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HAVE you ever seen an adult playing with a child or touching a child in a way that made you feel uncomfortable? Maybe you thought, “I’m just over-reacting”, or “I’ve misunderstood the intention”. Or perhaps something a child says makes you feel alarmed. Do you know an adult or older child who insists on hugging, touching, kissing, wrestling with or holding a child against the child’s will, or is overly interested in the sexuality of a particular child or teenager? Some adults insist on time alone with a child uninterrupted? Why? Is there a family member asking your child to keep some activity a secret from you?
This year, to mark the International Day of the Child, EveryChild Guyana is voicing its concerns about the trauma of incest many children are subjected to. Incest is sexual abuse by a family member and involves actions from fondling a child’s genitals to sexual intercourse or sodomy. Showing pornography to a child or photographing a child in sexual poses is also abusive behaviour.
I have to stress that there is no ONE behavioural sign to indicate that a child is being or has been abused but there are some behaviours and physical signs that should make you ask questions and become more vigilant. Sexual abuse has a devastating emotional, social and psychological effect on children and can result in long-term relationship difficulties. Some children have nightmares, extreme fear of the dark, and/or fear of certain places or being alone with certain people, eating disorders, mood swings between rage, fear, anger and withdrawal, Their play may become sexual like simulating sex using toys or other children or suddenly using new words for private body parts. Physical signs include unexplained bruises, redness, or bleeding or pain in the child’s genitals, anus or mouth or genital sores. If a child close to you has these physical signs, bring that child to a doctor. As most children are dependent on their abusers the immediate trauma for them is the betrayal of trust and the great difficulty reporting the abuse. They are rendered powerless by the abuser. So, waiting for children to report abuse is too late - the trauma has already occurred. For the sake of these children we are asking you not to ignore such behaviours; learn how to ask more questions about what you have seen.
The message for EveryChild Guyana is:
Trust your own instincts and ask questions. As adults we must take the responsibility for stopping the abuse of children. While children should be warned and trained about child sexual abuse, expecting them to bear the burden of prevention on their own is unrealistic. We need to hold child sexual abusers responsible for their actions. Abusers must stop the abuse immediately. EveryChild Guyana wants you to join with us to create a social climate that says, “Sexual abuse of children is unacceptable”.
The EveryChild Guyana challenge on this week of the International Day of the Child is that every individual, in every town and village across Guyana will believe and say, “We will no longer tolerate the sexual abuse of our children”.