Despite all the efforts to sensitise children, parents and the society at large on child sexual abuse, the recent data released by the Mumbai police give a disturbing picture.
Mumbai registered 908 child sexual abuse complaints in 2016, which has increased by 102 cases than the previous year. In fact, it is worrisome to note that the cases have increased by 486 in the last four years.
In 2013, 422 cases were reported and in 2014, 678 cases were reported in the city.
With 2016 registering highest number of child sexual abuse cases, experts feel there is a need to spread awareness among parents, teachers and children more aggressively.
Dr Sagar Mundada, Psychiatrist at KEM Hospital, said, “This year, the cases reported from previous years have increased. This issue needs to be persistently focused on. It is extremely important for parents to observe changes in their child as over 90 per cent of the times, child sexual abuse is done by a person who is known to the family”.
Mundada said it is unwise for parents to be suspicious of every adult who comes in contact with their child. However, there is a similar pattern observed in most abuse cases, there are some warning signs which parents should know.
“If a parent suspects his or her child is sexually abused, look for signs like increased dependency on non-abusing adults, withdrawal and isolation from others, increase in aggression or hostility, sudden fear of dark, frequent nightmares, changes in sleep patterns – which can be insomnia or oversleeping also – sexual behaviour which is beyond their age or if they are acting much younger than their age,” said Mundada.
Dr Sagar Karia, Consultant Psychiatrist, Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General (Sion) Hospital, said though they receive 6-8 cases of child sexual abuse cases every month, the increase in numbers of cases is in fact, the result of awareness campaigns.
“It is the result of awareness spread among parents, teachers and helping children understand the difference between a good and a bad touch. Also, the POCSO Act (The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012) is playing an important role,” said Karia.
Though it is believed that awareness on child sexual abuse has increased, few experts feel that the subject needs a holistic approach, which must include educating not just parents, teachers and children, but even commoners for children’s safety.
“There is a social stigma attached with child sexual abuse in all strata of the society. Parents are in a state of denial that their child is suffering from sexual abuse, so many cases go unreported,” said Raheen Jaiswal, Founder and Psychologist at Open Your Arm, an NGO.
Sharing her observation on awareness campaigns in schools, Jaiswal says even if we detect any child abuse case during awareness campaigns in schools, the school management shows least or no interest to report about it.
Jaiswal added, “If we want to save our children from such evil activities, then we need a holistic approach towards this issue. Also, regular observation and campaigns are needed to change the mindset of parents, teachers and every adult who is a stakeholder in our society.”