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Growing threat of pedophiles and child molestation

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childTHERE  was the recent agonizing report of Kingsley Philip who pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the charge or ‘fingering’ his neighbour’s five-year-old daughter in his apartment at Idimu, Lagos State. Vaginal discharges from the child alerted her mother to the sexual assault, with the child later confirming that their neighbour inserted his fingers into her private parts. This is not an isolated case as the country is now replete with growing reports of sexual molestation of children to such an extent as to conclude that Nigerian children are now not safe and are under real threat from pedophiles. In real terms, there is the danger of the continuous exposure of Nigerian children to sexual abuse, exploitation, domestic abuse, stigmatisation, and lots more of such negative occurrences, reflecting and perhaps limning the quite abysmal level of laxity and negligence in the system regarding the welfare of the children.

Child sexual molestation which involves the forcing or enticing of a child to take part in sexual activities is alarmingly common in our part of the world. It covers a range of activities which may or may not involve the use of force as some pedophiles limit their behaviors to exposing themselves or masturbating in front of the child, fondling or undressing the child without genital contact. Others, however, compel the child to participate in oral sex or full genital intercourse. In this regard, a UNICEF survey reveals to us that, in Nigeria, one in 4 girls and one in 10 boys suffers from sexual molestation and about one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. The statistics are both confounding as much as it is horrifying. Unfortunately, some of these children are abused by their parents, step-parents and family members, who are meant to be the first line of protection for them. Last month, for instance, a story broke out about a Nigerian father who made it a habit to have carnal knowledge of his daughters, even to the extent that he extended the practice to the next generation, his granddaughter!

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Yet, the negative physical consequences of child sexual molestation should astound and command our attention  as they range from minor injuries to severe brain damage and even death while psychologically, victims experience chronic low self-esteem to severe dissociative behaviours. Further consequences include poor peer relations all the way to extraordinarily violent behaviors. Not only does sexual molestation affect the child in profound ways, it also impacts on survivors, reflecting in poorer health, social and emotional difficulties, and lowered economic productivity. Thus, the consequences of sexual abuse are profound for the victims as well as the society in which they live.

At another level, one of the things we can categorically say about the molestation of children is that it leads to many forms of dysfunction for them in adulthood, from anxiety and depression, to the abuse of others. Even though the sexual abuse of children is often reframed by the perpetrator as “loving” or “helping” as we’ve heard many stories like this from victims, especially when recalling the gory details after reaching adulthood, the truth is that the underlying drive remains a somewhat hurtful aggression. Just as rape is never a loving act but an expression of rage, the sexual molestation of children in all its guises is an act of violence because it produces both physical and mental suffering for the victims.

Yet, quite unfortunately,  there are still not enough adequate measures put in place to prevent these abuses and rehabilitate and support the victims. Many laws and policies were made with the purpose of protecting children from abuse. However, they have not been effective enough for many reasons including poor enforcement mechanisms, poverty, corruption, lack of rehabilitation of sexual offenders, negative attitude of parents, and inefficient judicial processes.  Notwithstanding, a step that must be taken in reducing sexual assaults on children is to support victims to have the courage to openly speak about their experiences as well as conversing with them about such matters. Hence, the need for wide dissemination of accurate information to the public, especially to policy makers, to help break the silence and taboo that surround child sexual abuse, and also facilitate the formulation of effective solutions to the problem.

In reality also, the burden of prevention has been resting for years on the smallest shoulders in our society – the children who are most vulnerable, least powerful, and least likely to be able to protect themselves from powerful adults. This is especially true when considering that the majority of sexual abuse –  (93 per cent) – happens at the hands of an adult well known to the child. Likewise, when children are abused by adults, they are invariably confused by the fact that this person is supposed to be a protector, a caretaker, and somebody worthy of trust simply by being an adult. Moreover, we normally teach children to obey adults, which can then be very confusing when such adults turn out as predators. In the light of these facts and many others, it becomes pertinent for adults especially parents to assume responsibility of protecting children and not assume that the children would be capable of protecting themselves.

In essence, pedophiles have become a real menace and over the last few decades, and tragic cases like Kingsley’s should have increased parental and societal concern about the menace. The whole society must wake up to this unfortunate reality with the determination to stem its tide and confront it as a present and threatening danger. In Nelson Mandela’s words, “there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” It is as such the responsibility of the society to familiarize itself with the numerous fangs and consequences of child sexual abuse and  put in place the very necessary measures by which childhood sexual assaults can be better handled. No child should ever be the victim of abuse or neglect, nor does he/she really have to be!


  • Yakubu is of the Department of Mass Communication, Kogi State University, Anyigba.



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