Nature of Child Sexual Abuse

Child abuse is a frightening reality around the world. Of all the forms of abuse of children, sexual abuse and exploitation may be the gravest, possibly leaving the deepest scars on the victims.  Being a form of violence that does not necessarily require use of physical force, child abuse easily leaves the abused children with the false notion that they bear responsibility for what is happening because they somehow gave their consent.   A sense of guilt is added to the victims’ feeling of pain, shame and confusion.

Contrary to popular notion of girls as the typical victim of sexual abuse and exploitation, contemporary studies now indicate that boys may be as prone to sexual exploitation as girls are.   According to the 2003 study on Multiple Sexual Victimizations Among Adolescent Boys and Girls in the United States, the ratio of girls and boys abused and exploited suggest a ratio of two girls to one boy.

Boys are less likely to disclose sexual abuse and exploitation than girls.  Culture may be a factor in this non-disclosure.   In many cultures, boys are expected to be tough and be able to take care of themselves.  They are expected to be strong, resilient and brave.  They are trained to stand on their own feet, solve their own problems, and protect themselves.  Real boys do not cry! Boys who fail to fulfill socio-cultural expectations will most likely receive stigmatization from people around them. The male identity is tied so strongly to the idea of being strong and not displaying any weaknesses.  The weight of living up to such image easily creates confusion on sexuality among those who feel less strong than what society expects from them.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) states clearly that child sexual abuse is a violation of children’s human rights.  Article 34 of the UNCRC specifically states, “Every child has to be protected from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.” The convention has called upon all governments, NGOs and other institutions and organizations to undertake measures to protect the child from all forms of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation.  Yet sexual abuse is largely not talked about or even reported. It is a very sensitive issue that has been kept hidden in the shadows, benefiting only the offenders.  To eliminate and prevent all forms of abuse on our children, it is important that we, as caregivers and teachers, learn to address the issue, enable victimized children to get help and develop and implement strategies for prevention.

Despite the fact that the CRC is the most widely ratified convention under the UN Human Rights Treaty, it remains merely a document full of ideals and promises to the millions of children around the world, many of whom are subjected to extreme inhuman conditions and treatment. No treaty or convention in itself is going to protect our children.  It is not until the values and principles behind the many paragraphs of the CRC take root in the hearts of people at the level of family and community that we can expect change.  This is a process that calls for advocacy, and to advocate effectively we need good tools.

There are several forms of sexual violation of children.

The most common form of sexual violation of children is sexual abuse.

The defining characteristic of sexual abuse is that a relationship exists between the child and the abuser; thus, the abuse is an abuse of the relationship.  The fact that sexual abuse is about a relationship is the reason why most children cannot tell others what happened. In SFI’s animation film “Daughter,” we witness a case of incest where there is abuse of the relationship between father and daughter.

Another form of child sexual abuse in many developing countries, particularly in South East Asia, is sexual exploitation, which is also referred to as commercial sex trade.  In many parts of this region, we hear stories about foreign pedophiles and the boys, girls, families, and even whole communities that they trick and abuse. Pedophiles are adults, usually men, who want sex only with children.  The most common victims of pedophiles are young boys as will be seen in the animation “A Good Boy.” The film confronts the issue of child sexual exploitation. It tells the story of a street child, Jason, who is victimized by a foreign pedophile.

COMMERCIAL SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a form of child sexual abuse, and a fundamental child rights violation. It is also termed as Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC).

According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF):

“Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children  is defined as: children, both male and female, engaging in sexual activities for money, profit, or any other consideration due to coercion or influence by any adult, syndicate or group’. The profit could go either to the child or to any third party involved in the transaction. “

Sexual exploitation demeans, degrades and threatens the physical and psychosocial integrity of children.  The transaction is lopsided as one or more parties benefit through cash or in kind from the sexual exploitation of someone aged below 18. Cases of exploitation also occur in exchange for protection and favors like a place to sleep, or access to higher grades and/or promotion.

It is believed that millions of children all over the world are involved in CSEC.  While it is difficult to determine the exact figures as these are clandestine and criminal activities, it is a fact that large numbers of boys and girls are being victimized.

CSEC situation in the Philippines is alarming and distressing. To say that CSEC in the country is a growing concern is an understatement. According to the report of the Consortium Against Trafficking of Children and Women for Sexual Exploitation in 2005, the Philippines ranked fourth among nine nations with the most number of children trafficked for prostitution.- The Philippines has  about 60,000 to 100,000 prostituted children, and is a transit and destination country for internationally trafficked persons. The country has high incidence of CSEC mainly because of endemic poverty, high unemployment rate, cultural propensity towards migration, a weak rule of law enforcement and sex tourism.

TYPES OF CHILD SEXUAL EXPLOITATION

Child sexual exploitation comes in different forms, albeit interrelated. These are the following:

  • Possession, Manufacture, and Distribution of Child Pornography
    Child pornography is a visual depiction of a minor (person   younger than 18) engaged in sexually explicit conduct. This includes sexually explicit photographs, circulated in  magazines, movies and the internet.
  • Child Prostitution
    Prostitution is performing, offering or agreeing to perform a sexual act for any money, property, object or anything of value.  It is also an act of engaging or offering the  services of a child to perform sexual acts for money or for any other  consideration.
  • Child Trafficking
    This involves transporting a child from one place to another through deception or coercion to work as a sex slave or mail-order bride.
  • Child Sex Tourism
    This involves individuals who travel to other countries to engage in sexual activity with children usually coming from local communities.
  • Online Enticement of Children for Sexual Conversation
    The involves the act of enticing, inviting, or persuading a child to engage in sexual conversations over the internet.
  • Online Enticement of Children for Sexual Acts
    The internet is used to entice, invite, or persuade a child to meet for sexual acts, or to help arrange such a meeting.
  • Unsolicited Obscene Material Sent to a Child
    This is the act of deceiving any person below 18 years of age into accessing pornographic materials over the Internet. It may be done through sending unsolicited email or “spam” to children, or through posting innocent-looking links on websites meant for children that lead to pornographic images .