Child Rights in India: 7 ways childhood sexual abuse can impact your relationships

Dr Manu Tiwari

The United Nations’ (UN) International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression is observed on June 4 every year. The purpose of the day is to acknowledge the pain suffered by children throughout the world who are victims of abuse. Like everywhere in the world it is important to protect child rights in India.

Need to protect child rights in India

Child abuse is rampant in India. It is the least talked about malaise although statistics show that child abuse is on the rise. According to a 2007 study conducted by India’s ministry of women and child development, 53% of children surveyed said they had been subjected to some form of sexual abuse. The Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) which came into being in 2012 have done its bit to contain workplace sexual violence against children, but we still have a long way to go when it comes to protection of child rights in India.

How child abuse is ingrained in modern society is best shown in the film Highway.

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Data released by National Crime Records Bureau show that in the year 2015, 25 per cent of the rapes committed on children were by their employers and co-workers. It is a known fact that children face the most physical and sexual abuse in the hands of people they know. So it is important to know how India protects child rights.

The POCSO Act is helping in protecting child rights and abusers are being punished but what we most often tend to overlook is the impact of abuse on the child.

It is important to protect child rights in India

Child sexual abuse has an impact in adulthood. Image Source

How child sexual abuse impacts a person in adulthood

Sexual abuse tends to severely impact a child at a physical, behavioral and emotional level. Although the abuse has happened in the past, its traumatic effects can seep into adulthood. These effects get reflected in the relationships they share or in the problems they may encounter in forming meaningful relationships later in life.

7 unexpected ways in which childhood sexual abuse has been hurting your relationships as an adult:

  1. Difficulty in developing Trust

Statistically, about 90% of the times, the perpetrator is known to the victim. Being abused at an early age by a known person can raise big questions around ‘trust.’ A child feels violated and betrayed. This gets worse when the child is asked to keep it a secret; it takes away their support system making them feel afraid and blamed. Meaningful, adult relationships require trust.

The feelings of mistrust developed in childhood, may lead to avoidance of close relationships in adulthood or choosing ones that tend to confirm their distrust.

  1. Shame and inappropriate guilt

If the effects of sexual abuse in childhood have not been treated under therapy, the person may carry feelings of shame and guilt. They find it difficult to open up in relationships as they often wonder how people will look at them. Their narrative of life revolves around the traumatic memories.

  1. Never feel ‘good enough’

Another after effect of childhood sexual abuse is developing a self-critical and deprecatory image. This reflects in adulthood relationships when they start watching out for judgement and rejections by their partner. Such a person feels that they are not ‘good enough’ to be loved or of having a loving relationship.

Protection of child rights in India is important and the film The Kite Runner also addresses child sexual abuse

Child sexual abuse was shown in the film The Kite Runner. Image Source

  1. Choosing the wrong partner

Because of the difficulty in trust as well as feelings of inadequacy, guilt and shame, a person with past history of sexual abuse may look for relationships that reaffirm these emotions. ‘Being loved’ for oneself is a hard reality for them. They may get involved in abusive/ neglectful/ dependent relationships as well.

  1. Ignoring one’s needs

Being abused as a child tends to distort the idea of equality and love in a relationship. Such people, in adult relationships, try to ‘earn’ even the slightest amount of love by giving as much as they can, often ignoring their own needs and desires, as they don’t want to risk being hurt or abandoned.

  1. Building walls

A person with abusive childhood tends to create walls around him/her so as to defend themselves from the potential intruders and hurt.

This makes commitment and investing in a relationship a difficult process. They often become distant and would choose superficial relationships.

  1. Difficulty with intimacy in a relationship

Flashbulb or traumatic memories of the abuse can make it difficult for the person to developing intimacy in an adult relationship. At times, they may not even feel comfortable being touched or getting intimate with their partner. Adequate psychotherapy can help overcome these problems.

Protect your child no matter what

It is important to be aware of child rights in India and child protection services. The United Nations’ (UN) International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression is a day when you need to understand and acknowledge this issue. UNICEF, CRY, Smile Foundation, Pratham are organizations and NGOs that are working towards protection of child rights in India.

Childhood sexual abuse left me with shame. Until love and acceptance freed me.

“Those in power taking advantage of those less in power” – Kalki Koechlin on the many facets of sexual abuse

What are the signs that you are in an abusive relationship?

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