Sexual violence against children is the inducement or coercion of children to engage in any sexual activity. This violence can take both physical and mental forms. It includes both sexual abuse and sexual exploitation.

In a survey conducted, thirty two out of forty two people questioned confessed to have experienced some kind of sexual violence as a child. For many, the experience was a haunting memory even after a lapse of many years. This just brings us to the reality that how prone the kids are to sexual violence. It occurs across all strata of society and in all countries of the world.
Talking about sexual violence is difficult because of the many taboos that surround the issues of sexuality, abuse and exploitation. Cases of sexual violence against children are even more difficult to talk about because a culture of silence and shame suppresses any discussion of children and sexual violence. A false notion of shame is the single largest culprit in perpetrating sexual violence against children in every society. This is the sole reason why such cases go unreported and are not even talked about. Thus the culprits not only are free from any accusations but are also encouraged.

It is usually a silent, hidden, invisible crime that both boys and girls face at home or outside, often at the hands of trusted adults. The sexual abuse of children includes an adult exposing his/her genitals to a child or persuading a child to do the same, an adult touching a child’s genitals with a hand or any other object, or making a child touch genitalia, an adult having oral, vaginal, or anal intercourse with a child, with or without penetration, an adult making any verbal or other sexual suggestions to a child, an adult persuading a child to engage in sexual activity, an adult making a child witness any sexual act, an adult inducing or encouraging a child to hear, view or read any pornographic material, adults marrying children (before the age of 18 years for girls and before the age of 21 years for boys), or children marrying children, which involves forced sexual relations.

Just anyone can be a victim of sexual violence. Any child can be abused. Sexual abuse takes place in all castes, communities and across all strata of society-irrespective of the economic, social or educational background of the children’s family. Both male and female children are sexually abused. However, across the board, girls are abused more frequently than boys. Sexual violence against children not only has a damaging and long-term impact on the victim, but also affects the family, community and society. Like any crime that continues to go unchecked, sexual violence against children-whether within or outside their homes or as an organized trafficking network-directly reflects the health of society as a whole.

Children who have been sexually abused or exploited frequently suffer from severe physical, mental, emotional and behavioral trauma, which manifests itself in social isolation, low self-esteem and the inability to have normal sexual relations. If the process of healing does not take place, the trauma lasts a lifetime. Sexual violence against children can lead to sexually transmitted diseases, HIV or pregnancy at an early age. There are cases when the children are made to feel guilty for the abuse in the rural and orthodox areas of the country. In such cases they develop a deep sense of worthlessness and feel a sense of powerlessness, anger, fright and loneliness.

Communities also suffer when children are sexually exploited. There is a sense of collective shame. Some communities become vulnerable targets when identified by traffickers. On the contrary, the abuser and his/her family do not experience the same consequences as the victim and his/her family.
Sexual violence not only stigmatizes the child but altogether hampers his life. Thus it becomes absolutely necessary for the society to open up and come forward to address issues like this. There are many rights and conventions in the government that protect the cause of children but they will benefit only when the society becomes aware of their existence!!

P. Vinisha