Sexual abuse is not just an aberration or a crime of sexual passion; it is violence, abuse of power, a serious extension of the dynamics of patriarchy and culture which tends to subdue, subjugate and dehumanize women and girls.
Sexual abuse is never a spontaneous action; it is always carefully planned.
The first thing a sexual abuser does, through the grooming process, is to buy the trust and confidence of the victim
The last thing a sexual abuser does, through the grooming process, is to make the victim feel that the abuse is her fault and that she could have stopped it if she wanted. This feeling of guilt and self blame make the victim not speak up and out.
In between the various stages of the grooming process, the sexual abuser uses coercion, threats, manipulation or bribery to buy the silence or “cooperation” of the victim.
Sexual abusers know how to manipulate non-abusing adults, how to win their trust and even how to make them unsuspecting accomplices in the abuse of a victim.
The sexual abuser is often a person of trust or authority over the victim, and often known to the child or his or her parents, or is a member of the victim’s community.
Sexual abuse takes place in secret and so can take a long time before it is discovered, if ever discovered.
Children are rarely sexually abused by “strangers”. So instead of the “stranger danger” warnings, teach your children to be suspicious of everyone and to report to you any feeling of unease or inappropriate behavior from others.
Sex is a taboo subject; revealing one’s sexual abuse experience is probably the most difficult subject anyone can open up about. If regardless the life long trauma, societal condemnation, family accusation and stigmatization, a victim gathers all the courage to talk about her victimization, the “worst” expected from any conscientious human being in who the milk of human decency flow is to believe the victim, to stand by her until justice served.
Rape is just a small percentage of the various forms of sexual abuse women and girls, and now boys, face. In many of these forms no physical evidence is left…
It is difficult to know the magnitude of sexual abuse in the Gambia. There is dearth of empirical evidence, the last comprehensive national research on child sexual abuse and exploitation done in 2003… None on sexual harassment either in public or private or workplace.
In reality we do not need statistics to take action, to prove the existence of a crime which is committed in secret against a vulnerable member; one victim is one too many. What is important is the broken live behind the number.
The revelations of sexual abuse in the papers is a tip of the iceberg. And none is safe: babies, toddlers, infants, adolescents, young ladies, working women, housewives, widows, elderly women… Their perpetrators: boys, young men, men, family members, men in position of power and trust, “men of God”, employers, benefactors, boy friends, husbands, brothers-in-law, acquaintances, etc.
Sexual abuse festers and grows unchecked because those who should help and support the victim either look away or maintain their neutrality.
You are “half a man” if you abuse a woman or child. You are “less than half man” if you look away or maintain your neutrality in the conflict between a victim and perpetrator.