Sexual abuse is verbal or physical behaviour by one person (perpetrator) towards another person which is considered in their culture to be quite significantly upsetting, demeaning, harmful and/or traumatic. The abuse can be verbal abuse, psychological abuse, physical abuse, spouse abuse, elder abuse, child abuse or baby battering. Generally the perpetrators are men and the victims are women or children.
Sexual Abuse of Girls
- Winking or whistling at a girl or eve teasing.
- Talking in an obscene language to a girl on phone.
- Exposing the genitals in the presence of a girl (exhibitionism).
- Writing obscene letters to a girl.
- To show naked pictures or to make gestures suggestive of sexual intercourse.
- Pinching the cheeks or breasts, pinching her buttocks or genitals, pressing his penis to her body in a crowded situation.
- Keeping his hand on the shoulder of a woman, or trying to observe her breasts.
- Kissing or embracing her against her will.
- Female circumcision.
- Any act of gender based sexual violence.
Sexual Abuse of Children
The perpetrator is generally an adult or a significantly older child.
- Touching or fondling the genitals of a child.
- Asking the child to fondle the genitals of an adult.
- Exposure of genitals in the presence of a child.
- Showing pornographic pictures to a child or using a child for making pornography.
- Having sexual act with a child (anal, genital or oral sex).
Sexual abuse is not uncommon. Many such instances are not reported for the sake of preserving honour of the family and for preventing shame. Therefore, they do not come to surface. Over 15 to 30 per cent of girls are seriously abused or raped. Over 85 per cent of perpetrators are from amongst the family members, neighbours or acquaintances.
Effects of Sexual Abuse
Apart from the preponderant effects of sadness, anger, helplessness and distrust of men, sexually abused girls have been found to be prone to variety of psychological and behavioural disturbances caused by the trauma of abuse. These could be bed wetting, nightmares, sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, extreme inhibition, low self esteem caused by a sense of guilt and shame, and other multiple personality disorders.
The situation worsens if the girl becomes pregnant or gets STD/HIV infection. When grown up into a woman, she may show adult sexual dysfunctions like frigidity. vaginismus or absence of orgasm. The victims invariably tend to hide the sexual abuse from their parents thinking it to be their own fault for which their parents would get angry.
On the other hand, whenever the children or the adolescents boldly tell such instances to their parents, they (parents) do not believe them, especially when the perpetrators are close relatives. In fact, many parents and teachers do not believe that the sexual abuse exists. Parents also feel that it cannot happen to their daughter.
The studies indicate that one in every four girls is sexually abused before the age of 18 years. Children even 11 months old have been sexually assaulted. From the police records of 1992, it has been found in Delhi that 54 per cent of rape victims were found to be below 15 years of age, and in 80 per cent of these cases, the rapist was known to the victim (now, called as surviver).
In several sex scandals in Maharashtra, the girls were raped, photographed and blackmailed. The girls feared to disclose the sexual abuse to their parents and therefore underwent further sexual abuse. Sexual abuse of any form is an offence. There is provision for punishment and or fine under several sections of Criminal Procedure Code. Hence such instances should be promptly reported to the police.
How to Avoid Sexual Abuse?
This is a difficult question to answer though several suggestions have been made by the experts. This can never be fool-proof.
- “Your body is yours” (the right to privacy). - Nobody has got the right to touch you if you don’t want to be touched. - If somebody is bothering you, no matter who that person is, you have the right to stop him and tell the trusted adult (e.g., mother). - If a stranger asks you to go with him/her, you should leave quickly and tell your parets, teacher, neighbour.
- “You have the right to say No.” - You have the right to say ‘No’ to adults, not answer their questions, and scream for help if you feel you are in danger.
- “Find a grown up who listens to you.” - If some one bothers you, hurts you, or scares you, find a grown up who will listen to you, and tell him/her what happened.
- “Trust your instincts.” - If you get a feeling that something is wrong, you have the right to get away. - Be aware of your surroundings. If you think some one is following you, you can cross the street, change your route, run away, or go to a store or a restaurant.
- “Know your neighbourhood.” - Know where the police department is located or the stores and restaurants where you could go for help, when necessary.
- “You have the right to get help.” - Think about the adults who can help and the adults who will listen to you.
