Who is at risk of child sexual abuse?
Remember that boys and girls are both vulnerable to CSA. Since a lot of research is focussed on abuse of girls, statistics show that more number of girls are abused. But it would be naïve to assume that boys are safe. There are several factors that determine how vulnerable children are to abuse. A lot of it stems from lack of sexual education, especially in India, where children are not often taught about what constitutes sexual behaviour due to cultural norms. Another factor that comes into play is the belief in children that respecting an adult means unquestioning obedience. This puts the child at risk of being abused and assuming that it's okay since the perpetrator is a figure of authority. Sometimes low self-esteem or lack of friends can also put a child at risk.
What is 'Grooming'?
Several studies have highlighted that more often than not CSA perpetrators are known to the victim. In fact a shocking 50% of the children surveyed in the National Study on Child Abuse: India 2007 reported being abused by a person known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility. Sexual predators normally identify and engage with the child over a period of time, in order to win their trust and break down their defences. This process is called 'grooming' and is also used to gain trust of the parent(s) of the child. Buying gifts, playing games, giving rides and offering a sympathetic ear to the child are all ways in which grooming is put into effect. The next step is to introduce secrecy, often by innocuous ways such as offering a chocolate, "but don't tell your mother as she will not like it". This further graduates to threats such as "I will kill your mother if you tell her." Touching also begins in a non-sexual manner, testing boundaries, and then moving on to more overt sexual touching.
They say prevention is better than cure, which certainly holds true in the case of CSA. Know what you're dealing with to better protect your children.