Child sexual abuse: For some children, home is the most dangerous place

Published: February 27, 2012
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Though parents worry 
about their kids’ safety at school and parks, most abuse cases occur at home.

Though parents worry about their kids’ safety at school and parks, most abuse cases occur at home.

ISLAMABAD: 

Protecting the innocence of their children is a parent’s greatest desire, with many going to extreme lengths to guard it. Sadly, there are too many people waiting for an opportunity to take it. For many victims that person all too often turns out to be a relative.

Anee* is 19, and a victim. She was sexually abused just after hitting puberty. Her abuser was her grandfather. He used to sneak into her bed and touch her whenever he felt the need, under the pretext that God would punish her if she tried to make him stop.

The terrified child’s ordeal continued for years. It was only when her mother confronted Anee to get an explanation for her moody behavior that Anee finally gave up her source of guilt and embarrassment. Anee’s mother kicked out her father-in-law, but the child’s emotional wounds still remain.

For Shiza*, the molester was an even closer relative. When she was just four, Shiza’s nine-year-old brother began touching her inappropriately. When she was older and finally built up the courage to say no, he raped her. This continued for years, until she finally got married and moved out. She started a new life with her husband, but her past caught up with her again. What turned out to be a diaper rash on one-year-old her baby brought back traumatic memories, and when she opened up to her husband about why she broke down, hoping that the father of her child would help her come to terms with her traumatic childhood, he divorced her.

Bena*and her brother Saad* were forced to inappropriately touch each other by their 14-year-old maternal uncle, who used to come to their home after school. He would also participate himself. By the time he finally stopped coming over, the two children continued their taboo relationship, in no small part because to the best of their knowledge, it was acceptable. It wasn’t until years later, when their parents found out that they learnt what they were actually doing.

These are but three stories from Islamabad, from what would best be called, the upper and middle classes.

Rabia Manzoor Khan, a clinical psychologist at Aga Khan Health Unit in Islamabad, said child abuse is very common in homes, and the abuser is usually a close relative or family member. She then made a startling estimation that such incidents occur in every third house in Islamabad but go unreported.

Mostly families try to suppress these incidents and end up blaming their children for “letting themselves” become victims.

“Nowadays, many such incidents are taking place among the highly educated and elite class. After dealing with many such cases, the most worrying thing which came to light was that most victims of sexual abuse can’t comprehend what they had gone through due to the age factor,” she said.

Sexual abuse transcends social class and age, but with older victims, power, be it financial or physical, tends to rear its ugly head.

On the other hand, very few people are aware of counselling options for sexual abuse victims.

While talking to The Express Tribune, Rutgers World Population Foundation (WFP) Country Head Qadeer Baig described child abuse as an “epidemic in our society”.

“Recent statistics claiming that only five children a day are sexually abused show that the crime is highly under-reported,” he said.

Baig quoted an estimate that 25 per cent of children are abused, while up to 50 per cent of disabled children fall victim to such abuse in the country.

“Also, there is high risk that children abused at an early age may become abusers when they grow up. Unfortunately, these abusers enter the home through the front door (relatives and friends of the family),” he said.

Abuse is also reported in schools and madrassas, mostly due to the lack of cheap education options for parents and children.

“Unfortunately, our education system does not focus on child protection and violates the [Convention on the Rights of the Child]. There is a huge need to educate young kids about acceptable and unacceptable forms of physical contact and to have open communication between parents, teachers and children,” Baig said.

He opined that child protection laws needs to be improved and implemented. Life skill-based education as envisaged in National Education Policy 2009 should be included in school education curriculum.

Victims, age no bound, are left physically, psychologically and socially scarred. They suffer from deep depression, anxiety, and often lose their trust and confidence in everyone. The insecurity is most pronounced in girls, who usually start avoiding contact with all men. “When they get married, they are reluctant to get intimate with their husbands. In severe cases, they attempt suicide,” Khan said.

