According to the oxford advanced learners dictionary, child sexual abuse is the cruel treatment of a minor especially sexually. The case of an offender of child sexual abuse can be categorized into three clusters which comprise of sexual assault which occurs when an adult touches a minor in a manner so as to fulfill his or her sexual desires; the second cluster is sexual exploitation whereby the minor is victimized by the adult for profit, sexual fulfillment or advancement and lastly the third cluster is called sexual grooming which is a social conduct by the offender in which he or she tries to make the minor accept to the advances made.
This paper seeks to primarily analyze child sexual abuse specifically for children under the age of fourteen years. First it will define the problem statement then the effects of child sexual abuse which is followed by ways of responding to a sexual abuse case. Thirdly the paper will spell out the signs that indicate a child has been sexually abused and finally how to prevent this from happening even in the long run.
Child sexual abuse
Under child abuse there is child sexual abuse which occurs when an adult or a child above the age of fourteen years uses a child below the age of fourteen years in manner perceived to be sexual exploitation against the minor.
Psychologists and other medical specialist define certain activities to constitute child sexual abuse and they include; indecent exposure of ones genitals to a child, exposing a child who is under the age of fourteen years to pornographic materials or using a child to film a pornographic movie, pressuring or asking a minor to participate in sexual activities, having actual sexual activity with a child under the age of fourteen years, physical contact with a child private parts except in cases of medical examination or even looking at a child private parts without physical contact, all of these activities constitute to a child abuse expect when some activities are done for medical reasons.
In the American constitution, child sexual abuse has been defined as a civil and criminal offence in which a person above the age of eighteen years old engages in sexual activities with a minor say under the age of fourteen years for the sole purpose of sexual gratification. On the other hand, the American Psychiatric Association has stated that a child cannot consent to sexual activities with an adult and attorneys have used this fact to prosecute against adults charged with child sexual abuse cases. Consequently an adult who participates in child sexual abuse is perceived to be performing not only an immoral act but also a criminal offense which is a social injustice and abnormal.
Statistics have indicated that at least 5% to 15% of men were victims of child sexual abuse and at least 15% to 25% of women were also victims of child sexual abuse when they were below the age of fourteen years. The form of child abuse called incest seems to thrive as statistics indicate that most offenders of child sexual abuse are known to their victims; 30% constitute of relatives of the child victim like brothers, fathers, cousins or uncles; 60% constitute close friends of the child's family and strangers only constitute of 10%. The statistics further note that most offenders of child sexual abuse are men with women constituting only of 14% to 40% of the offenders.
The effects of child sexual abuse
Cynthia (2008, 234-245) listed in her studies that effects of child sexual abuse comprise of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, physical injury and tendency to further victimization in a victims adult life. However it is important to note that the fundamental damage inflicted on a child under the age of fourteen years due to sexual abuse is dependent upon his or her developing capacities for agency, trust, sexuality and intimacy, and that most cases of health problems among adults who were sexually abused when they were children are second-order effects.
Lascaratos et al. (2000, 1085-1090) in their studies elaborated more on the psychological effects suffered by victims of child sexual abuse; these effects could be long-term or short-term. Key among them includes anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociative, eating disorder and low self-esteem. As for the psychological disorder and distress the effects includes neurosis, chronic pain, somatization, learning difficulties, sexualized behavior, animal cruelty, substance abuse, self-destructive behavior, crime in adult life and possibilities of suicide are very high among these victims.
The amount of bodily injury caused by child sexual abuse mostly depend upon the amount of force use, the size and age of the victim, the abuse may cause damage to internal organs such as genitalia or rectum. In some cases there is excessive bleeding while in extreme cases death usually occurs, and this is common for children under the age of fourteen. The possibilities of a child been infected with sexually transmitted diseases or infections when abused sexually are high since children in the age below fourteen years produce insufficient amount of vaginal fluid. The other form of physical harm to a victim of child sexual abuse is the neurological damage caused by the traumatic stress due to such an ordeal, the neurological damage caused can be changes in the development and functioning of the brain.
How to respond to a child sexual abuse case
Zimring (2009, 122-128) in his studies gave guidelines on how to respond when a child under the age of fourteen years approaches someone to report a case of child sexual abuse. The first thing to keep in mind is to encourage the minor to speak up freely and the listener should avoid by all means making judgmental comments that could discourage the child from talking.
When conversing with the child the listener should show understanding and that he or she is taking seriously what the minor is talking about. The child should be assured that the cause of action he or she undertook was the right move this is important since most offenders are known to their victim and children may feel guilty when revealing the truth about someone close. Child and adolescent psychiatrists recommend that at this stage the listener should tell the minor that he or she is not to blame for what happened and lastly at this stage assure the child of his or her safety and promise that the offender will pay for what he or she did.
The next course of action is to report the case to relevant authorities like the child protection agency, the nearest police station or the district attorney's office. Parents and guardians are also advised to take the abused minor to see a physician who will examine the child's physical condition and treat any physical injury inflicted on the child during the ordeal at the same time the physician will also be collecting evidence that will help in prosecuting the offender.
The other recommendable response to a child abuse case is to take the abused child to see a psychiatrist or mental health professionals whom are professionally trained to help victims of sexually abuse deal with the trauma without causing more harm.
Signs of sexually abused children
Apart from the effects that a child who is under fourteen years and has been sexually abused may exhibit there are also other signs that show someone has been sexually abused either recently or in the past. Cynthia (2008, 344-387) also a counseling psychologist suggest that if a child's behavior suddenly change, his or her grades drastically falls, appears to be anxious about meeting certain people or going to particular places, suddenly becomes aggressive or shows extreme mood swings these are viable signs that such a child has been sexually abused.
Lew (2004, 89-111)also listed some signs that could indicate a minor has been sexually abused and they include; bedwetting, changes in sleeping patterns, nightmares or bad dreams, low self-esteem, guilt or shame, depression, irritability or anger, sexual advances, sexual drawings and social withdrawal or isolation. The possible physical signs are pregnancy, poor appetite, rectal bleeding, pain on the private parts, weight loss or weight gain, venereal diseases and trauma to the private parts or the mouth.
The other possible signs are regressing to behaviors too young for the stage of development they already achieved, asking an unusual amount of questions about human sexuality, developing frequent unexplained health problems and even masturbating excessively.
Preventive measures against child sexual abuse
In the studies done by Durkin and Clifton (1999, 103-127) on child sexual abuse they concluded by pointing out at some preventive measures that include educating children under the age of fourteen that they may be at a risk of sexual abuse or exploitation. Currently there programs are already in place to address this measure such as the Daphne and Safer internet.
The other preventive measure that research has proven to be effective is to initiate intervention programs for offenders in order to…