Sexual abuse is engaging in implicit or explicit sexual acts with a child or forcing a child to engage in sexual acts alone or with another person of any age of the same or opposite sex. Sexual abuse does not always involve physical contact but can also include non-physical contact such as involving children in watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually explicit ways and exposing them to inappropriate sexual material.
Sexual harassment on the other hand refers to unwanted sexual advances. It can be verbal, such as remarks about someone’s body, or physical, such as forced touching in a sexual way or other forced sexual acts. It can also be done through audio-visual means and text messages with explicit content.
As a result of gendered norms and structures, sexual abuse and harassment have a pronounced gender dimension, with girls being the predominant victims. Although girls are more often the victims of sexual harassment, boys can be victims too. Sexual abuse and harassment have long-term negative effects on the child’s well-being, bodily integrity, and education, as well as the family, school environment and community as a whole.
Sexual harassment won’t just go away if you ignore it. Do not fear to speak to someone you trust and seek for protection from the authorities if you feel you are being sexually harassed.
You have a responsibility to protect yourself or a friend from sexual harassment. Schools and communities also have a responsibility to protect children from sexual violence and any form of abuse. Children who are sexually abused and harassed are often heavily traumatised, at risk of sexually transmitted diseases, become withdrawn, and have difficulty participating in class and social activities outside of school. Sexual harassment and abuse of girls can also lead to early and unwanted pregnancies, which bring numerous health and social risks for mothers and new born children. They can further lead to depression, low self-esteem, drop out of school and social exclusion from the community.
You can prevent sexual harassment by ensuring schools and communities are safe for children and that every child, especially girls, knows how to detect and report sexual abuse and harassment to school andcommunity authorities.
Let’s be open with our children so they can talk to us about people who try to take sexual advantage of them.