damaging but they need not be permanent.
- Prevalence and Incidence
Q2. Is Child Sexual Abuse more common in developed countries? How is it tackled there?
Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) happens everywhere. In fact, according to research, India may have more occurrences of CSA than developed countries. In developed countries, more cases get reported because there are mechanisms in place to raise awareness and handle child protection issues and cases. In India, the issue of CSA is never discussed because anything related to sex is considered taboo. Even adults do not talk about sex or abuse openly. As a result, children are less likely to report any personal concerns to their parents or teachers.
In most developed countries, the term “child protection” is usually used to describe a set of government-run services, designed to protect and provide services to children and young people who are underage. These services typically include education, foster care, adoption services, providing support to at-risk families to help them remain intact and investigation of alleged child abuse. Professionals and communities are informed about the issue of child abuse and trained to prevent and treat cases. Reporting any suspicion or knowledge of child abuse is mandatory, especially for teachers and doctors. “Mandatory Reporting” means that if a report is not made, that person could be legally held responsible. Once a case of child abuse is reported, an investigation is carried out. Children who have undergone sexual abuse have multiple options to avail of counseling and therapeutic treatment to facilitate their journey of healing.
Q3. In western countries communication is more open and people are more aware of the stringent laws that do exist against Child Sexual Abuse, so why is it still rampant there?
Child Sexual Abuse continues to be rampant in the West for many of the same reasons that it is rampant in India. This is because the context for CSA remains the same in all countries in spite of their outward differences: the insensitive laws make it difficult to prove the crime; victims are often blamed for what happened; families are too ashamed to report; a male perpetrator’s testimony is often believed over the victim’s words; boys are afraid of having to face the stigma attached to homosexuality (in case their abuser is a man) and, of course, the fact that sexuality continues to be a very sensitive topic across the world, thus preventing discussions around Child Sexual Abuse.
Q4. What is the prevalence of Child Sexual Abuse in India?
As of now, there aren’t any central databases or monitoring systems that bring together available statistics related to CSA in India. But the Ministry of Women and Child Development published the Study on Child Sexual Abuse, in 2007,based on a large scale study conducted all over India. The study took place across 13 states and had a sample group consisting of 12,447 children, 2324 young adults and 2449 stakeholders.
The National Study reported the following:
- 53.22% children reported having faced one or more forms of sexual abuse.
- Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar and Delhi reported the highest percentage of sexual abuse among both boys and girls.
- 21.90% child respondents reported facing severe forms of sexual abuse and 50.76% other forms of sexual abuse.
- 50% abusers are persons known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility (family member, close relative, friend or neighbour).
- Boys were equally at risk as girls.
- Out of the child respondents, 5.69% reported being sexually assaulted.
Q5. Are male children susceptible?
Yes, male children are just as susceptible to sexual abuse as female children, if not more. Usually, boys are given more freedom than girls when it comes to accessing public spaces or interacting with different kinds of people. Also, girls are often made aware of the dangers of sexual violence whereas such conversations are lacking when interacting with male children. These issues make boys vulnerable to sexual violence in a different way.
The reason we believe that boys do not get sexually abused is because sexual abuse of boys tends to be under-recognized, under-reported, and under-treated. Boys are made to live up to various ideals of “masculinity” and “machismo”. For example, identifying sexual behaviors as sexual abuse in cases of boys is challenging as they often feel the societal pressure to be proud of early, even if unwanted, sexual activity. Boys are also less likely than girls to report sexual abuse because of a) fear b) the social stigma against homosexual behavior c) the desire to appear self-reliant d) the concern for loss of independence and e) because boys are taught to keep their feelings to themselves and appear “strong”.
Thus, the myth about the ‘masculine ideal’ who is always in control and can never be a victim and the myth about appropriateness and supposed harmlessness of sexual behavior between adults (especially females) and young boys creates an environment where there is hardly any acceptance and support structures for boys to disclose sexual abuse.