Male victims do not fare any better. “They often grow up to become abusers, or become over ambitious in efforts to suppress the pain and suffering they are trying to hide. Conversely, they can suffer from deep depression, become very emotionally sensitive, and show hesitance to indulge in any social activity,” the doctor said, while also noting that at some scale, their opinions and thought process becomes rigid, while others may find solace in food and end up gaining a lot of weight.

Unfortunately, “It is very difficult to identify abusers as they will not disclose it themselves and will never go for counselling,” she said, because they end up thinking that what happened to them should happen to others as well.

*Names changed to protect identity

Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (32)

  • Dr Saifur Rehman
    Feb 27, 2012 - 4:46PM

    very painful story.

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  • A
    Feb 27, 2012 - 6:17PM

    And this is sadly the Islamic Republic of Pakistan….

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  • saad badar
    Feb 27, 2012 - 6:31PM

    No,no, these things couldn’t have happened in the ISLAMIC repbulic of pakistan.nothing of this sort happens in the land of the pure.such things are done only by the non-muslim west,with their behayai and fahashi.this article must be the sazish of the yahodis,amreekis,RAW,MOSSAD,CIA.

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  • Anon
    Feb 27, 2012 - 6:36PM

    Lack of proper religious conscious is the reason for this prevailing in the upper and lower classes. An no I am not a Mullah. Whether Muslims, Christian or Hindu, every religion teaches about moral values, conduct towards family and society and the punishment for evil behaviour. Pakistani society like societies around the world, are increasingly having their values eroded because of lack of moral accountability and responsibility. Only someone with pure evil inside them would take advantage of an innocent child.
    This is one of those areas where I think the harsh shariah punishment is appropriate for the offenders.

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  • GH
    Feb 27, 2012 - 6:50PM

    @Mr A.. Why guys like you Drag Islam and Pakistan in every matter.

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  • Feb 27, 2012 - 7:28PM

    @A:
    yes it is but why do we blame Islam?? Its clear that our society and constitution is not following Quran and Sharia law in its true sense, Pakistan is a Muslims country but there are no Islamic laws, thats why problems like these are being raised

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  • -----
    Feb 27, 2012 - 8:07PM

    I’ve heard several accounts where the abusers where servants working in the home. A driver who would abuse a small child he was supposed to be driving to school. Maids who would molest infants because the maids had also been abused as children and repeated the same experiments that had been performed on them. For some reason, no one ever even thinks it is possible for their servants to abuse their children. Bachon ko nokaron ke paas phaink detay hein, thinking these people are our slaves and they’ll do only what we expect them to. But uneducated people who have also been the victims of abuse cannot be trusted to protect and raise your children. So next time you leave your kid alone with ANYONE, think twice.

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  • FAZ
    Feb 27, 2012 - 8:10PM

    @A:
    These things may be happening in the KSA as well. Rape incident came up even in the times of our Beloved Prophet SAWW and in the days of the Khilafate Rashida. Hiding a crime, doesnt make a society pure! The saddest thing is that there is no justice for these ! And our aazad adlia is so busy in NRO, swiss cases, Haqqani and Mansoor love affairs!!Recommend

  • Whatever
    Feb 27, 2012 - 8:15PM

    @saad
    What a lame response. No one is claiming that an Islamic country is devoid of all sins. Even during the Prophet’s (PBUH) time there were criminals and offenders BUT they were brought to justice immediately and effective. And this is the tragedy of the society. In the absense of law and order, there is an absolute breakdown of society, with people behaving like almost animals.

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  • Much Amused
    Feb 27, 2012 - 8:35PM

    Repressed society. Holy brigades. Enter the internet and viola the abuse rises tangentially.

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  • naila
    Feb 27, 2012 - 8:36PM

    Why is everything blamed on “Islamic Republic”? Sexual abuse is not uncommon to more developed nations. And their is nothing Islamic about this Islamic republic.

