Protecting kids from sexual predators: Not few, what all should know

Child Abuse
Even if some parents realize that their kid has been abused, they maintain silence or dismiss it as a minor issue, owing to lack of love or fear of shame.

Paedophilia is a major problem affecting society and has a long-term impact. For instance, take the case of Suma (name changed), a young woman who wanted to cancel her wedding one week after the engagement.

She approached a clinical psychologist along with her father teary-eyed. The psychologist sent Suma, 32, to another room and spoke to her father, who had no idea why his daughter had made the strange demand. “What reason can I give to the bridegroom’s family? One week after the engagement, by daughter wants to cancel the proposed wedding as she says she would not be able to love the boy,” said the distraught father.

“Suma stays alone in her room and hardly speaks to anybody. I was worried whether she would resort to some extreme step and decided to seek medical help,” said the man.

He suspected that Suma’s lone brother had some role in the situation. “My son is a strange character. He does not get along with anybody. Though well-educated, he finds it difficult to stick to a job. At every workplace, he gets involved in some problem,” explained the father.

“Suma’s brother is very possessive about her. When she reaches home late, he scolds her severely,” the father added. He felt that the brother’s behaviour might have made Suma an introvert.

“Moreover, Suma has been an extremely anxious personality since childhood. She has a sunken expression and shows lack of confidence. Now she has asked me to cancel her wedding,” continued the man.

The psychologist pacified Suma’s father and entered the room where the young woman was sitting. Initially, she was reluctant to reply to the queries of the professional. But gradually, Suma started speaking about her childhood and broke down.

Apparently, a distant relative, whom everybody called ‘Uncle’, used to visit their house when Suma was aged six. The man had a special ability to attract kids. He also had freedom visit the house whenever he wished.

One day, the man started to show some changes in his behaviour which made Suma uneasy. Even though the little girl wanted to inform her mother about the man, he warned Suma that her parents would be killed if she revealed what was taking place to anybody.

Life became hell for Suma afterwards. She also felt that the entire fault lay with her. Suma soon developed a fear of all men. She came to believe that no man could be trusted. This was Suma’s real reason for cancelling her wedding.

What is paedophilia?

It is the sexual attraction an adult feels towards a minor child. People having this condition are called ‘paedophiles.’ Their victims are usually children below 13 years of age. Such persons have a special talent to draw kids towards them. As a result, when paedophiles resort to perverted acts, it creates a shock among kids. Some youngsters realize that they were being abused only much later in life.

Sexual violence towards kids can take place in the house, school and wherever children are present. The first step adopted by the culprits would be striking a friendship with the child and its parents. The accused in most cases are either close relatives or even a family member living in the same house.

As most culprits exhibit exemplary behaviour, it is not easy to identify their hidden animal instinct.

How the kids are lured

» Showing pornographic films to the youngsters

» Exposing before kids

» Touching the private parts or other areas of the kid’s body

» Prompting the child to touch various parts of another person’s body

» Posting nude photos of the kid on porn sites

» Abusing the child with some object

Why are kids being targeted?

The culprits believe that they are safe as nobody else would know about the incident and they ensure their safety by silencing the kids by threatening them of severe consequences.

Deviants targeting boys usually make sure that the child victim does not speak out by blaming the child itself for the crime. The kids are warned that they were enjoying the perverted acts and if they revealed anything, others may consider them as sinful.

Myths related to paedophilia

There is a myth that culprits are usually strangers. But in reality, people familiar to the victim are the perpetrators, causing trauma to the youngsters.

Most people believe that the victims of child abuse are girls. But studies show that boys and girls are equally at risk.

Generally, it is felt that bitter experiences during childhood do not impact adult life. In reality, such incidents have a profound influence on the attitude of a child, making it incapable of forming friendships and even affecting sex life later in life.

A paedophile may use a child for sexual gratification several times and target other kids if he gets a chance.

According to statistics compiled by the Central Women and Child Development Department in 2007, 53.22 % kids in India have been victims of sexual abuse on one or more occasions. The figure for male children alone is 52.94 %.

Children who faced harassment suffer from stress that parents may not detect easily. The kids develop a fear and lose their ability to laugh. The signs of stress in a child include keeping away from classmates and friends, displaying sudden outbursts of anger and disinterest in food. Victims develop hatred towards the culprit while also believing that their parents who are responsible for protecting them had failed in their duty. They also feel ashamed of not being able to escape from the torture. Victims are at risk of depression, suicidal tendency, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction.

Thoughts of bitter experience would haunt the child often. Victims may feel helpless, imagining that the incident may be repeated and that they are powerless to escape from the scene.

Family background

Studies have shown that the chance of harassment was closely related to the family background. Children hailing from problematic families where parents do not share a bond with the kids are at risk of sexual abuse. Absence of parental guidance and ignoring the interests of kids while parents fight with each other are factors that increase the risk.

Even if some parents realize that their kid has been abused, they maintain silence or dismiss it as a minor issue, owing to lack of love or fear of shame. The condition of such orphaned kids is pathetic.

Other parents are strict on their wards, which makes the youngsters remain quiet on the issues they face. When the kids do not open up on their problems, it may lead to depression and other psychiatric conditions.

(The author is a clinical psychologist at Pushpagiri Medical Centre)