Children and Sexual Harassment

Dr. Fathia Mohammad Baheshwan

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Children sexual harassment is a serious behavioral problem. It is one of the most serious types of abuse they are being subjected to. It is a phenomenon that affects many societies and has very dangerous psychological, health and social dimensions that may expose them to psychological disorders and its impact remains until adulthood. It stays on the victim’s mind until later in his/her life and may accompany him/her throughout his/her life, in addition to the multifaceted social, psychological and behavioral problems.

Our conservative society deals with this problem in one of two ways, either by exaggerating or underestimating. In both cases, the family deals with complete ignorance, and parents lose the ability to provide advice and guidance to children, or even the supposed handling of any incident of sexual harassment to which their children may be subjected.

This is a phenomenon that is not restricted to a particular group of the population. Families of different affiliations and social circles may engage in such violating practices against children. And the latter, regardless of their gender, are subjected to various types of physical abuse. There are also some social factors that play a role in increasing the risk of physical violence against children, such as families missing a parent, or the ones with low standard of living; A father or a mother raising a child alone may feel isolated and increasingly stressed by education and lacks the necessary support and model to make the right educational choices away from violence...etc.

Children sexual harassment is a hidden problem. Children and adults alike seem reluctant to report their exposure to sexual abuse, and for many reasons, the most important of which may be the traditional secrecy stemming from the usually disgrace inherent in such painful experiences, the lineage link that may link the sexual abuser to the victim, and then the desire to protect him/her from judicial prosecution or scandal.

A boy/girl aged between 5 and 12 years old may be subjected to harassment from any friends, neighbors’ children, relatives, drivers and servants with whom they may be without supervision. In fact, most paedophiles are people who are directly related to them, even in cases of sexual harassment by strangers (i.e., from outside the family). The aggressor usually seeks to establish a connection with the child’s father or one of his/her relatives before assaulting him/her, or escorting him/her to a place such as a playground or a public park for example, and seducing the child at this age may be accompanied by threats of beating, punishment or killing if he/she says a word, or by fear that his/her parents may punish or harm him/her if they knew about it. They may even be tempted with money, gifts, or sweets. As the child's love for experience, knowledge and discovery of all unknowns may underlie the possibility of a child falling as a victim to harassment without his/her parents knowledge.

Children who are physically abused suffer from social effects, including the child's inability to establish friendships with his/her peers, weak social, cognitive and language skills, deterioration of his/her confidence in others or complete submission to people in authority, or his/her tendency to solve his/her problems with others through violence and aggression.

A male/female child can be protected from harassment through targeted education and proper information, both of which will only occur in an intimate atmosphere of friendship between children and parents. There must be a raise of awareness on the need for children to tell their parents every odd situation to which they are subjected, to make them feel completely safe in talking in details about any situation without punishment or restraint, and to give them confidence in themselves and their parents, as well as observing children constantly without notifying them of suffocating supervision, and to never allowing servants and drivers to be alone with them... etc.

Children sexual harassment is the responsibility of the offender who commits such a crime, and the family is undoubtedly responsible for their neglect of the child prior to the incident. A child who takes advantage of the absence of his/her parents to do or to be subjected to such things is a child who does not have a strong relationship or intimate friendship with his/her parents or one of them. The child’s friendship and feeling of safety with his/her parents protect him/her from many problems and open the door to dialogue between them so that no secrets are allowed between them, in addition to guiding him by making him understand the meaning of preserving the privacy of his/her body and not trusting those around him/her among the adolescents, even if they are mahrams (a person who is allowed in Islam to stay with women without any need for coverings of the veil). Then, a greater responsibility that the parents neglect begins to become apparent in the fact that the child is not allowed to express his problem by frustrating him, making him cry, or ignoring his complaints. At that time, the child’s responsibility for what happened grows, and he falls into a conflict between the perpetrator’s threats or temptations and his feeling of fear.

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