Sexual Abuse: A Global Pandemic
Sexual abuse of individuals, both male and female, and adults and minor is a serious issue demanding more attention and stronger actions. Statistics, though in no way conclusive, suggest that sexual abuse has reached pandemic proportions. The gravity of the situation can be gauged by UNIFEM's report "Violence Against Women" in which it is claimed that almost 70 percent of women experience abuse - sexual or otherwise, in their lifetime. Ages of victims vary but those between 15 to 44 years of age are most at-risk. Sexual abuse involves any and all actions ranging from sexual harassment to rape, from incest to forced prostitution, from marital rape to verbal abuse. In war torn areas, the use of rape as a method of warfare is extremely common. For instance, in Rwanda alone approximately 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were raped in 1994. Child sex tourism and forced prostitution are alarmingly common. The practice of forced marriages of child brides is entrenched in most cultures. The very nature of sexual abuse, as well as the fact that an overwhelming majority of the perpetrators tend to be family, friends or people in position of trust, makes apprehension of offenders difficult. Added to that is the cultural taboo attached to sexual abuse that discourages victims from coming forward and seeking justice, treatment or support.
Even though the numbers associated with sexual abuse demonstrate the horrific scale of the problem, it is important to understand that an overwhelming majority of cases of sexual abuse go unreported. Hence, instances of sexual abuse might be more common and prevalent than one would think. I believe sexual abuse is a problem that deserves immediate attention and a much stronger, more concerted effort than it is receiving today simply because the effects of sexual abuse are profound on both the physical and mental level. Simply put, sexual abuse devastates the lives of the victims and their loved ones. In some cases, sexual abuse physically harms the victim and leaves them battered, injured, permanently damaged and in extreme cases of child sex abuse, at risk of death. Forced pregnancies, unwanted pregnancies, hemorrhages, permanent damage to reproductive system and catching sexually transmitted diseases could possibly be the outcome of sexual abuse. Emotionally and mentally, the victim undergoes loss of confidence, lives in a constant state of terror, suffers from anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse. Now, in order to really understand the gravity of the situation a person only needs to close their eyes and imagine millions of individuals all across the world and within their communities suffering from these after-effects. Will such broken and battered individuals prove to be productive members of the society? Will millions of such victims be able to live positive, healthy lives as stable individuals? Especially since finding closure, acceptance and justice are not options.
Sexual abuse today is a pandemic simply because perpetrators do not fear repercussions. In patriarchal societies, a girl's dishonor is considered social suicide and finding acceptance and sympathy for their predicament among friends and family is impossible. Fear of social rejection and isolation compound the problems and even when finding justice is possible, society stands in the way. What we need today is a stronger global judicial infrastructure in place that would force states to take serious and practical steps in order to fight this social disease with greater efficacy. Socially enabled preventive and educative programs are needed, both for victims and the general public, so as to equip them with awareness and strengthen their resolve to fight this issue with courage.
Global outreach and initiative programs need to be launched to train support groups and caregivers for those in need. States with the worst records of human rights violations and sexual abuse need special attention and even though abuse statistics paint a despairing picture even in educated nations of Europe, admittedly African and Asian countries need all the assistance they can get. With practices of child marriage, "virgin cure," and forced pregnancies etc. unique to their culture, women and children need to be empowered and need to feel more societal parity in their community's dynamics. Instead of wasting resources on PR-garnering, glossy campaigns, global groups such as the United Nations need to use their unique position of influence and direct the considerable resources at their disposal towards a more earnest implementation of anti-abuse policies as well as bring to justice perpetrators of mass sexual violence in war zones.
Society's outlook regarding victims of sexual abuse needs to be changed and even though bringing such a change would be a slow process, concerted efforts need to be made through an education of the public using media and other public forums. A victim of sexual abuse needs love, support, justice and, above all, acceptance. If serious and immediate efforts are not made to put into action massive initiative programs, entire generations would grow up into battered, injured and unstable individuals whose lives would be a burden on society.
"Violence Against Women." UNIFEM. N.d. web.