By Njideka Eze
Chidimma started living with her uncle at the age of six. This uncle of hers is well to do; he has domestic staff like a Guard, cook, a driver and Nanny. Chidimma grew with the family and was a part of them, she is beautiful and well taken care of. At 14years, she looked 20. The driver had an eye for chidimma and didn’t hesitate to show it at the lest opportunity. Chidmma on the other hand knew that the driver was making advances at her and vowed never to give in. she developed a hatred for the driver and showed it in any way she could. She stopped greeting him, grudgingly gave him food and so on. The mother of the house noticed his and warned chidimma not to be hostile to the driver.
Chidimma’s Uncle had two other grown up girls or at least older than Chidimma. They noticed the way Chidimma behaved towards the driver and were not happy about it. On one of the days the driver came back from an errand, Chidimma was asked to give him food. She grumbled and was so reluctant doing that. One of the Cousins got so angry and shouted at Chidimma. She started crying and in that anger, made a comment about the driver coming after her.
The cousin sort to know what has been going on between chidimma and the driver. She opened up to her and told her how the driver attempted coming into her room without knocking severally. How he had severally tried touching her and so on. This was an eye opener, it was too much for Chidimmas cousin to hear and bear alone. She decided to call the attention of their Mum. Hearing this, the woman fumed with anger. He called the driver and lamented how she took him as family and how he turned against her by making advances at a girl of 14years. He denied at first but admitted later on. The woman couldn’t rap her head around this revelation. She paid the driver off and sacked him.
On a closer questioning, the Madam discovered that this has been going on for some time. The confusion was why it took her so long to spit that out?
Sexual abuse is any form of Sexual violation against children. Sexual Abuse exists in many forms including touching and non-touching activities. This affects the victim, the family and the society and it could be a devastating experience as it changes a child’s perception of life and the society.
Because of the trauma inflicted, a child who has been abused may take weeks, months, or even years to fully reveal what happened to them.
From the Madams conversation with Chidimma, she discovered the driver touches her at any opportunity. Sometimes according to her it happens just unexpectedly and suddenly, he grabs her from the back.
Chidimma attributed a couple of reasons why she was afraid talking to the Madam or any of the cousins. These include:
- Fear of being separated from the Uncles family
- Fear of not being believed
- Fear of being blamed or shamed
Fear and guilt of the Driver losing his job and so on
According to studies of adults who were sexually abused as children, 2 out of 3 said they never told anyone about the abuse during childhood!
It really took this woman a very long time to discover what was happening right under her nose. What if it had gotten worse? The woman was not in tune with what was happening in her family or around the child living with her. If she were, a lot of things would have pointed to the fact that the girl was going through abuse. Remember, 95percnt of abuses that happen at home, come from people around the home, Uncles, Drivers, Guards; People who are actually part of the family. The children and their parents are relaxed with them and take it for granted that such persons won’t be Dogs who would eat bones hung on their neck, but such People actually turn to Dogs who even bite the owners.
Children who have been abused or going through abuse may display a range of emotional and behavioral reactions, which are characteristic of exposure to trauma. So if the woman was actually at home with her home, she may have noticed at least one of the following
- Unreasonable fear of physical Examination.
- A noticeable fear of person/s or certain places.
- Unusual response if asked if he/she has been touched
- Abrupt changes in behavior
- Getting clingy.
- Abdominal and pelvic pains.
- Anger and mood changes
- Withdrawn behaviors
- Worried about safety
So, how can Chidimma or any other person in this situation be helped?
The single most important factor affecting the child’s recovery is the level of support from their parents or caregivers.
It is important to:
- Keep calm. Do not display emotions that may frighten the child. Be supportive. Believe your child.
- Thank the child for making the disclosure (if he or she did). Reassure your child that he/she is loved, accepted and important.
- Earn the trust of your child that you and other people will do everything to keep them safe.
- Keep them away from the person suspected of the abuse. In Chidimmas case, the Madam took the right decision sacking the driver.
- Tell the child he or she is not to be blamed. Never blame your child
- Maintain the usual routines of everyday life.
- Give as a matter of fact answers to their questions
- Get help for him or her if you can’t offer it.
How do I talk to my child?
Children sometimes get adaptive and feel guilty that the abuse is their fault. Reassure your child by telling him/her they did the right thing by being brave to make the disclosure. Also let them know that the perpetrator was wrong and needs to be apprehended before he harms others. Say things like:
- You are not alone in this. I believe you
- It’s not your fault, the perpetrator was wrong.
- You are not in any trouble
- I’m glad you told me. I will keep you safe
- I’m sorry this happened to you
- I will do everything I can to keep you safe
- I don’t know why he/she did this. He/she has a problem and needs help
It is important to protect your child’s privacy when considering who to share the information about your child’s experience with. Any reaction or discussion should be done far away from the child so that the child will not feel guilty by threats of violence and punishment.
It is important to consider what role that individual plays in the process. You can decide who to tell. Let your child know who you may be discussing it with and let your child have some choice about who is told.
May God keep our children safe