Sexual violence against children and adolescents is
one of the most underreported, invisible and unpunished crimes
, and transversely affects the entire population. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in five girls and one in 13 boys are victims of abuse before the age of 18. On the other hand, from Red por la Infancia they estimate, based on INDEC data, that 2,000,000 boys and girls are potentially victims of abuse in Argentina, although only 10% of cases are reported.
Specialists emphasize that the prognosis of boys and girls who are victims of sexual abuse changes completely if they find
an adult who is emotionally available to help them and who acts to protect them.
According to the psychiatrist Irene Intevi, only 20% of children who start talking about the subject or try to reveal it, are believed. The boys try to seek help, but this will depend on whether they find a certain receptivity and a context of security on the other side.
Along these lines, Silvia Ongini, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Department of Pediatrics of the Hospital de Clínicas and co-founder of the Center for Assistance and Prevention of Sexual Abuse in Children and Adolescents (Cepasi) stresses that
the role of the protective adult is essential
, since their attitude towards the boy or girl will depend on whether they can tell what is happening to them or remain silent forever. Being angry, distressed, or using phrases like “why did you let me do that to you?”, “Why didn’t you leave or did you say no?” Contribute to the silence. On the other hand, others like “you were very brave to tell me”, “nothing that happened is your fault”, “we are going to help you so that this never happens again”, are answers that make the difference.
To act on time, recognizing the warning signs of abuse is essential. Paula Wachter, founder and executive director of Red por la Infancia, explains that we must be attentive both to the specific indicators – which are those that may particularly refer to abuse – and to the non-specific ones, which may or may not be the product of abuse.
- They can be explicit, such as injury, scarring, irritation, or bleeding in the genital and anal areas.
- Genital or sexually transmitted infections, such as syphilis, non-existent HIV at birth or chlamydia, among others.
- Psychosomatic manifestations, such as recurrent abdominal and head pain without organic causes.
- Eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia, and self-harm.
- Regressions regarding habits already acquired, such as loss of bladder control at night (enuresis) or resistance to defecation (encopresis).
Changes in your social behavior:
- Regressive, hostile and aggressive behaviors exacerbated in their homes and within their social circles, as friends and fellow students.
- Boys who always let themselves be bathed or played in the bathroom suddenly refuse and say, “I don’t want to undress or bathe,” or they don’t want their bodies touched.
- Apparently inexplicable fears or rejections in front of certain people. Eva Giberti, renowned psychoanalyst and coordinator of the program Victims against Violence, explains: “You have to stay alert when a child, for example, does not want to be with a person and says’ it bothers me ‘. The boy does not know how to say’ he abuses me ‘, so that is the synonym he finds to express that they do something to him that he does not like. ”
- Emotional manifestations such as crying over apparently unimportant issues, anguish, excessive anger, fears that were not before (such as separating from the figure that the child feels as protector).
- Eroticization that exceeds the curiosity for the genitals characteristic of age in early childhood.
- Autoerotic attitudes, such as compulsive masturbation, even in the presence of a figure who could censor you.
- It modifies the treatment with its surroundings, such as carrying out sexual games with its peers or even inappropriate behaviors for someone of any age, such as investigating the genitals and rectums of animals.
- That they use inappropriate words from the language of a child their age.
- Drawings that attract attention for their content.
Psychological and emotional manifestations:
- Anxiety, depression, anguish.
- Behaviors of isolation or self-absorption, for example, staying in a corner without playing.
- It can affect your sleep, increasing nightmares, creating sleep problems and developing terrors at night.
- Although it is estimated that only 20% of boys and girls manage to verbally manifest the abuse they are victims of, many times they do it in a playful way because they have naturalized it. “Just because boys present it as a game or don’t show rejection of it doesn’t mean it’s not abuse,” says Wachter.
- Many times they cannot put into words the sexual touch due to the level of development of their language, but they say, for example: “Dad hit me on the tail.” According to the founder of Red por la Infancia, this happens because when they do not understand what is happening and do not have the necessary linguistic resources, they see it as aggression.
For specialists, it is important to note that many times these symptoms are read in isolation. Doctors and many professionals are not prepared to detect sexual abuse because it is not part of their undergraduate training. “They can be excellent pediatricians but they are crossed by stereotypes and they did not receive the specific training in this problem, it is difficult to detect what is unknown,” emphasizes Wachter.
Faced with the slightest suspicion, however small it may be, you must act immediately and consult a specialist in sexual abuse.
Where to report and ask for help
- Line 137: The Victims Against Violence Program,
Ministry of Justice of the Nation. You can also send a WhatsApp to 11-3133-1000 from anywhere in the country. If you are in the city of Buenos Aires, Chaco or Misiones, in an urgent or emergency situation, a Mobile Team accompanied by police personnel may move to the place where the victim is. The police guarantee the security conditions so that the team can take charge of the situation, offer containment to the victims and intervene with the prosecutors, defenders or courts, as appropriate in each case. In CABA, if the victim wishes to file a complaint, they accompany the victim to the Family Violence Office of the Supreme Court of Justice (OVD).