More cases of children being abused by close family members. At an awareness class for a group of 100 students from a girls’ school, more than 16 girls confided they had been sexually abused.

A well-behaved six-year-old girl suddenly starts throwing tantrums. She has trouble sleeping, shows suicidal tendencies, abuses her younger sister, and her mother is unsettled by the animal sounds the child makes from time to time. The mother takes the child to a psychiatrist, who after extensive examination, discovers that the child has been sexually abused.

Kuruppumpady police recently registered a case against the father of this six-year-old on charge of abusing her after giving her alcohol. The father is currently absconding. But the child is suffering from severe mental trauma and may be turning suicidal, said Ajeesh Ramachandran, psychiatrist at the Government Hospital at Aluva, who held extensive counselling sessions with the child.

More cases of children being abused in their homes by close family members are coming to light every day. What prompts a man to rape his own child, a niece or a nephew? “Children become targets because they can be deceived easily,” said Dr. Ramachandran. Abusers entice them with chocolates or the promise of games or other fun activities and then abuse them. Children are also easily threatened into not revealing that they have been abused. Parents often discover that their children have been abused only when they show physical signs of abuse like skin abrasions or urinary tract infections.

The influence of alcohol or drugs could also push people to sexually abuse children, said the doctor. He said there was a high rate of drug use among people in the city between 18 to 30 years of age. While doing drugs lowers their inhibition, they might also come across other pedophiles in their circles, which could prompt them to abuse a child, he said.

Dr. Ramachandran said paedophilia was rampant in the State. During an awareness class for a group of 100 students from a girls’ school, more than 16 girls confessed to having been sexually abused. Abusers are typically close relatives or neighbours.

It is usually the mother or a teacher who brings the case to the attention of the police. Antony Jinoy, district co-ordinator of Childline, said a mother may find it difficult to believe that her husband would abuse their own child. Students sometimes confide in teachers or school counsellors, who bring the case to the attention of Childline or the police. Due to the efforts of organisations like Childline to spread awareness among students, children themselves have approached Childline with their experiences of having been abused.

Jurist S. Gopakumaran Nair said incest was nothing new in the State. Many children, boys and girls, are sexually abused in the State. Very few cases are reported to the police. Even fewer made it to the courts, he said. This is because of a taboo surrounding the subject. Parents may also feel that it would be less traumatic for the child if the instance of abuse was buried.

The only way out, said Mr. Jinoy, was to break the silence surrounding sexual abuse of children. Parents also need to create an environment at home where children feel that they can confide in them, he said.

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