According to statistics, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 10 boys experience sexual violence in Nigeria. (Nigeria Violence Against Children Survey, National Population Commission, September 2015). Our experience confirms these statistics, as our girls continue to face abuse, primarily at the hands of their male relatives and other care takers. Notwithstanding these alarming statistics, less than 5% of our children seek and receive medical treatment. Supra. Most survivors of sex abuse will never speak out at all, will lapse into depression and suffer post-traumatic stress and psychological effects, prolonging and compounding their suffering.
This is why prevention is so important, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, which still considers the subject of child sex abuse taboo and cultivates a culture of silence which results in its proliferation.
Know the signs. It may save a child’s life.
- Acting out in an inappropriate sexual way with toys or objects (playing with teddy bear in a suggestive or sexual way).
- Nightmares, sudden sleeping problems.
- Becoming withdrawn or very clingy.
- Becoming unusually secretive.
- Sudden unexplained personality changes, mood swings, depression and/or seeming insecure.
- Regressing to younger behaviours, e.g. bedwetting.
- Unaccountable fear of particular places or people.
- Outburst of anger.
- Changes in eating habits.
- New adult words for body parts and no obvious source.
- Talk of a new, older friend and unexplained money or gifts.
- Self-harm (cutting, burning or other harmful activities).
- Physical signs, such as unexplained soreness or bruises around genitals or mouth, foul smell or discoloration in vaginal discharge, vaginal or anal bleeding, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, persistent or recurring pain during urination and bowel movements.
- Wetting and soiling accidents unrelated to toilet training.
- Running away.
- Not wanting to be alone with a particular p erson.
- Incessant washing or refusal to wash private parts.
Any one sign does not mean that a child was or is being sexually abused, but the presence of several suggests that you should begin to ask questions and consider seeking help. Help us obliterate the culture of silence on the issue of child sex abuse. #TakeMeOffMute!