Sex­ual abuse comes in many forms, study finds

Saturday Star - - METRO - SHAUN SMILLIE

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.

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