There are several reasons due to which cases of child sexual abuse go unreported or reported very late, many times parents do not realise their child has been abused, due to lack of physical injuries.

Features Monday, July 21, 2014 - 05:30
Monalisa Das| The News Minute | July 19, 2014 | 06:41 pm IST The rape of a six-year-old in Bangalore has sparked of fresh debates across the country on how safe our children are.  It was reported that the rape took place on July 2. However, her parents filed a complaint with the police after a week when the child complained of a stomach ache and was taken to the hospital. This gave rise to several pertinent questions. How do parents know if a child has been sexually assaulted? Some asked how come the mother did not notice physical injuries. Is it necessary that a child, when sexually assaulted, will bear physical marks or injuries on his/her body? What activities constitute child sexual abuse?  According to Medline Plus, a service of the US National Library of Science, 'Child sexual abuse is the deliberate exposure of minor children to sexual activity. This means a child is forced or talked into sex or sexual activities by another person. Such abuse includes:• Oral sex• Pornography• Sexual intercourse• Touching (fondling)' Speaking to The News Minute, forensic medicine professor in Vydehi Medical College, Bangalore, Dr Jagdish Reddy said that in cases of child sexual abuse (CSA), two-thirds of penetrative acts bear no physical signs of injury or trauma.  Also depending on how the culprit misleads or coaxes the child before or after abusing, at times children may not even know that they were sexually abused. In cases of incest, it has been noted that the relative often makes the child believe it is a game or a gift. Referring to the case of the six-year-old, he says that although he does not know the detail of the case, it is possible that the child complained of a stomach ache because of some infection.  Infections, which may even include sexually transmitted diseases, can be seen in several cases after some days or weeks, depending on the type of infection.  “Physical injuries also depend on what perpetrators use during the act. At times, abusers use lubricants and protection due to which there may be an absence of physical injury. Some times they may also clean up the children”, states Dr Reddy.  He further explains that in cases of child sexual abuse (CSA), it is difficult to collect immediate trace evidence. This usually means that proving a case of a sexual assault becomes all the more difficult.  However, recent changes to laws have made it possible for culprits to be convicted even when there is no medical proof of violence.  There are several reasons due to which cases of child sexual abuse go unreported or reported very late, many times parents do not realise their child has been abused, due to lack of physical injuries. Of all cases of CSA, just 33 per cent have some form of physical injuries, says Dr. Shaibya Saldanha, co-founder of Enfold Trust. This could be why most parents are unaware of symptoms of sexual abuse.  “People feel that home and school are the safest place for their children. They entrust their children with others”, asserts Saldanha. “By the time they realize that their child has been sexually abused, parents are too shocked to react in a coherent manner. They approach the doctor, and then talk to close friends and relatives before deciding on taking the next logical step.” “The medical and legal system is poorly equipped and there is no proper reporting mechanism. In case where the child is in severe trauma, parents focus on the ward instead of worrying about registering a complaint, which is only justified”, she says while breaking her explanation into points. A study titled Behind the Net: Technology and the Forensic Interview by Ribert Giles, 2012, on National District Attorney’s Association website reads,  Further affecting the view of jurors in child abuse cases is the belief that sexual assault will produce either medical injury or scientific evidence. In the vast majority of cases where there is credible evidence that a child has been penetrated, only between 5 and 15 percent of those children will have genital injuries consistent with sexual abuse.  According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 12,363 child rape cases were recorded in 2013 in India.  As more incidences of CSA are getting in the country, parents are getting worried by the day for the safety of their children. It is important to remember that sexual abuses can have various effects on children, including physical, sexual, emotional and psychological.  Protests have already erupted in Bangalore regarding the rape of the six-year-old, people demanding speedy justice, strict punishment and stringent laws. However, it is likely to take some time before we see a positive change in mindsets and till then we as a society will need to be extra careful when it comes to protecting our children.

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