FACTORS PROMOTING SEXUAL ABUSE AND THE HEALTH OF GIRLS IN APEX SECONDARY SCHOOL AKPARAVUNI, BIASE LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA, CROSS RIVER STATE
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1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Sexual abuse, also referred to as sexual molestation, is forcing undesired sexual behavior by one person upon another. When that force is immediate, of short duration, or infrequent, it is called sexual assault. The offender is referred to as a sexual abuser or molester (Amos, 2015). The term also covers any behavior by any adult towards a child to stimulate either the adult or child sexually. When the victim is younger than the age of consent, it is referred to as child sexual abuse.
American Psychological Association (APA, 2015) defined sexual abuse as an unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using force, making threats or taking advantage of victims not able to give consent. A person sexually abuses a child when he or she exposes the child to sexual acts or behavior; where the child may experience a variety of short and long term reactions as a consequence of that abuse (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children – NSPCC, 2015).
In other words, sexual abuse is any kind of non-consensual sexual contact. It can happen to men or women of any age. Child sexual abuse could include a number of acts, including but not limited to: penetrative sex, including penetration of the mouth; encourages a child to engage in sexual activity, including masturbation; intentionally engaging in sexual activity in front of a child and showing children pornography, or using children to create pornography. Others include encouraging a child to engage in prostitution, tongue-kissing or kissing in a sexual way, fondling a child’s intimate parts (breasts, buttocks, or genitals), perpetrator rubbing intimate parts against a child’s body or clothing, oral-genital or oral-breast contact, digital or object penetration (inserting fingers or objects into a child’s anus or vagina). Intercourse and non-physical acts such as voyeurism or peeping, photographing the child’s intimate parts, perpetrator exposing intimate parts, being forced to watch the perpetrator engage in self-stimulation, forcing the child to masturbate, forcing the child to view pornographic material, making sexual comments to a child in person, in writing, or by telephone are other examples (Pandora, 2009).
According to Children’s Bureau (2012), about 62,939 cases of maltreatment of children in 2012 were classified as sexual abuse. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Criminal Victimization Survey, in 2012, there were 346,830 reported rapes or sexual assaults of persons 12 years or older (Truman, Langton & Planty, 2014). In 2010, 25% of the female victims of rape/sexual assault were victimized by strangers (Truman, 2011).
Child sexual abuse is likely the most prevalent health problem children face with the most serious array of consequences (Townsend, 2013). About one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. About one in seven girls and one in 25 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 (Townsend, & Rheingold, 2013)
Abuse typically occurs within a long-term, on-going relationship between the offender and victim, escalates over time and lasts an average of four years. Many child sexual abuse victims never disclose their abuse to anyone. Less than 10% of child sexual abuse is reported to the police. 60% of girls who had sex before the age of 15 were coerced by males averaging 6 years their senior (National Sexual Violence Resource Center – NSVRC, 2015).
It is important to remember that these are general categories of sex crimes and may be defined in different ways and called by different terms varying by jurisdiction. According to Godson (2014), different types of sexual abuse involve: Non-consensual, forced physical sexual behavior such as rape or sexual assault; Psychological forms of abuse, such as sexual harassment, stalking, human trafficking, and indecent exposure and the targets of exhibitionism, especially children and the use of a position of trust for sexual purposes, which includes some forms of sexual assault and incest.
Sexual abuse especially among children and adolescent girls are usually caused by indecent dressing, drug abuse, and poor parental upbringing (especially in a laissez-faire style of parenting). Poor and needy children and adolescents especially in secondary schools can also fall victim to adult abusers, who pretend to help them, but take advantage of them. This is more true with teenagers from poor or broken homes (Manasseh, 2010).
Immediate reactions to sexual abuse include shock, fear or disbelief. Long-term symptoms include anxiety, fear or post-traumatic stress disorder (APA, 2015). National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC, 2015) posits that, children who are sexually abused may stay away from certain people (e.g. family members or friends), show sexual behaviour that’s inappropriate for their age or have physical symptoms like anal or vaginal soreness, an unusual discharge, sexually transmitted infection (STI) or pregnancy.
Some of the immediate and long-term consequences a child might experience as a result of being sexually abused include: pregnancy, especially in early adolescence, sexually transmitted diseases, vaginal/penile discharge, pain during urination or urinary tract infections, sleep disturbances (difficulty sleeping, nightmares). Other consequences include self-injurious behavior (cutting, burning oneself, suicide attempts), socially isolated or withdraw, substance abuse or delinquency, especially in adolescents, age-inappropriate sexual knowledge and sudden changes in academic performance. In the past, prevention efforts focused on empowering children to keep themselves safe from abuse. Instead, information from public health and ecological models of prevention propose a shift in responsibility from the child to the community (NSVRC, 2011).
