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Protecting children from sex abuse is whose responsibility?

With Dr.Princess Olufemi Kayode

When we think of tackling Child Sexual Abuse, there are many dimensions through which people expect changes can be achieved i.e. through campaigns, advocacy, trainings and so on. But the question is who is responsible for protecting the children, should we rely solely on the government, schools and religious organizations?

Before answering this question, let’s revisit what statistics has shown about sexual abuse. It is estimated that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 8 boys would have experienced sexual abuse by their eighteenth birthday.

This translates into one seventh of the population of young men and one third of the young female population in the country.

This means in a gathering of three eighteen year old girls, one of them would have experienced sexual abuse at one point in time while growing up. The same thing happens with the young boys.

If eight boys were sampled about their experiences while growing up, one of them is sure to report experiencing sexual abuse. For the boys, it has been discovered that most times their first sexual encounter is abusive though they most times will not admit it because the society expects that men are supposed to enjoy sex.

For some it was their house maids, older neighbors, relatives, friends and so on. A friend shared his own experience with me. He was introduced to sex by someone who sells in the stall close to his mother’s.

After sales of her wares, she would call him aside and have sex with him. This continued for a while until he became used to it and would call her aside for them to have sex. He never told anyone.

Hence, every child is at risk whether they are from rich homes and live in high brow areas, middle class homes that live in fairly comfortable situations or those from poor homes.

Going back to whose responsibility it is to protect the children. The responsibility of protecting children from sexual abuse lies on the adults than on children who are sometimes expected to keep themselves from harm’s way.

For instance a girl who experiences sexual abuse might be told things like “what were you doing there when he sexually abused you?”, “why did you not you shout or call for help?” etc. All these just shows that we somehow expect the children to protect themselves which ought not to be so.

As a parent, guardian, child care personnel or anyone that has to work with children, it is time we realize that protecting children from sexual abuse is not the job of the children but our sole responsibility.

Contribution by Ms. Adeola Francesca Abiola, Programme Officer with Media Concern Initiative for Women and Children, Lagos


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