Signs of Child Sexual Abuse - Your Rights, Helpline and POCSO ACT
Created by Neetu Ralhan Updated on Nov 29, 2020
As per very disturbing statistics, more than one in four children worldwide experience severe and frequent physical abuse, while one in 5 girls and one in 11 boys experience child sexual abuse (CSA). In our series on Child Sexual Abuse, our next blog focuses on symptoms of CSA that your child maybe exhibiting and that you need to take very seriously. Also, an insight into the legal protection you have.
In a recent news, the Supreme Court has stayed the Bombay high court order which acquitted a man under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act and said that groping a minor's breast without "skin-to-skin contact" and this cannot be termed as sexual assault. The High Court Verdict said that groping a minor's breast without "skin-to-skin contact" cannot be termed as sexual assault as defined under the POCSO Act. It does constitute the offence of outraging a woman's modesty under section 354 of the Indian Penal Code.
Signs of Child Sexual Abuse
Due to threat from the perpetrator or feelings of shame, a child may not disclose that he or she has been sexually assaulted. The following warning signs may indicate that a child is being sexually abused ...
Behavioral changes such as social withdrawal, feeling fearful, crying without provocation
- Mood swings, becoming clingy
- Having nightmares, screaming or shaking in sleep
- Bedwetting and / or thumb-sucking
- Possession of unexplained money or gifts
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained physical injuries (cuts, bruises, soreness around mouth, genital pain or bleeding)
- Reluctance to be alone with a certain person or fear of a certain person
- Unusual knowledge of sexually related matters
- Inappropriate expression of affection
- Self-harm (cutting, burning or other harmful activities)
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act), was enacted to protect children from offenses of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography and to provide a child-friendly system for the trial of these offences. The Act provides for seven specific sexual offenses against children (including non-contact abuse) and stipulates child-friendly legal procedures that must be adhered to during investigation and trial. The Act does not recognize sexual autonomy of children in any form. Children can also be held liable for committing sexual offences under the Act. As a result, sexual interactions or intimacies among or with children below the age of 18 years constitute an offence.
(Source: CCL-NLSIU, 2013; https://www.nls.ac.in/ccl/justicetochildren/poscoact.pdf )
Highlights of the POCSO ACT
- The Act defines a child as any person below the age of 18 years and provides protection to all children under the age of 18 years from the offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography.
- This is the first time that an Act has listed aspects of touch as well as non touch behavior (eg. Photographing a child in an obscene manner) under the ambit of sexual offences.
- The Act incorporates child friendly procedures for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and trial of offences
- The attempt to commit an offenses under the Act has also been made liable for punishment for up to half the punishment prescribed for the commission of the offence.
- The Act also provides for punishment for abetment of the offence, which is the same as for the commission of the offence. This would cover trafficking of children for sexual purposes.
- For the more heinous offences of Penetrative Sexual Assault, Aggravated Penetrative Sexual Assault, Sexual Assault and Aggravated Sexual Assault, the burden of proof is shifted on the accused.
- The media has been barred from disclosing the identity of the child without the permission of the Special Court.
Sexual abuse in children is a problem we need to address collectively as a society but also as individuals. Gathering the courage to speak on a child's behalf is perhaps the first step we can take to protect our children. Here is also a list of some child helpline numbers and resources you can reach out to, in case, you notice any symptoms in your child or in a child known to you. Be aware and protect our children.
Child Helplines and Resources
- Child Helpline: 1098
- Childline India Foundation: http://www.childlineindia.org.in/Background-to-CSA.htm
- Save The Children: http://www.savethechildrenindia.org/
- PRAYAS: (011) 29955505/26089544/29956244/29051103
- RAHI: http://www.rahifoundation.org/
- Link to NCW Study on Child Abuse: http://wcd.nic.in/childabuse.pdf
- National Commission for Protection of Child Rights: http://ncpcr.gov.in/
Have you got any other tips you would like to share with fellow parents; pls do mention in the comments section below, we'd love to hear from you!