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  • Saima
    Feb 27, 2012 - 8:37PM

    This article is soooo gross I could not read it beyond two paragraphs. I thought the author actually might have a suggestion or something to make lives easier for the abused victims…like suggestions on whom o contact in such situations and get counselling…. instead it is full of horror stories which would make mother a doubt every single relative or person their child interacts with….these are few cases of the many. Not every brother or grandfather…God forbid looks at children this way. However, those who do are mentally-ill, they need to be treated with counselling and behavior modification…which could only be the possible explanation for their actions, a normal person could never be sexually stimulated by their family members…religous or not….like I said GROSS!

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  • Rehan
    Feb 27, 2012 - 8:53PM

    An important statistics should be more appropriately highlighted. In many cases the perpetrators are children or adolescents themselves who themselves had been abused in the past or become part of a circle of ‘friends’ where abuse to some had happened the victims now in their adolescence now own it and spread the ‘glory’ among friends. Also the role of pornographic medium should also be emphasized.

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  • mentelisco
    Feb 27, 2012 - 9:09PM

    @A: But Islam has very strict rules against such actions. The problem is not Islam but in not following it properly.

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  • Shaha
    Feb 27, 2012 - 9:23PM

    It’s important to remember that sexually abusing children is not necessarily something an irreligious person would do. People who do this have a psychological disorder, they cannot help themselves; even when they are reprimanded odds are that they will act again. That’s why it is important to have laws against this so that the molesters are put in prison or distinctly marked so that they cannot legally be within a certain distance of children. It is also very important that class boundaries dissolve and the elite stop protecting their children who are committing such a transgression.
    A lot has to be done, but it’s not about religion or whether this is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. What matters is having a strong and transparent legal system where no one is victimized for reporting such a crime against them and no one protects these criminals.

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  • Faddy
    Feb 27, 2012 - 9:43PM

    No doubt these sort of incidents stuck in ones mind forever. I my self a victim, no by any close relative, but an elderly man who use to be my neighbor. But instead of blaming any one, I am thankful to my parents for upraising me with Islamic teachings. I was 14 years that time, and managed to get out of that situation by myself.

    We cannot stop this, but yes it is our responsibility to make our children strong enough with Islamic beliefs that they could fight between what is wrong and what is right!

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  • Scorpion
    Feb 27, 2012 - 9:46PM

    no saad babar u r wrong. These things also happens every day in Pakistan. And sorry to say it mostly happens in schools, colleges. Now the thing is that this sexual relation is commonly spreading in youth mostly in shape of gays (sorry abt it) but it’s a fact. Individuals should be sorted out on these accounts and should be punished to make an example for the future.

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  • Zalim singh
    Feb 27, 2012 - 10:05PM

    very sad

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  • Asma Baloch
    Feb 27, 2012 - 10:29PM

    I wish some one tell us the most appropraite way to teach the child how to aviod such sick minded people.

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  • Feb 27, 2012 - 10:55PM

    nice article

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  • S F
    Feb 28, 2012 - 12:23AM

    Are you kidding me? Im so shocked. Really, her own brother & grandfather? What a shame

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  • ash
    Feb 28, 2012 - 1:09AM

    i agree with asma baloch that we should be guided as to how we should keep our children safe,how we can teach our children to protect themselves and what to do in case faced with such trauma.

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  • Saad Durrani
    Feb 28, 2012 - 1:47AM

    @Saima:
    What do you mean? Do you want Pakistani media to tell you solutions? NEVER. Though, the rate might be in great numbers but the gross estimation (for sensationalism) has to stop. I support Saima’s views that a solution, perhaps a good counselling contact, should have been provided.

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  • Freeman
    Feb 28, 2012 - 2:11AM

    @saad badar: Mostly happeing in highly educated modern families. This clearly shows that they also need to get religious education also to know that these things are prohibited in Islam.

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  • Luqman
    Feb 28, 2012 - 2:18AM

    There may be few cases. @ S F its really shocking but its true as it happends in our society due to lack of unawareness from what is acceptable and what is not. Number told in the article is much higher i do not believe that this hapend in every 2 to 3 house.

