“PS: Incest is an unspoken crime. But voice should be raised against it!”Shilpa Garg wrote as an afterthought to her 55 Fiction. It is the shocking story of a mother who is blissfully unaware of the mindless abuse of her baby girl and ‘Daddy’ is the villain as usual! Sure, as any of you, I finished reading the story vexed beyond description. I remembered, in most of the sexual crimes against children, reported in India, the perpetrators are men and usually very close relatives and more than a hundred times ‘Daddy’ himself. I also wondered if women in India never get into the psychopathic habit of sexually abusing children. May be there are such women too. None of us will ever know as Shilpa rightly said, these are ‘unspoken’ crimes.
Sexual abuse of children within families is a reality, a horrible reality. In 2007, the Ministry of Women and Child Development, UNICEF and Save The Children released a study on Child Sexual Abuse. This was the first-time major research in India about child abuse. The study covered 14 States. According to the study, 89% of the child sexual abuses in India are unleashed by family members.
Shilpa’s 55 Fiction prompted me to take a closer look at Child Abuse. I realized that I was not so much bothered about the ugly face of child abuse because I was not aware of the gravity of the issue. I have never thought about it much. However, the closer I looked the more I realized that I am really ignorant of the whole issue. Thanks to Shilpa, looking at it shattered a few myths that I had:
Myth 1: Only girls are abused.
Reality: The study on Child Sexual Abuse by NWCD, UNICEF and STC clearly mentions that both boys and girls are victims. 72.61 % of the victims are boys and only 65% are girls. Statistics apart, both boys and girls are equally at risk. Boys are more at risk than girls probably because parents are a little careful and watchful when it comes to daughters than sons.
Myth 2: Victims hate the abuser.
Reality: Not always true. Research proves that some children feel ‘special’ about the abuse. According to ‘The Encyclopedia of relationships across the lifespan” by Jeffrey S. Turner, “Some children acquiesce because they are desperate for any type of affection.” And there is all possibility that, as Barabara E. Bogorad puts it: “some survivors even into adulthood will deal with the abuse by minimizing it. Thus, they make the abuser and the events "OK", to make it feel like they're okay.” When this happens, I think, we have a potential child abuser in making. And child abusers need not be the cruel, sadistic people we consider them to be. They can do the abuse, showering all the love in the world. “85-90% of child sexual abuse cases are committed by trusted family members and close friends.”
Myth 3: Abusers are always men
Reality: I strongly believed this until I read reports and studies that mentioned ‘abuse by women are on the rise.’ According to Barbara, ‘at least 5% of abusers are known to be women.’ According to Renee Koonin, a study conducted way back in 1984 [Note that! 1984] indicated “27 per cent or less of boys and ten per cent or less of girls were sexually abused by a woman.” She further quotes Carol Anne Hooper: “Would anyone argue that because both men and women do housework, gender is irrelevant in either its distribution and meaning But, this must not be used as an argument to avoid the evidence of sexual abuse by women. If we continue to do so, we are open to accusations by survivors that we will not listen. We will silence children and leave the ground vacant for antifeminist theory and practice. It is possible to recognise that some women abuse sexually, without losing sight of the fact that the majority of sexual abusers are men.”
Myth 4: Children exaggerate sexual abuses
Reality: Research shows that children usually minimize and deny. According to Lin Buress, Children do not tell because they are ashamed, afraid or have no idea what is going on. We may not even see it in their eyes. No wonder, Shilpa’s character was not aware of what was going on with her child.
The sad part of the whole issue is that there is no trace of any study on Child Sexual Abuse in India after 2007. And there is no Law in India that deals directly with Child Sexual Abuse. We don’t talk about it. We don’t study it. We do not have many support mechanism for such children in a country where 40% of the population is made up of children and 69% of those children are sexually abused. That is, 276 Million Children are abused in India and we have only the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 to protect those children. In India, we are still living in the stone age where only those laws applicable to women are applicable to children too. And the worst thing is, in our families talking about ‘birds and bees’ in plain language is still a taboo. Shilpa is right. Child Sexual Abuse within families is an unspoken crime. But voice should be raised against it!