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)

Physical and Non-physical Sexual Abuse 

According to the Regulation of the Minister of Health Number 68 of 2013, “sexual abuse” refers to the involvement of a child in sexual activities, wherein the child does not fully understand or is incapable of proper consent, marked with the occurrence of sexual activity between the child and an adult or another child for the satisfaction of the perpetrator. The abuse can be in the form of physical, non-physical, or visual contact. 

Meanwhile, the UNICEF groups sexual violence against children into three categories: 

First: sexual harassment. This is all types of unwanted sexual acts; requests for sexual services; sexual verbal or physical actions or gestures; or other sexual actions that violates and/or humiliates the victimized party. 

Second: sexual misconduct. This is sexual threats or physical actions, performed under coercion facilitated by unequal status. It can be a non-contact action, exploitation, or other online sexual misconduct. 

Third: sexual exploitation. This is all types of actual or attempted abuse of vulnerability, power difference, or trust for sexual purposes, not limited to taking financial, social, or political advantage of the sexual exploitation. 

When should parents suspect if their child suffers from sexual abuse? 

“First, when the child has an inexplicable change in behavior, including fear of the perpetrator or avoiding them, sudden aggression, withdrawing, lowered school performance, frequent complaining of headaches or stomach aches. Second, the child might also have eating disorders, nightmares, difficulty in sleeping. Third, the child complains of pains when urinating or excreting, encopresis (incontinence of feces), enuresis (incontinence of urine), leaking vagina or penis; or injuries in their genitals or anus. They should immediately be taken to a doctor for medical assistance and child psychologist for psychological assistance, because an impact of such violence – cognitive, social, and emotional disorders – frequently lasts until they become adults,” dr. Eva said.