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What Is Sexual Abuse ?

Child sexual abuse. Often said behind closed doors in a whisper and remains a secret, it is a global phenomenon that demands our full attention. “Child sexual abuse transcends all boundaries - it permeates every race, religion and socio-economic group.”

While it is a complex and world-wide issue, South Africa is known to have one of the highest sexual assault rates in the world; with young girls (12-17) being at high risk for victimisation. The incidences of child rape are becoming a common occurrence in South Africa.

As it stands, sexual violence crimes are believed to be under-reported.

In 2013/2014, 50% of the 45 230 contact crimes against children were sexual offences, making an average of 62 cases per day. According to the South African Police Service (SAPS), children make up 41% of the rapes that are reported. They further estimate that a woman is raped every 36 seconds and that a child is raped every three minutes in South Africa. Children who live in abuse homes or have abusive relationships may be molested and/or raped over a long period of time.

What many do not realise is that there are two different types of abuse- contact abuse (the abuser makes physical contact with a child, including penetration) and non-contact abuse (other acts where the abuser does not touch the child, including flashing, performing sexual acts online, exploitation and grooming). The statistics give only the reported cases of contact abuse. As it is, talking or disclosing sexual abuse is not easy to do. From the statistics we can safely assume that there are many more of these contact crimes that do not get reported. Non-contact crimes, because if their nature are also severely under-reported. This suggests that the actual sexual abuse numbers are a lot more than we are aware.

This is child sexual abuse: it involves forcing or enticing a child to take part of sexual activities whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. It is for the sexual gratification of another person, usually older, and may include the following acts:

  • Sexual touching of any body part, be it clothed or unclothed

  • Assault by penetration or an object, including rape

  • Encouraging a child to participate in sexual acts (stripping, masturbation or other sexual acts)

  • Intentionally engaging in sexual activity in front of a child

  • Taking improper measures to prevent and protect a child from being exposed to sexual activities performed by others

  • Exposing a child to images of sexual activity including photographs, videos and pornography (of themselves or of others for distribution or personal use)

Much of this is hidden from society, adults, professionals and the legal system. The numbers are often overwhelming. The level of depravity by the perpetrators on children seems to also grow deeper and the shame associated leads to silence. It is because of this that we need to arm ourselves with the correct information of child sexual abuse so that children remain children and do not have their childhood, human rights and dignity stripped away.

Child sexual abuse. Often said behind closed doors in a whisper and remains a secret, it is a global phenomenon that demands our full attention. “Child sexual abuse transcends all boundaries - it permeates every race, religion and socio-economic group.”

While it is a complex and world-wide issue, South Africa is known to have one of the highest sexual assault rates in the world; with young girls (12-17) being at high risk for victimisation. The incidences of child rape are becoming a common occurrence in South Africa.

As it stands, sexual violence crimes are believed to be under-reported.

In 2013/2014, 50% of the 45 230 contact crimes against children were sexual offences, making an average of 62 cases per day. According to the South African Police Service (SAPS), children make up 41% of the rapes that are reported. They further estimate that a woman is raped every 36 seconds and that a child is raped every three minutes in South Africa. Children who live in abuse homes or have abusive relationships may be molested and/or raped over a long period of time.

What many do not realise is that there are two different types of abuse- contact abuse (the abuser makes physical contact with a child, including penetration) and non-contact abuse (other acts where the abuser does not touch the child, including flashing, performing sexual acts online, exploitation and grooming). The statistics give only the reported cases of contact abuse. As it is, talking or disclosing sexual abuse is not easy to do. From the statistics we can safely assume that there are many more of these contact crimes that do not get reported. Non-contact crimes, because if their nature are also severely under-reported. This suggests that the actual sexual abuse numbers are a lot more than we are aware.

This is child sexual abuse: it involves forcing or enticing a child to take part of sexual activities whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. It is for the sexual gratification of another person, usually older, and may include the following acts:

  • Sexual touching of any body part, be it clothed or unclothed

  • Assault by penetration or an object, including rape

  • Encouraging a child to participate in sexual acts (stripping, masturbation or other sexual acts)

  • Intentionally engaging in sexual activity in front of a child

  • Taking improper measures to prevent and protect a child from being exposed to sexual activities performed by others

  • Exposing a child to images of sexual activity including photographs, videos and pornography (of themselves or of others for distribution or personal use)

Much of this is hidden from society, adults, professionals and the legal system. The numbers are often overwhelming. The level of depravity by the perpetrators on children seems to also grow deeper and the shame associated leads to silence. It is because of this that we need to arm ourselves with the correct information of child sexual abuse so that children remain children and do not have their childhood, human rights and dignity stripped away.

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Author Nelly Kgoadi

The Power Of The Tongue - Effects Of Emotional Abuse

The tongue is known to be the strongest muscle in the body. The words it speaks it is said have the power of life and death in them. We’ve all heard the adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” but contrary to this and what many may not realise is that words have both the power to destroy and to heal. Emotional abuse can damage a child’s mental health and their social development and leave life-long, deep rooted scars that are not easy to heal.

