The menace of child sexual abuse

THE report of the recent arrest of a prominent Nollywood actor for the act of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl has called attention once again to the growing problem of child sexual abuse in Nigeria. We have heard so many reports of kids and very small girls being sexually assaulted and violated by men old enough to be their grandfathers that it should be concerning how we all rise up to confront this blight that is threatening to devour and destroy our young girls. It is not just that these girls bear the life-long physical scars of such sexual assaults, we are told that the psychological effects are more far reaching, sometimes preventing the girls from ever living a normal life again. One research concludes: “Sexual assault in childhood impacts not only the victim, but also the victim’s family and friends as well as society as a whole. In this regard sexual assault is a public health problem that concerns everyone.” And another one states that: ‘(child) sexual assault has numerous potential consequences that can last a lifetime and span generations, with serious adverse effects on health, education, employment, crime, and the economic well-being of individuals, families, communities and societies.’ We therefore have on our hand a serious societal problem that affects more than just the victims and this evil threatens the health of the whole society and disrupts the tranquility of the community.

In very clear terms, child sexual abuse points to failure on the part of the society to care for and safeguard the children. Children look up to the adults in the society to ensure that they are safe given that they are under the care of the adults and are not in a position to care for themselves. It is therefore the responsibility of the adults, starting from the parents, to ensure that pedophiles are prevented from having access to these children to inflict harm on them. Imagine the fact that the police report on the arrested Nollywood actor states that he has been allegedly assaulting his victim since she was seven years old. Which means that for six years, the parents and neighbours could not prevent the girl from being traumatised repeatedly by this callous and deranged old man. For six years, the parents and the neighbors and the entire society failed this girl and allowed her to become the sexual plaything for the animalistic man. It is of course true that the mother was finally instrumental to exposing and catching the man in his devilish act by installing CCTV camera in the house. But we must remark the fact that there must have been a gap and deficiency in the oversight for the girl by the parents which the man exploited for six years. With this telling us about the importance of parents focusing more attention on how to care for and protect their children at all times.  It has been stated that ‘most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims; approximately 30 per cent are relatives of the child, most often brothers, fathers, uncles, or cousins, around 60 percent are other acquaintances, such as “friends” of the family, babysitters, or neighbours; strangers are the offenders in approximately 10 percent of child sexual abuse cases.’ The implication is that the girl’s parents must have been derelict in their security precautions around the girl, for this man to be able to exploit the situation and continuously exploit and assault the girl. Parents must, therefore, have a new and heightened sense of vigilance going forward in order to stem this evil practice and help to protect the children from sexual predators.

Unfortunately, the growing economic problems in the land have further reduced the capacity of parents and guardians to attend to the full care of their children and wards. Many parents have to work harder to make ends meet and sometimes this means having to leave home early while returning home very late almost everyday. In this circumstance, children are left to their own designs or are left to the partial care of neighbours and other family members, with this exposing the children to the antics of sexual predators. Sometimes it is because parents are not able to provide all the essentials for the children that they are enticed by contriving individuals for sexual predation. The pedophiles in the society are utilizing new creative ways every time to ensnare these children and it is the responsibility of the parents and guardians and the entire society to prevent the children from falling into the traps of these evildoers. While it is important to provide food and other essentials for the children, we must not do these to the neglect of caring for their safety and security. Unfortunately, not every parent could afford installing the CCTV camera through which the Nollywood actor was exposed in their homes. But this would not mean not taking other precautions to let the predators know that we are always alert to the safety and security of our children. The pervasiveness of child sexual abuse in recent times is a pointer to the ubiquity of predators all around our society and this should sensitise parents and guardians to the need to take the safety and security of the children and wards more seriously.

The same way that government and security agencies must step up their game in apprehending perpetrators of these dastardly acts. Children are the future of the society and we cannot afford to let some damaged members of the society destroy the future for us by destroying the children. There are enough laws in the books to handle the deviants who engage in these devious acts and we expect the government and the security agencies to be firm in arresting perpetrators and imposing maximum penalties on them. As we have stated, child sexual abuse is one crime that touches on the health and continued existence of the society and the government must see it as a veritable threat that has to be combated in a vigorous manner to show that it understands the enormity of the danger it represents for the society. In any case, the whole of the society would bear the brunt of the impact of this menace of child sexual abuse, such that it should be the responsibility of all to want to confront it. It is not a crime that should be handled with levity by the security agents as the children and wards of members of the security agencies also stand the risk of being assaulted if perpetrators are not made to fear the certainty of being exposed and arrested and punished.

The menace of child sexual abuse is such that should attract the attention and commitment of all in the society such that we could all rise up and stop this degeneration that is threatening to destroy our children and their future and the future of the society.

  • Yakubu is of the Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan.

 

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