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Coronavirus spike as incestuous abuse of children rise

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“THERE is no place like home”. That is a popular saying, probably because of the comfort and safety home offers. But have we ever wondered about the children who fear going home?  They fear going home or being stock at home because they are often exploited physically, mentally and sexually by their very own relatives. For these set of kids, home is no less than a horror house.

  Incest is as old as time itself. The 19th chapter of the book of Genesis in the Holy Bible records incest between Lot and his daughters. Lot’s children out of fear and desperation to leave a legacy for their family, had said: “Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.” The times are really changing. Tales, usually associated with distant climes are being now recorded daily in our communities. Acts, once considered as misnomers and taboos, are gradually assuming the status of the norm. Nothing seems strange anymore. In recent times, Nigeria has been confronted with an alarming rise in cases of sexual molestation of minors by adults and sexual exploitation of children by parents, among other cases of gender-based/domestic violence.The more shocking aspect remains the awfully low reporting of such crimes. The families often keep it confidential so as to avoid any injury to their reputation. What an alarmingly problematic priorities I would say.

  Commenting on the issue, Mrs Igweokwu Angela, a guardian counselor with a private school in Onitsha metropolis said, “it is devastating for a child to be crushed under the feet of such devils. The unresponsiveness of families and relevant institutions has enabled the abuse to continue for decades, explicitly or implicitly. Children remain unaware and immature to understand the nature of such acts until much later when they are grappled by post-traumatic disorder or other such mental illnesses; as well as another plethora of problems they face in socialising or their personal relationships. Apart from the fact that cultures and religions, science and medicine frown on incest, having established that products of incestuous liaison face a high risk of becoming imbeciles or suffering from chromosomal irregularities as a result of the sameness of the bloodlines, incest is a crime in Nigeria by virtue of Section 3, subsection 1, sub-sub section b of the Matrimonial Causes Act”.

  “In curtailing this trend, every single act of rape, incest or any form of abuse against any child should be brought to light and indeed reported. This will enable justice to run its course. When such cases are hidden or judged within, it gives the go-ahead to other people who may believe they can get away with incestuous acts. From the societal angle, justice must be allowed to run its course and therapy administered to the victims. Parents should be made to put in more efforts in educating their children, and convincing them to open up whenever someone wants to fondle their breasts or their sexual organs, an opposite sex wanting them to sit on their laps or stuffs like that no matter who is involved. Children should be made to understand that so many evils are going on in our society, and any one can be involved”.

  “Most times, a child might have a good sense that something is ‘wrong’ but may keep quiet, especially when threatened. Parents should therefore be vigilant about sudden or increased physical contact that might pass as acceptable with a family member, like sitting on an elder’s laps more often or caressing of a child’s hair, cheeks or body more often. One must not be paranoid, but parents are advised to be vigilant. Mothers especially should put in more effort in gaining their children’s trust so that when such things happen; the children will feel safe to open up to them, because sometimes, they may not want to talk because of the adult figure of a father or relatives.”

In his own comment, Mr Nwakor Ignatius, a civil servant said, “a cursory look at the series of unfolding events and developments the world over indicates that the globe is fast degenerating into crimes and crime-related offences. The trend had extended to some fathers allegedly impregnating their daughters, brothers engaging in sexual acts with their sisters, stepfathers with stepdaughters and uncles with nieces, among others. Child sexual abuse often takes place under specific, often surprising circumstances. It is helpful to know these circumstances because it allows for the development of strategies to avoid child sexual abuse. While no child is immune, there are child and family characteristics that significantly heighten or lower risk of sexual abuse. The following risk factors are based on reported and identified cases of abuse:  family structure is the most important risk factor in child sexual abuse. Children who live with two married biological parents are at low risk for abuse. The risk increases when children live with step-parents or a single parent. Children living without either parent as foster children are 10 times more likely to be sexually abused than children that live with both biological parents. Children who live with a single parent that has a live-in partner are at the highest risk: they are 20 times more likely to be victims of child sexual abuse than children living with both biological parents.

  “Incest and other forms of sexual abuse against children not only have damaging and long-term impact on the victims, but also affect the families, communities, and society at large. Like any crime that continues to go unchecked, these acts, both within our homes and outside are an issue of grave concern and directly suggests the health of a society as a whole. I think all those who blame the West or social media for such incidents are indirectly helping the predators.

  “Instead of making such lame excuses, they should be careful to make sure that such acts are not silently going on in their families or their communities because incest victims often suffer such attacks in silence. But then, we should know that breaking this silence is the first step to any recovery process. When families begin to report cases of incest and other abuses against children to the appropriate authorities, then, our journey to freedom from intimidations and abuses from the male folks starts.

  Again, Mrs Ogugua Ezema, a secondary school teacher said, “out of the blues, sexual molestation, especially rape and incest is suddenly on the increase in Nigeria. Presently, many Nigerians have lost their once cherished values of decency and responsibility, in view of several cases of adult males defiling young under-aged girls being widely reported daily in both the print and electronic media. These days, there are not much restrictions as regards what children watch on televisions and other digital devices, plus the fact that they are on compulsory and indefinite holidays, due to the pandemic, most of them are trying to practice the things they see, hear and learn through these various digital devices. This is why the rate at which relations have sexual affairs with their blood sisters or brothers, cousins and others is now on the increase. 

  On the other hand, some adult males often have some kind of ungodly feelings for their opposite blood relations. That is why we hear of a father having sexual relationship with their daughters either biological or not. The compulsory closure of schools is not helping matters either, as the children cannot access their teachers and guidance, knowing that majority of these children confide in them more than their parents, because most of their parents barely have time for them. Now, as a result of this pandemic, they are stuck with these parents who have little or no time to access, communicate and find out what goes on around them.

  Therefore, this is a wake-up call for our modern day parents to carve out time for their children, despite their tight schedule, to access, study and interact with their children. Parents should try to build a working relationship with their children to the point that their children will be able to trust, rely and feel safe in giving them every information of things happening around them, including when some predators are making advances on them.

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