When I first heard the story some days ago that a certain thirteen-year-old girl was sexually exploited from all sides since she was nine years old by two men, the father in her foster family and his son, my first reaction was to treat it with disbelief. Even when this news filled the social media, I persuaded myself to still doubt its authenticity. Finally, its reality became more obvious when I listened to it in a television news broadcast by a reputable television station who also reported the death of the girl as a result of the complications arising from the premature exposure to sexual exploitation. Most people have expressed their disgust for the actions of the perverse father and son by calling on the law enforcement agencies to ensure that the law is allowed to take its course. I even came across social media publications from the school she was enrolled in before her death. I choose to look at it differently from the dimension of coping with the reality of high rate of sexual abuse of children.
I wonder if anyone is still waiting for proof that sexual abuse of children is closer to us than we imagine. Are school teachers, children workers in the churches and religious organisations, parents and everyone else still unaware of the high rate of sexual abuse of indigent children? Is anyone still ignorant that this evil locates children where they usually stay including the home, religious environment, school, and play ground? Are people not seeing with me the need for urgency in attacking this monster that is devouring children with boldness? The weapons of dealing with sexual abuse of children include the following:
- Education of children to resist sexual abuse.
- Education of parents to pay necessary attention to issues concerning safety and protection of children.
- Governmental regulation and control of child welfare and protection.
- The education to equip children with the skill and boldness to resist sexual abuse
This education is a necessity for every child. It should be repeated regularly at home and in the school with an assurance to children that reported cases will be well-handled.
It need not necessarily mention sex for preschool and primary school pupils. It is ok for primary pupils to be told that it is sexual abuse to touch or play with any of the private parts of a child’s body.
My opinion is that it need not necessarily be called ‘sex education’. It can be taught as a sub topic under the topic ‘Part of the Body’. It can be called ‘Privacy Education’ or any other name as long as the important points in the message are effectively communicated.
- Every child should be taught to protect the privacy of his body.
- It should be emphasised that no one should be allowed to touch or play with the private parts of the body.
- Children should know the evil consequences of allowing secrete and wrong touch or play with the private parts of the body.
- Children should be taught what to do if anyone attempts to secretly touch or play with their privacy.
- Shout ‘no’ emphatically
- Repeat ‘no’ without any explanation.
- Leave that person immediately.
Scream and put up a frightening resistance if you are prevented from leaving.
- Report the incidence to a trusted adult.
- Education of parents and teachers to pay necessary attention to issues concerning safety and protection of children.
This is a very wide topic, but it is anchored on the commitment of parents to being sufficiently available and keeping the feedback channel of what happens when they are not around very open by being close enough to their children and wards. Teachers are also encouraged to be close to their children and ask them a lot of questions. It needs not be emphasised that all suspected or reported cases of sexual abuse should be followed up.
The victim of sexual abuse in our story could have been helped…
Her biological father, though he wasn’t staying with her, could have helped her more if he had a better understanding of his child’s exposure to sexual and other forms of abuses.
Her foster mother was supposed to understand her plight more than anyone else. The nature of her relationship with the victim is not clear yet but she could have helped her more if she had spared a few sentences of genuine communication with her daily.
Her teachers could have detected it if they paid more attention to obtaining deeper understanding of the reasons for her errors and struggles.
Her schools could have helped if they were serious with educating every child to resist the pressure of sexual abuse. Children usually open up during well organised seminars.
She could have managed her predicament better if she had benefited from any ‘privacy education’ ‘or ‘sex education’ seminar organised in her church or neighbourhood.
- Governmental regulation and control of child welfare and protection will embolden children to resist and report abuse.
Children will be reluctant to report sexual advances, especially if they perceive insecurity. A child may prefer sexual exploitation to increased physical abuse in other forms and withdrawal of privileges which may result after reporting the abuser. Children will not freely report sexual exploitation if the law does not give them protection from the free for all physical battering in the name of discipline and training. The little girl in our story endured the painful experiences of managing two sexual partners to obtain care and sponsorship of her educational pursuits. Is it not time for everyone in our country, especially, legislators, NGOs and human rights organisations to take the issue of actualising children’s welfare and protection more seriously?
The care and protection of every child should be everyone’s responsibility, jointly and severally. Therefore every little step taken to equip children to resist and report any sexual advance will surely help in reducing the incidences of sexual exploitation of children. Passionate parents are always alert because there is no safe haven as long as the issue of sexual abuse of children is concerned.
-Uchenna N. Nduka