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Opinions of Monday, 10 December 2018

Columnist: Mafair Anim

Speaking up is not a shame; let’s save our future

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Ghana has now become a nation with over thousand cases of child defilement rising each and every day, with every news outlook churned around child defilement reports. Numbers are staggering and has become overwhelming, mind-blogging and exasperating at every extent to hear such reports every day. It is time for the nation to stand against such acts and deal with perpetrators to the core, and to tell our children to speak up when they go through such cold-hearted ordeals. It is heart-breaking to know that children live in such terror, and such children are our future leaders.

Defilement as defined by section 101of the criminal and other offences act 29 of 1990 is the natural or unnatural carnal knowledge of a child under sixteen. It is a first degree felony and a ferocious crime that is punishable by law and any person found guilty of the offence is liable on conviction.

In 2016, defilement reported a rise of seven hundred and nineteen cases in the country and increased to seven hundred and ninety (790) in 2017, per records from the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVSSU) of the Ghana Police Service, suspects of defilement are remanded from a period not less than seven years to not more than twenty five years under the Criminal Offences Act (Act 29/60).

There is a big difference in hearing and reading reports on child defilement and feeling bad, passing a consoling comment and getting irritated and actually going through the ordeal in person or as a relative. With the numbers increasing, children are at a high risk of falling victims, child defilement is an epidemic that can happen to any child, boy or girl, rich, privileged or under privileged. In fact there are no boundaries of perpetrators; mind you perpetrators come in every form, men, women, friends, relatives, teachers and people we never suspect. They are called Pedophiles and they can be anybody.

Child defilement has diverse effects on victims such as physical, psychological and emotional which leaves long term effects on victims.

Psychological Emotional and Physical Effects of Defilement

No child is psychologically prepared to deal with sexuality, especially a child who can’t determine what right or wrong is, the child will develop problems due to their inability of coping with the effect of defilement. Children usually suffer from depression and in turn withdraw from their friends and family when such brutalities happen to them. In some instances they always feel some sort of fear and anxiety which leads to them being unusually secretive.

Victims of defilement usually have low self-esteem, loss of love and an abnormal view of sex. It is either they avoid sex totally or become addicts. Trust becomes a problem for victims, as they find it difficult confiding in people. Physically, victims develop genital and reproductive problems which reduces their chances of giving birth.

The signs children need to know?

Children should be armed with knowledge that can save them from being victims. They should know that not all adults are the same and not all of them have good thoughts about them. Children should be thought that if someone calls them and tries to touch their body, especially their private parts such as breast and buttocks, they should shout and draw people’s attention.

They should also know that some people can lure them with sweets in other to have their way with them, so they should be careful of some of the gifts they receive from strangers.

It is also not appropriate for an adult to take them to obscure places, they shouldn’t follow people they don’t know to places they’ve never been before.

Anybody can fall suspect to defilement, it can be their parents, relatives, or family friends. It can also be a man or a woman, it doesn’t matter who the person is to them.

What a child should do when defiled?

When a child is defiled, he/she should immediately tell the first person they see, they shouldn’t be quite about it and must speak up. If the act happened at home by a parent, relative, neighbor or any other person, they should tell a trusted person or tell a teacher in school. Likewise if it happens in school, by a teacher, or a non-staff, they should tell a parent in the house or a teacher. Children shouldn’t be afraid to confide in someone when they are defiled.

How to detect a child has been defiled?

Children who go through defilement have attitudinal changes, they unusually become aggressive and develop mode swings. They put on certain acts that differ from their usual actions and in some cases their appearances change.

What parents should know and do?

Parents should tell their children that respect doesn’t mean not obeying adults, they are not to always do whatever older people tell them to do, and they should learn to say no to things that makes them feel uncomfortable. Children, when they know suspects, are mostly trapped between their loyalty for the suspect and the sense that what has happened to them is wrong, they are often terrified telling someone about it. Therefore, parents should befriend their children and gain their trust so that they can confide in them.

Parents should also monitor the movements of their children so that they can detect quickly when children are defiled. They should pay attention to their children and listen to whatever they say, when they are younger they drop hints before finally disclosing that they’ve been defiled. Parents might hear statements like;
I don't like ‘kwasi’ anymore…
Aunty plays games with me I don't like…
You'll be mad at me …
I'm bad . . .
Parents should be calm when children confide in them with such issues and shouldn’t be judgmental, they should reassure children of their trust and show appropriate affection to children.

What Teachers can do to help?

Children mostly trust their teachers since they spend most of their time with them, hence it becomes easier for them to confide in teachers. Teachers should know that defilement is a sensitive issue and when victims come to them, they should handle the issue delicately. They should report to the right school authorities and parents of the victim and make sure the child receives adequate help.

How to Report Child Defilement?

Anytime a child is suspected to be defiled, it is important to report suspects right away to appropriate authorities. If the act had just taken place the child should be sent immediately to the nearest clinic for physical examination or send the victim to the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVSSU) of the Ghana Police Service, or report immediately to the nearest Police station as soon as possible. It is important that the child shouldn’t take a bath until after the examination. The only crime evidence may be gone within hours or days, so it's important to get the exam as soon as possible. A physical exam will ensure there is no physical damage to the victim from the act. It will never be too late to discover that a child has been defiled and can still be reported to DOVSSU or any child welfare unit who can help victims through processes of reporting the case. The Police emergency numbers can also be contacted to report such cases.

Reporting defilement is the safest in preventing others from becoming victims in the society. Defilement is traumatic and emotional violence against children and must be tailed to any level through the lawful methods for justice. It is everybody’s responsibility to help fight this brutality against children, by not covering up such cases and also encourage every child to speak no matter the threats culprits give them. Let us all take an action by reporting cases of defilement to appropriate authorities to protect the future of children.