Child Sexual Abuse

What is Child Sexual Abuse?

Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is defined as “the imposition of sexual acts, or acts with sexual overtones, by one or more persons on a child (under 18)”- Save the children, CSA Draft Policy. It can be fondling a child’s genitals, forcing a child to touch another person’s genitals, penetration of a child’s mouth with a penis, or penetration of a child‘s vagina or anus by a penis (with or without ejaculation) or another object. It is abuse if such action is threatened. It is abuse whether attempts at such action are ‘successful’ or not. Sexual Abuse is contacts or interactions between a child and an older or more knowledgeable child or adult (stranger, siblings or person in authority, such as a parent or caretaker) when the child is being used as an object of gratification for an older child’s or adult’s sexual needs. These contacts or interactions are carried out against the child using force, trickery, bribes, threats or pressure.

In society, older persons have authority over children and children trust their elders. Child Sexual Abuse can be understood as a gross violation of this trust. An adult taking advantage of a child’s trust exerts his/her authority over the child to use the child for sexual purposes of some kind.

Effects on Children

Psychological effects
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Poor self esteem
  • Post- traumatic stress disorder
  • Self- torturing tendencies
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Emotionless and exhausted attitude
  • Mistrust
  • Uninterested of normal sexual life

Physical effects
  • Injury
  • Infection
  • Neurological damage
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Eating disorders
  • Large weight changes
  • Repetition of sexual act
  • Nightmares or bed-wetting
Behavioral Signs
  • Report sexual abuse
  • Inappropriate sexual knowledge
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior
  • Suicide attempts or self-harming especially in adolescents
  • Shrinks away or seems threatened by physical contact
  • Overly protective and concerned for siblings, assumes a caretaker role

Child Sexual Abuse in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is one of the first few countries to have signed the Stockholm Declaration of August 1996. In the light of that declaration and the agenda for action a National Plan of Action has been prepared as a follow-up to the Stockholm Declaration.

Child sexual abuse affects all strata of Bangladeshi society. Children are vulnerable from a very young age, with the risks for boys diminishing in their mid-teens as their physical strength increases. Overall, girls are much more at risk and children with disabilities are particularly vulnerable, as they are perceived to be easy to be victims. Abusers come from a wide range of social and occupational groups, but the majority is known to the victim: it is the pre-existing relationship that gives the abusers easy access to the child without raising the suspicions of guardians. Similarly with child sexual abuse; the silence on this issue has now been broken but information is still trickling out very slowly.

Reliable quantitative data on the extent of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation in Bangladesh is not available. Among all the abuses a child has to experience in a traditional society like Bangladesh, sexual abuse is the most difficult and complex. Not only is the experience harrowing in itself but the agony for the child doesn’t end with the act of abuse. The forces that govern society pushes the child and often the victimized family into a silent corner, forcing them to not only deny themselves or the child, the right to access legal or social justice but often carry forever the stigma of a victim who must bear the burden of guilt and not the victimizer. In many ways, a sexually abused child is abuse twice, by the perpetrator physically, and second by society, both psychologically and socially. The matter becomes even more traumatic because the child and his family have to observe forced “silence” on the matter.

In 2013, BTS conducted a baseline survey to assess the reality of child sexual abuse in Bangladesh. One of the significant findings is shown by the following figure. 28% of the total respondents have mentioned that they have had this kind of experience. It is to be mentioned that, proportion of girls was a lot higher (51%) than that of boys who have ever experienced child sexual abuse.

Overall, 56% of the respondents have reported that the perpetrator for the child sexual abuse that they have experienced was neighbor. Whereas, 19% of the respondents have mentioned that the perpetrator was a stranger (19%), followed by male relatives (12%), elder male peer group member (8%). In case of boys, 55% of the respondents said for them the perpetrator was female neighbor.

Child marriage is another epidemic in the society of Bangladesh. It institutionalizes child sexual abuse. As much as 27% of the respondents have mentioned that there were incidents of child marriage in their areas in the last 6 months. The mostly identified reasons/causes of child marriage by the FGD participants are given below.
  • Traditional custom and beliefs
  • Poverty
  • Illiteracy
  • Lack of awareness regarding appropriate age of marriage
  • Social insecurity amongst girl i.e. eve-teasing
  • Tendency of affairs among the adolescents
  • Peer group attitude
  • Premarital sex
  • Preference for young girls
  • Lack of proper implementation of marriage law
  • Corruption associated with personnel of marriage registry
  • Greediness of dowry
  • Economic opportunity
  • Good proposal/groom
It’s time to educate the children about their rights and protections, empower them to say ‘no’ and aware all people about the facts and consequences of child sexual abuse. ‘Breaking the Silence’ is working to develop an environment in Bangladesh where children will grow up safe and secure.