- At home, at college or at workplace if any man tries to make sexual advances, be strict right from the beginning and tell him that you do not like it. Run away from him or at once shout for help.
- Anonymous obscence telephone calls fall under non-cognisable offence under the Section 115 (2) of Criminal Procedure Code. When such calls are received regularly, a written complaint may be lodged with the police who will inform MTNL to trace the call. You can also complain in writing to Divisonal Engineer in charge of your exchange, who can trace the caller and take the necessary action. If the perpetrator continues to make obscure calls, his telephone will be disconnected under Rule 427 of Indian Telegraphic Act.
- The mother should not leave the custody of the girl to a single man. The person may be trustworthy, but his sexuality may not be.
- The mother should establish a good communication and friendly relations with her daughter, so that she is free enough to disclose her love affair, or sexual abuse. The parents should make her feel that she will be loved and supported in any odd circumstances. Many girls do not inform their sexual abuse to their mother merely because they feel that it is their fault too, and that the mother would scold them for the same.
- Boys and girls should be given sexuality education so that the girls will be able to protect themselves against the possibility of rape by learning self defence, by assessing the situation that may be dangerous and by assertivness skills. The boys too will learn that sexual abuse is a punishable crime, and will reliaze their responsibilities and will refrain from sexually abusing the girls.
Rape is a forced sexual intercourse with any woman under the age of 16 years or above that age against her will, without her consent, or with her consent when the consent has been obtained by puttig her in fear of death or hurt or under the influence of drugs. Rape is a serious crime. Any woman can get raped— young (including children) old, attractive, ugly, well dressed or “provocatively” dressed.
The effects of rape are very many and severely traumatic. Nightmares, insomnia, loss of appetite, extreme fear, anxiety, anger, loss of trust, phobias, sexual problems, feeling of worthlessness, feeling unsafe are some of the common reactions of rape. There is general sense of crisis. In the society, there is a tendency to blame the survivor (victim) rather than the perpetrator.
The marital sex may also be affected. The survivors of sexual assault needs reassurance and encouragement from someone close to her; assurance that she is still loved and accepted and that she is not a criminal. It is the rapist who has committed a crime and not she. In many circumstances, it is hard to prevent rape.
However, some guidelines of rape prevention adopted from “New York City Advisory Task Force on Rape” are mentioned below. – Be aware of your environment at all times. – Trust your instincts when they tell you, danger is here. – Don’t even be afraid or embarrassed to make a scene or draw attention to yourself if someone is threatening you. – Be especially alert when you are sick or tired or have taken alcohol. – Have a positive mental attitude, “I can succeed, I am strong and powerful.” – Be aware of your rights: “I have a right to say ‘NO’. I do not have to follow another person’s orders. I have a right to be where I want without harassment.” – Be aware of the dangerous places in your life. Think about your options at home, on the street, at work, at play.
Where could you go for help? Would some one be near enough to hear your scream? – Be alert in badly lit area, in elevators, with groups of people you don’t know well. Don’t be afraid to change your plans or your directions if you sense danger. Being rude is better than getting raped. – Public restrooms should be used with caution. It is best to have someone accompany you. – Never accept a ride from a stranger. – Young people should tell their parents where they are going, with whom they will be and when they will return.
If late in getting home, they should call and let parents know that they have been detained. – Shortcuts through deserted areas, vacant lots or abandoned buildings should be avoided. Walk to and from the school/college with friends if possible. – Discuss with parents any incident which is disturbing or confusing, even if it seems embarrassing. – Parents should exercise care in selection of baby-sitters. Baby-sitters should also know something about the families for whom they baby-sit.
Women particularly need to be aware of situations that may lead to violent sex and of people who may put them in those situations. They also need to learn ways of avoiding or dealing with pressures and threats to have sex. Here are certain tips given in the “School Health Education Programme” prepared by WHO and UNESCO in 1994. — Be assertive. — Avoid lonely spots. — Do not go to person’s room if no one is at home. — Do not accept money or presents from people not so known to you. — When someone suggests having sex and you don’t want to, leave with a friend, move to where there are other people or phone someone if phones are available. — When someone becomes physical and tries to force you to have sex, scream; fight; kick in the testicles if you can; get away quickly; delay; bargain depending on the situation (if your life is threatened or a weapon is used).