Dated 2018-12-15
4
Oct
2017

Child Sexual Abuse

The Silent Torment of Victims  

 While it isn’t widely reported, research reveals that Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is more common in our society than we would like to believe.

Immersed in her game with dolls, the 7-year-old child barely responds when someone calls her name.

It is difficult to make out that she has developed a fear of strangers and retreated into a shell.

Saadiya (not the child’s real name) has been under treatment at a mental health clinic on the outskirts of Srinagar for nearly two months.

Doctors say that she is suffering the aftermath of Child Sexual Abuse.

The child had been molested in the house of a neighbour, Saadiya’s parents have told a psychiatrist on seeing marked changes in her behaviour.

“It happened a couple of months ago when her mother was taken ill and had to be shifted to hospital,” says Dr. Arif Maghribi Khan.

“The family had decided to leave their only daughter with a neighbour,” the doctor, who has the child under observation, says.

The next day, on her way to school, Saadiya pressed her mother not to walk her past his house, but take a different route.

“This continued for several days, and when the mother asked why, Saadiya said that the night they had left her at the house, ‘the man there’ had molested her.”

 

Her parents had taken Saadiya for a medical check-up first. No injuries had been found. Except that their daughter seemed to be a different person now, with no interest in life.

 

“The parents came to me after they had explored all possible ways to get their daughter back,” Dr. Khan says. “The incident has left deep scars on her mind, and she needs time to heal.”

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Dr. Khan believes the traumatic memories will go as the child grows, but not without attaching a rider.

“As she grows older, the memories of the incident will evaporate,” says Dr. Khan, ““But that does not always happen. In some victims the memories persist.”

Her parents had taken Saadiya for a medical check-up first. No injuries had been found. Except that their daughter seemed to be a different person now, with no interest in life.

 

Sociologist Dr. Farah Qayoom, who is a professor at the University of Kashmir, says it’s a long drawn battle.

“The victims suffer for ages in silence,” says Dr. Farah. “Fear does not let them reveal it even to their mothers. They feel a continuous sense of guilt. People don’t want to talk about it (sexual abuse of children), although it happens almost in every household. The perpetrators are often close acquaintances of the family, uncles or cousins.”

 

Admitting such crimes in the first place is very rare, leave alone reporting them to the police, or at a hospital. There are instances where victims have been blamed by their close relatives.

 

Arifat Jan (name changed), a sixteen-year-old girl from downtown Srinagar receiving treatment at a psychiatric centre here, has suffered at the hands of a faith-healer who used to visit her family.

 

“My family has great faith in him,” she says. “I wasn’t doing well in studies, so my parents sought his help. He would ask me to come to his room all alone. This went on for a long time, but when I told my parents that he was molesting me, they refused to believe me. They still think that I am talking under some spell to defame their peer.”

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Male as well as female children fall victim to sexual abuse, and cases have been reported from across the state.

 

Dr Khan, who has been practising for the past eight years, says he sees eight to ten such patients a year.

“Sexual abuse of children is very under-reported,” he says. “Families do not want to open up about the crime, which worsens the patients’ condition.”

 

Psychiatrist Dr. Maqbool Lone says such ordeals wreak havoc with the victim’s psyche.

“For victims,” says Dr. Lone, “the effects of child abuse can be devastating.”

The victims, according to Dr. Lone, may feel significant distress and display a wide range of psychological symptoms, both short and long term. “The abuse may disrupt the victim’s development,” warns Dr. Lone.

 

 

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