It is important to teach our children to get comfortable using words that pertain to their private parts as well as talking about it when they are made uncomfortable. When adults and kids have the right words, it becomes easy for kids to tell us when they are sexually approached or harmed.
Juliet Ohahuru Obiora
Statistics from the US Department of Justice (NSOPW) 2014 proves that an estimated 60% of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child though they are not family members. For example, a number of child molesters are family friends, babysitters, child care providers and neighbours. Just about 30% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are family members.
Furthermore, about 10% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse happen to be strangers to the child. However, not all perpetrators are adults— as an estimated 23% of reported cases of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by individuals who happen to be under the age of 18.
In third world countries like Nigeria, where we practice the extended family system, it is unarguable that statistics of people who sexually abuse children are likely to be higher with people we know, and mostly people we care about, like relatives, family friends and even siblings; not the assumed stranger whom they have definitely been warned against.
Thus, this sadly leaves our children prepared for the stranger but not for the pedophile within. In addition to this fact, parents and guardians seem not to envisage the possibility of a pedophile or perpetrator within, and even in the event of realizing that there is a pedophile within, they are forced to douse the flames of such an exposure or bury the secret.
Now, a number of reasons have been given for the dousing, most notable amongst these are the issues of trying to protect the child’s identity, whilst the second is said to be for “the sake of the family name”.
Now, I may be able to understand the issue of trying to protect the child’s identity. This is quite important in order not to exacerbate the trauma such a child will go through and also not complicate recovery. However, the challenge is the issue of “family name” largely sounds ridiculous because even if one separates one’s child from the unfortunate scenario, it is not enough as dousing it would only allow a predator to look for his next set of victims.
Thus, it is about time we speak up and report cases on child sexual abuse regardless of who the perpetrator is to us. We should always remember that our silence allows people who sexually abuse children to get away with crime. Rather than speak up and expose such people, we become guilty as without knowing it, we drive the pedophile to further exploit vulnerable children.
Everyone needs to speak up. When we don’t take the keys from a drunk friend who’s about to drive, we are risking that friend, and other people’s, lives on the road. When we don’t question a friend’s sexualized comments or behaviors toward a child, we risk the well-being and future of the child. People who sexually abuse children normally take advantage of our confusion and reluctance to acknowledge discomfort. Our society at large needs to raise the discourse on sexual abuse and to learn what to do to keep children safe. The first steps are setting clear boundaries and limits with everyone involved in our family and social circle and speaking up when any of those rules are broken. Often, most families whose kids were sexually abused, wished that they had talked more openly beforehand with their children in ways that would have made them less vulnerable when someone tried to approach them sexually. Others sadly would rather blame the child for being sexually abused, thus discouraging such children from speaking out.
It is important to teach our children to get comfortable using words that pertain to their private parts as well as talking about it when they are made uncomfortable. When adults and kids have the right words, it becomes easy for kids to tell us when they are sexually approached or harmed. Shyness or embarrassment about sexual behaviors or calling out our private parts can also make it more difficult to talk with someone who may be acting inappropriately towards a child.
By speaking up, we can all help prevent and stop the sexual abuse of children and help rid our society of one more pedophile.
*Obiora is the Program Coordinator, Action Against Child Sexual Abuse Initiative (ACSAI)