Child sex abuse victims experience guilt and shame

Child sex abuse victims display more self-destructive behaviour as well as experience more suicidal tendencies. FILE PIC

A REPORT by a newspaper showing that a high percentage of child sexual abusers are close family members, such as fathers and stepfathers, is heart-wrenching.

It is even more heart-breaking when the report stated that most adults do not believe their children when they say that they have been sexually abused.

However, 98 per cent of the reported child abuse cases are true.

Children are a gift from Allah. They are worth more than wealth and material resources.

Their physical, mental, psychological and intellectual needs must be protected from harm, abuse and maltreatment.

Firm action should be taken if children are harmed and the abusers should be punished.

According to the 1999 WHO Consultation on Child Abuse Prevention, child sexual abuse is “the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared and cannot give consent, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society”.

Every country has enacted laws to safeguard children from sexual abuse, including Malaysia.

the Child Act 2001 and the Sexual Offences against Children Act 2017 are designed to protect children.

Section 31 of the Child Act stipulates that the parent or guardian of a child who sexually abuses the child or causes or otherwise permits him to be abused is committing an offence.

Upon conviction, the offender can be fined not exceeding RM50,000 or imprisoned not exceeding 20 years, or both.

The Sexual Offences Against Children Act provides certain offences and their punishment such as sexually communicating with a child (maximum three years imprisonment), child grooming (maximum five years imprisonment and whipping), meeting, following child grooming (maximum 10 years imprisonment and whipping), physical sexual assault on a child (maximum 20 years imprisonment and whipping) and non-physical assault on a child (maximum 15 years imprisonment and maximum RM20,000 fine or both).

Nevertheless, law enforcement is a cause for concern.

Laws are useless without enforcement.

This issue needs to be addressed to protect children.

Child sexual abuse leads to depression, eating disorders, somatic concerns, anxiety, helplessness, attitude problems, denial, sexual and relationship problems.

It has also been linked to psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia and delusional disorder.

Victims often experience guilt, shame and self-blame, which are also categorised as negative mental health effects.

It has been shown that they take responsibility for the abuse.

When the sexual abuse is committed by a trusted adult, it may be hard for the child to view the perpetrator in a bad light, leaving them incapable of seeing what happened as none of their fault. Victims blame and absorb negative messages about themselves.

Victims display more self-destructive behaviour as well as experience more suicidal tendencies.

Family support and strong peer relationship are important in reducing the impact.

It is important to inculcate awareness in family members to believe a child’s complaint and to act upon it through police report and investigation.

As stated in the book The Law of Domestic Violence (IIUM Press, 2019), the same duty needs to be imposed on neighbours and teachers in the event of suspicious occurrences of child abuse.

No matter how the abusers hide their evil deeds, the crime will be exposed.

However, society needs to be aware of the importance of protecting and concealing the identity of victims.


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