Child sexual abuse remains a distressing reality affecting children globally, irrespective of their age. Despite the acknowledgment by international governments and policymakers of the urgent need for effective responses, numerous challenges continue to impede progress. For centuries, this issue has persisted, highlighting its stubborn nature. The complexity of the problem arises from various factors operating at societal, institutional, and individual levels. However, it is imperative that we now confront these factors, dismantle barriers, and courageously report these abhorrent cases of child sexual abuse.
Breaking Barriers; Taking Action
It all starts at an individual level, as perpetrators are offenders with a lack of empathy, a sense of entitlement and usually a history of childhood victimization. These people have poor socioemotional skills and believe that there is nothing wrong with what they do. This problem also lies at an institutional level, such as in religious and educational institutions. In places like these, due to a rigid power hierarchy, abuse is often concealed and a culture of silence is promoted. Similarly, at a societal level, children’s rights are not recognized and the law and social norms against child sexual violence are usually weak, causing mass ignorance and desensitization.
Now that we recognize the problems lie on every level, let’s look the three most common challenges that occur in reporting child sexual abuse and how you can overcome them.
Weak Institutional and Societal Protection of Children
Even though article 19 of Convention of the Rights of Children exists, that clearly states that all nations are required to take appropriate legislative, administrative and social measures to protect children, the truth is that at the very foundation, child pretention is weak in most societies, causing a barrier in reporting child sexual abuse cases. Even in societies with powerful laws, children are usually unsafe within and beyond their homes and institutions, and usually suffer from failure by professionals to report known cases. This is mainly because children are the most vulnerable and weakest group in the society, and hence abusers find it easy to target them.
Feeling of Shame and Lack of Trust
In most child sexual abuse cases, families fail to disclose the situation to the health, welfare and legal agencies due to feelings of shame, support children healing, fear and most importantly, lack of confidence. Children have a hard time informing their own parents and caretakers about the abuse they go through, simply because parents fail to create a bond of trust and communication with them. The worst part is that most parents end up ignoring, blaming or punishing their own child if they disclose their abuse experience. This further complicates the problem and forms even greater barriers.
Lack of Empathy
Lack of empathy may not seem like the biggest problem, but the fact is that empathy is known to be necessary to, both reduce sexual violence and break the barriers that stop us from reporting it. At an individual level, high level of empathy helps a potential offender resist the impulse to abuse a child, encourages parents to deal with child’s disclosure with more sensitivity and professionals to acknowledge when a child is experiencing abuse and report it, rather than brushing it under the carpet. Empathy is most important at a societal and institutional level, as it contributes to governments designing better laws and policies that cater to child abuse cases more efficiently.
It is safe to say that throughout the world there is a need for better and more effective advances to prevent, as well as respond to child sexual abuse. The key is to bring down the barriers at every level, be it individual, social or institutional.
If you want to help victims of child sexual abuse, or know someone who seeks professional help, get in touch with Sanaa’s Stars. Our team is committed to fight child sexual abuse and make a positive impact on the lives of vulnerable children.