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  • BZ
    Feb 28, 2012 - 4:03AM

    I belong to an upper middle class and was born into a religious family..aka parents prayed 5 times a day. We are 3 sisters and 2 brothers. I was inappropriately touched by my 13 yrs old brother several times at the age of 5. The episodes were very traumatic and extremely unpleasant. I remember at the age, I didn’t have the vocabulary to describe what was happening to me. It only stopped when one day my dad caught my brother red-handed. Now after 15 years, I clearly remember those indescribably painful moments. The surprising thing was that all of my sisters had experienced some form of abuse from the same brother and it appears that my mother was aware of it but chose to overlook!!!

    My suggestion is that in every kindergarten/ primary school, there should be special lessons for boys and girls on how to protect themselves if they are in such situations. One of the reasons why these cases are so rampant is that the perpetrator KNOWS that the victim will remain silent. By giving our kids proper education, at least they would know how to report such mishaps and who to report it to ( sometimes it is easier to talk to an outsider than somebody in the house). Such education is very common in the west, but unfortunately in Pakistan we associate any form of sex education as “fahashat”.

    My second suggestion is that we need run some kind of campaign to educate parents about the problem and what they need to do about it..ex: do not leave adolescents alone, do not send little girls to their relatives’ or friends’ house or neighbors’ house alone. Parents must communicate with their kids. Please note, many of the perpetrators are older folks like uncles or other male figures. Mothers need to be very vigilant. We can even broadcast ads that address this problem.

    Sorry for essay like comment, but I am so glad that somebody published this article. I feel sickened knowing that someone actually divorced his wife when she disclosed her tragedy. What a shame!

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  • AA
    Feb 28, 2012 - 11:07AM

    This is not a question of religious practices or the law and order situation. It is all about the societal values and openness of communication. If the child doesn’t report the abuser, there is nothing that law enforcement agencies can do. Parents must take the lead in educating their children what is unacceptable touching by others, and by giving their children a chance to confide with their parents in the event that such an accident does take place.

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  • mik
    Feb 28, 2012 - 12:30PM

    Very Brave Article. It has nothing to do with Islam, Pakistan, West or any other religion. It happens because our social values are weakening. I was sexually abused in my childhood but the abusers were not my relatives. If any relative is found involved in such case, does not mean that you should consider everybody like that but I must say “Child Sexual Abuse” is a reality in our society. I know that this happens in every society/ country but we should focus on the evils present in our society. Although writer missed some points but very good writing i must appreciate.

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  • Cyma
    Feb 28, 2012 - 1:16PM

    @BZ:
    Thank you so much for your thoughts! I’m a clinical psychologist and I have heard countless stories of child molestation and abuse! It is very prevalent – much more than any of us could estimate because of the stigma related to reporting such horrendous experiences. I cant seem to agree with you more – there should be a way to impart this essential information to children, their teachers and parents. No child deserves to go through this! I wish, there was a way I could help. I do train parents on how they can educate their children regarding self protection. I would like to find a way to address this issue at a larger level

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  • M Ali Khan
    Feb 28, 2012 - 2:20PM

    Children need to be taught how to protect themselves and to not be afraid from talking about their abusers.

    Sex education and awareness is important and should not be hushed up in our already sexually frustrated and repressed society.

    Religious values mean nothing if you cannot even have basic human values and compassion towards each other, esp. the vulnerable sections of our society.

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  • Feb 29, 2012 - 10:11AM

    it is very alarming situation and the parents are always very much worried about it.. but don’t know how to cope with it, government should do some thing about it and develop a plan for this.

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  • Luqman
    Feb 29, 2012 - 10:01PM

    @ Saima have also strong point that do not make every one parent to be doubted on their relative and their elder. There may be few cases so sort out the solution for it just telling such stories will make people more curious and more problems can arised from it.

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