CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE: The Situation in
Pilot National Study
A. Usta, Ziyad R. Mahfoud, Gisele Abi Chahine and Ghida A. Anani Jinan
The problem of child sexual abuse (CSA) has scarcely been addressed in the Arab world, despite its prevalence worldwide. In collaboration with the Lebanese Ministry Of Social Affairs and Save the Children Sweden, KAFA (enough) violence & Exploitation completed a unique study in
exploring and highlighting a problem that has otherwise been left behind closed doors in this region. This project was envisioned following the encounter of several child sexual abuse victims at the end of the July 2006 war in KAFA’s Listening and Lebanon . This study is an important first step in discussing and examining solutions to a problem that has been ignored for too long. It has been implemented in collaboration with the Higher Council for Childhood (HCC), the Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA), the Development Community Centres, Arab International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ARABISPCAN), the Rene Mouawad Foundation (Access MENA Project), World Vision Area Development Programs in Bourj Hammoud and Bekaa, in addition to Child Protection NGOs. Counselling Center
The study examines Child Sexual Abuse in
by 1) assessing the magnitude of CSA, 2) identifying its predisposing factors and drawing a profile of children who may be at high risk of victimization, and 3) assessing the effect of the July 2006 war on the prevalence of CSA. The research covered several areas in Lebanon and included two major components: a cross-sectional survey of children aged 8 to 17 years, and focus group discussions with children, mothers and educators. The results of the study will be disseminated in an effort to address and examine objectively a problem that is currently cast in the shadows for being considered ‘taboo’. Furthermore, this research will set a national strategy to address CSA in Lebanon and layout recommendations for reducing its occurrence especially under emergency situations, including war. 1,025 children were administered a structured survey related to their socio-demographic characteristics, exposure to sexual abuse (before, during and after the July 2006 war), violence at home (physical, psychological, verbal, as well as witnessing violence) lifestyle habits and psychological status (i.e. trauma related symptoms that include sleeping problems, depression, anxiety, anger, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dissociation, sexual concerns and somatic complaints). Lebanon
16.1 per cent of the children surveyed admitted experiencing at least one form of sexual abuse either before or after the 2006 war. 12.5 per cent were victims of sexual acts, 8.7 per cent of sexual attempts, and 4.9 per cent were exposed to photos or movies containing sexual content. The average age of children surveyed that encountered some form of abuse was 10.3 years old.
Children’s gender, religion, schooling, father’s education, and gender of the person sharing the child’s room made no difference in the child’s likelihood of being a victim of sexual abuse. Children who were more prone to acts of sexual abuse included children coming from fragmented families, living either in small or large houses, whose mother had either a high or low education or a working-mother, and working children.
The survey showed that most incidents of sexual abuse occurred at home. According to the findings, CSA was mostly prevalent in homes were children witnessed violence or were subjected to physical or psychological abuse, as well as amongst children who perceived a lack of family affection.
54.1 per cent of the sexually abused children said they had talked to someone about being abused, most commonly their mother. Children who had experienced some form of sexual abuse were more likely to fail in school, lead a less healthy lifestyle, and have a worse psychological profile than children who had not been abused. Symptoms of abused children differed based on gender; sexually abused girls tended to suffer more from symptoms related to post traumatic stress, sleeping problems, and anxiety than did sexually abused boys.
4.8 per cent of the children surveyed admitted experiencing at least one form of sexual act during the war. Findings showed that boys were subjected to sexual abuse more frequently than girls during the 2006 war. Most of these abuse incidents took place at home and were inflicted by an unidentified male.
The focus group discussions (FGD) held with mothers and educators reflected a certain lack of knowledge regarding the prevalence and the predisposing factors leading to CSA. The discussions also illustrated a striking gender bias in addressing cases of sexual abuse, as cases of girl-victims were treated with greater secrecy than boys. FGDs revealed the reluctance of children to reveal the abuser’s identity, especially when the perpetrator was a family member. Participants of the study acknowledged the importance of addressing CSA on a national level despite it being considered taboo in society.
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KAFA (enough) Violence & Exploitation
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