When her father died, the mother of this eight-year-old girl decided to leave for Malaysia to take up a job. Unwilling to take her daughter along, she left her under the care of her late husband’s brother.

Shortly, several neighbours noticed a marked change in the girl’s behaviour, which was initially attributed to the grief over her father’s death. Her neighbours soon suspected something was wrong and alerted the District Child Protection Unit (DCPU). On investigation, DCPU officials found out that the girl was being sexually abused by her uncle.

But the real tragedy, a child protection officer said, was that her mother refused to come down from Malaysia after being informed of the incident. Only when the man was arrested did she come down to take custody of the child.

In another incident in Coimbatore, a mother observed wounds while bathing her seven-year-old daughter who had also grown increasingly withdrawn. Upon inquiry, the child revealed that her father was taking photographs of her in nude and had sexually assaulted her. The mother went straight to a police station and filed a complaint. Her husband was arrested.

DCPU official said such incidents were occurring with increasing frequency in Coimbatore. O f the 31 cases of child sexual abuse handled by the DCPU since August 2012, the victims were abused by those known to them either through persuasion or coercion.

In almost all cases, the victims were in the age group of 4-10. This made it imperative for parents to educate their children from a young age on these issues. Besides advising children never to go out with strangers, they should be explained about ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch.’

The DCPU counselled the victims of abuse and tried to re-integrate them into society. In a recent case, a 17-year-old girl, who had scored 463 out of 500 marks in the Class X public examination, was forcibly married off to a relative who was nearly twice her age. After being rescued, she refused to go back to the school. The DPCU’s counsellor conducted several sessions for her; thereafter, she relented.

‘Awareness mandatory’

Creating awareness among children was the only way to tackle the issue of child sexual abuse. Parents must also pay attention to sudden changes in their children’s behaviour, officials said.

In all cases of

child sexual abuse, perpetrator is known to victim, say officials