Child Sexual Abuse(CSA) and Mental Illness by Dr. Onyekachi Ugwuonye:
This is any form of sexual contact with a child by an adult or use of a child as a sex object. In Nigerian context, a child is anyone less than 18 years. It is of public health importance with neurobiological, developmental, and psychiatric complications. Child sexual abuse does not always have to involve penetration or touching. Any behaviour involving using a child to satisfy sexual urge (including child pornography) is termed Child Sexual Abuse.
How common is it?
It is one of the forms of child abuse and is very common.
Studies have shown that about 1 in every 3 female children and 1 in every 6 male children have experienced one form of child sexual abuse or the other. It is documented that the perpetrators of Child Sexual Abuse are usually people who are close to the child (parents, uncles, aunties, cousins, nephews, nieces, siblings, guardians, drivers, etc). Child sexual abuse is not a one episode thing, rather, it is usually repeated.
Those most Commonly Affected
1.Children with mental illness
- Children with other disabilities like mental retardation.
- Children from poor families.
- Over populated cities/settlements.
- Children from dysfunctional families.
Why usually repeated
Because the perpetrators are usually close confidants to the child the child will find it difficult to disclose the information to someone else for fear of loosing the friendship. Besides, there is usually a form of inducements from the perpetrators in for of gifts( sweet, biscuits or other tokens). On the other hand, some perpetrators instill fear in the child that any attempt of revealing the ugly incident will attract calamity.
Yes the child is inexperienced in it, does not want it but has to continue for the above mentioned reasons.
Possible Reasons People Commit CSA
- Subtle mental illness in the perpetrators.
- Personality Disorders.
- Substance Abuse.
- Disorders of Sexual preference.
- Loose family ties.
- History of child sexual abuse in the perpetrators – those who were abused are more likely to abuse others.
Complications of CSA
Survivors in adulthood develop a barrage of complications. They include:
- Personality disorders eg Antisocial personality disorders. The individuals tend to have problematic behaviours and become law breakers.
- Borderline personality disorders – difficult in forming stable relationships.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – the individual becomes hyper responsive to normal stimuli, become hyper vigilant, agitated, continues to have unconscious replay of those events, and fear and avoid anything that could remind them of such traumas (including healthy sexual relationship in adulthood like marriage).
- Difficulty with coping with stress. This results from dysfunction of the two major stress response systems in the body ( serotonin response system and stress hormone response system)
- Anxiety disorders
- Reduced concentration
- Reduced ability to read situations and people’s emotions
- Aggressive behaviours.
- Reduced ability to plan and execute actions
- Difficulty with bonding and trust.
- Sexual indiscretion
What can we do
The scourge of Child Sexual Abuse needs to he tackled by all the key players in the child right protection viz: family, school, religious leaders, community/traditional leaders, NGOs (we can firm one) and the government.
- Reduction of stigma associated with CSA. This will improve the low self esteem that follow the incidents and encourage reporting of the incidents.
- Increased awareness of its increasing prevalence in our environment so that every family will watch out for these perpetrators in our mist.
- Increased contact time between parents and children. This will give the children the confidence to discuss adverse situations around them.
- Observe your children’s behaviours. A sudden change may be a pointer to a possible sexual abuse.
- Child right protection laws for victims of Child Sexual Abuse.
- Involvement of child psychiatrist it psychologist for early intervention to avoid long term complications in victims of CSA.
- Efforts geared at improving our morals.
Join the Campaign Against Child Sexual Abuse
Dr. Onyekachi Ugwuonye ( MBBS, MWACP)