Sexual abuse comes in many forms, study finds
AS MANY as one in three adolescents across the country has experienced some form of sexual abuse, a study has found.
The Optimus Study South Africa found that 36.8% of boys and 33.9% of girls reported sexual abuse in a questionnaire. The study involved 9 717 adolescents aged 15-17 recruited from schools and homes across the country.
The researchers said the definition of sexual abuse used in the study was broad and included not only existing sexual offences laws but even acts such as being forced to view pornography.
Of the 4 086 youth interviewed in schools, 16.8% reported experiencing some form of sexual abuse.
A surprising find is that boys were found to be as at risk as girls. But there was an important distinction between what boys and girls experienced when it came to sexual abuse.
Girls, the study found, were more likely to experience forced and penetrative sexual abuse. Boys were more likely to report forced exposure to sexual acts, and material such as porn.
The report, which appeared in the latest South African Medical Journal, said experiences of sexual abuse were often not defined by a single incident.
“We often think about child abuse as something committed by a single person, a once-off event or abuse by an adult, but the types of sexual abuse experienced are likely to change over the course of a lifetime”, the article reads.
“A child may, for instance, experience sexual touching by an uncle at the age of 5, sexual harassment by peers at the age of 12, being made to engage in sexual touching with a boyfriend at the age of 15, and being forced to have sex with someone older than her at the age of 17.”
They found that 40% of cases reported that sexual abuse had occurred more than once. One in 10 children had experienced sexual abuse four or five times from a known adult.
The greatest risk was found to be associated with living in a rural area, school enrolment, having a flush toilet or being disabled.
Other factors included parents with substance abuse problems, poor relationships with parents and parents who don’t monitor their children’s activities.