However, Awhogure (2012) stated that prevention of sexual abuse occurs on three levels: primary (through public awareness campaign), secondary (safety education and child assault/abuse prevention taught to children in schools), and the tertiary prevention (intervention such as individual psychotherapy, group-based psychotherapy, laws developed or made in order to protect the children). In this work, the researcher intends to examine the factors promoting sexual abuse and effect on the health of girls.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Originally, sex is legally allowed only when one is of age and married. Today, sex is no longer reserved for the married; children in their teens direct their energies to indiscriminate sexual activities for many unfounded reasons. Technology, social networks and other electronic media exposes children at their teenage age to pornography, which is very harmful to their health. According to Townsend (2013), child sexual abuse is likely the most prevalent health problem children face with the most serious array of consequences. About one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday, and about one in seven girls will be sexually abused before they turn 18.
Over the years a lot of efforts have been made by individuals, communities, school authorities, health workers and the government to curb untimely and indiscriminate sexual practices (abuse) especially among secondary school students. It is disheartening to state here that all effort put in place to checkmate these practices have failed as cases of rape, lesbianism, teenage pregnancies, deaths from criminal abortions, etc, fill the pages of our dailies.
It becomes imperative to research into the underlying causes/factors encouraging this menace which adversely affect the health of girls in secondary schools. In this study therefore, the researcher will examine the factors promoting sexual abuse and effect on the health of girls in secondary schools in order to proffer useful solutions that will better the society.
1.4 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The major objective of the study is to examine factors promoting sexual abuse and the health of girls in Apex Secondary School Akparavuni, Biase Local Government Area of Cross River State. While the specific objectives are;
- To determine indecent dressing and effect on sexual abuse and the health of girls
- To examine parental upbringing and effect on sexual abuse and the health of girls
- To find out poverty and effect on sexual abuse and the health of girls
- To ascertain indulgence in drugs and effect on sexual abuse and the health of girls
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Findings of this study (Factors promoting sexual abuse and the health of girls in Comprehensive Secondary School, Ntan Ekere) will be of great benefit to the following people: parents, adolescent girls, school authority/educational planners and the government.
To parents, the study will help them improve on their parenting style in order to protect their adolescent girls against sexual abuse. To girls, the study will enable them to avoid provocative behaviours and dressing which makes them more vulnerable to sexual abuse.
The study will assist the educational planners to operate meaningful extracurricular/co-curricular programmes aimed at checking sexual abuse among students. It will also help school administrators and teachers in secondary schools to inculcate sexual abuse preventive attitudes and behaviours in adolescent girls as a basis to reduce the occurrence of sexual abuse. It will guide the policy makers on the restructuring and integration of sex education / guidance and counseling in the curriculum of secondary schools and also formulate policies which would address the social, economic and cultural practices which promote sexual abuse of adolescent girls in secondary schools.
Finally, the findings of this study will generate literature for future researchers in the area of sexual abuse of adolescent girls in secondary schools.
1.6 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- To what extent does indecent dressing influence sexual abuse and health of girls?
- How does parental upbringing promote sexual abuse and the health of girls?
- To what extent does poverty influence sexual abuse and the health of girls?
- How will indulgence in drugs promote sexual abuse and the health of girls?
1.7 DELIMITATIONS (SCOPE OF THE STUDY)
This study is limited in scope to factors promoting sexual abuse and the health of girls in Apex Secondary School Akparavuni, Biase Local Government Area, Cross River State. Finally, it is confined to four cardinal factors promoting sexual abuse of secondary school girls. These factors promoting sexual abuse have been adopted as sub-variables for the study as follows:
- Sexual abuse due to indecent dressing and the health of girls in Apex Secondary School Akparavuni
- Sexual abuse due to parental upbringing and the health of girls in Apex Secondary School Akparavuni
- Sexual abuse due to poverty and the health of girls in Apex Secondary School Akparavuni
- Sexual abuse due to indulgence in drugs and the health of girls in Apex Secondary School Akparavuni
In the course of carrying out this study, the researcher encountered lack of cooperation by some of the respondents as a major problem; inadequate time allotted for the completion of the research work was another problems coupled with the distant from Calabar to Akparavuni in Biase Local Government Area of Cross River State being the area of study posed another challenge to the researcher.
1.9 OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF TERMS
The following terms are defined as used in the work;
- Sexual: relating to, occurring between or involving the sex.
- Abuse is the improper usage or treatment of an entity, often to unfairly or improperly gain benefit.
- Sexual abuse:also referred to as molestation, is forcing undesired sexual behavior by one person upon another.
- Drug abuse: the recurrent use of illegal drugs, or the misuse of prescription or over-the-counter drugs with negative consequences
- Provocative: arousing sexual desire or interest.
- Adolescents: This refers to people between the age of 12 and 18 years of age. It varies according to sex (male and female) and is characterized by development of secondary sex characters.
- Indecent dressing: deliberate exposure of one’s body to the public. This practice is contrary to the acceptable norms and values of the society.
- Poverty: a state of scarcity or lack of enough money and material possessions to meet basic needs including food, clothing and shelter.
- Indulgence: doing something that one enjoys even if it has negative consequences.
- Indulgence in drugs: having pleasure in drug abuse not minding the negative consequences.
- Parental upbringing: the way and manner children are cared for by the parents. It encompasses the style of parenting, type of family and level of attention accorded the children by their parents.