When one thinks of child abuse the first thing that comes to mind is the visible bruises and broken bones that cannot be hidden. The sight of these is often a shock to the system, but there is another kind of abuse that is invisible to the naked eye but the unseen wounds go much deeper. The abuse a child suffers may be different, but the core impact of all of these is the emotional scarring and trauma that children carry throughout their lives.

Emotional abuse is considered by some as being “not serious” simply because unlike other forms of abuse such as physical abuse, there are no immediate physical effects. But, in the words of Larry James “emotional abuse us just as damaging as physical abuse. The only difference between the two is with physical abuse you are wearing it on the outside for the world to see and the other is deep inside. Others cannot see the bruises on your heart”.

All forms of abuse leave scars. Victims of emotional abuse have scars that they carry long into adult-hood. Some of the effects of emotional abuse are:

  • Feelings of being unworthy or damaged- lack of self love. It is very difficult to overcome a history of always being told that you are ‘useless’, ‘not good enough’ and others. This can be carried by them into adulthood.

  • Trouble regulating their emotions. Abused children aren’t able to safely express their emotions and as a result, they can come out in unexpected ways such as depression, anger, anxiety and substance abuse.

  • Difficulty in having open, healthy and trusting relationships

  • Inability to function at work and at school

Over time, a child’s social emotional and physical health gets hampered as a result of the abuse.

Getting to the heart of matters in any situation is often tricky. Like any other forms, cases of emotional abuse need to be dealt with in a sensitive manner. Feelings of brokenness, self-blame (where the children start believing the words they hear) and general distrust towards others are common. However, the sooner the abuse is confronted and help is sought for the victim, the sooner repairing the damage inflicted by the words can begin.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP:

What make many people hesitant to step up and speak up about their suspicions of abuse are the myths regarding abuse such as:

  • What I have to say won’t make a difference. If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, chances are it is

  • I don’t want to be a busy-body and interfere in someone’s family

  • My speaking up will break up the family home

  • If I report it, they will know it was me

When you talk to a child who is being abused, there are a few things to remember:

  • Be calm and don’t be in denial- you may hear shocking stories about the words they have had to endure. The key is to not sure any shock or disgust as this may cause the child to shut down.

  • Don’t overwhelm the child with questions- let them tell you in their own words their experience.

  • Reassure the child that they did nothing wrong and it is not their fault. They have taken a big step in opening up to you and trusting you with their pain and it’s important that they know they are heard and you take them seriously

  • The welfare of the child is top priority. Report the problem to the police/child protection services and leave them to take care of the situation going forward

In the words of Maya Angelou, “people may forget what you did; people may forget what you said. But people will never forget how you made them feel”.

Nelly Kgoabi

What Is Emotional Abuse ?

Child abuse is more than just broken bones and bruises. While physical abuse can leave visible scars on the outside, there is another type of abuse that is not often that obvious. Emotional abuse. This abuse leaves scars that go deeper than the skin and can leave long lasting scars that take longer to heal than a band-aid or plaster can do.

"Backing me into the corner until I was whimpering and crying, he would just laugh at me and walk away, satisfied by my distress." These are the words of a young girl talking about how her father emotionally tormented her.

But what is it exactly?

Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional maltreatment or emotions neglect of a child so as to cause damage to the child’s emotional health and have adverse effects on their emotional development.

A study of high school students in Mpumalanga looking at the prevalence of abuse in their childhood found that of the 559 students, 70.7% reported psychological abuse (14.4% had extreme cases of this), 35.3% were emotionally abused. 22% of the emotionally abused said they had unhappy childhoods.

What does this emotional abuse include (among others)?

  • Telling a child that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or conditionally valued

  • never showing any emotions, this is considered emotional neglect

  • humiliating or constantly criticising a child

  • threatening, shouting at a child or calling them names

  • making the child the subject of jokes, or using sarcasm to hurt a child

  • blaming, scape-goating

  • Calling names and making negative comparisons to others.

  • Telling a child he or she is “no good," "worthless," "bad," or "a mistake."

  • Frequent yelling, threatening, or bullying.

  • Ignoring or rejecting a child as punishment, giving them the silent treatment.

  • Limited physical contact with the child—no hugs, kisses, or other signs of affection.

  • Exposing the child to violence or the abuse of others, whether it be the abuse of a parent, a sibling, or even a pet.

There are two types of emotional abuse and these can affect the child in different ways:

Passive emotional abuse: where the parent/caregiver is emotionally unavailable for whatever reason and in some cases they may forget to praise and encourage the child

Active emotional abuse is where the parent is over-protective, expects the child to meet their own emotional needs, having the child take on more responsibility for their age and taking out their frustrations on a child.

Emotional abuse is found to be the second most common reason why children need protection from abuse. Often overlooked and not taken as seriously as other forms of abuse, emotional abuse is just, if not more harmful to the victim.

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