Recognizing and preventing sexual abuse in children

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dr. Eva Devita Harmoniati, Sp.A(K)
dr. Eva Devita Harmoniati, Sp.A(K). (Source: RSABK)

Jakarta, IO – Children are the nation’s prime asset. If they are damaged by physical abuse, psychological abuse, let alone sexual abuse, they will grow into damaged adults, ones who might cause problems for themselves, their families, and society in general. Preventing and recognizing sexual abuse in children is extremely important, as the first step, as victims will probably suffer a lifelong trauma, despite rehabilitative treatments. 

The news is rife with exposés of children (18 years of age and younger) being victims of sexual abuse. As he opened the “Prevent and Recognize Sexual Abuse in Children: What Should We Know?” webinar last Wednesday (13/07/2022), dr. Piprim B. Yanuarso, Sp.A(K), Chairman of the Indonesian Pediatricians’ Association (Ikatan Dokter Anak Indonesia – “IDAI”), highlighted the importance of preventing sexual abuse in children. “Preventing and recognizing sexual abuse in children is extremely important. If it has already taken place, the victim will be more difficult to treat, even though rehabilitation is always possible. We need to make sure to catch it in time to prevent an even worse trauma of the victim. This is especially necessary, as abusers are normally known to the victim and are close to them,” he said. 

At the same occasion, dr. Eva Devita Harmoniati, Sp.A(K), a member of IDAI’s Child Protection Task Force and child consultant specialist from Harapan Kita Mother and Child Hospital in Jakarta, reports that 3,087 cases of child abuse were reported within the 1 January-19 June 2020 period: 852 cases of physical violence (25%), 768 cases of psychological violence (22%), and 1,848 cases of sexual abuse (53%). “According to the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Children’s Protection’s Women and Children Protection Online Information System, more and more children are becoming sexual abuse victims every year. There were 6,454 such children in 2019, rising to 6,980 in 2020, and rising again to 8,730 in 2021. More and more sexual abuse in children is reported during the pandemic, with perpetrators being in the family – mother, father, elder siblings, aunts and uncles – and neighbors and teachers,” she said. 

ECPAT Indonesia’s survey during the pandemic of 1,203 child respondents in 13 provinces, 287 of them underwent horrible internet experiences: 3 out of 10 children were sent immoral or pornographic images and videos, whether direct or from links. This type of negative content/cybercrime targets children even more during the pandemic, as they are studying through remote learning. “This is really just the tip of the iceberg. The actual numbers are very likely much higher. Types of sexual abuse include incest, rape, sodomy; persuasion or enforcement to involve in sexual activity (looking, sexual stimulation, groping); the use of a child in commercial sexual exploitation – i.e. in pornographic visuals, audio, or video; child prostitution, sexual slavery, and selling; as well as enforced child marriages,” dr. Eva said.