6 June 2014

World Vision report finds limited understanding of child sexual abuse in Southeast Asia puts children at risk

In coordination with the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression (June 4), World Vision’s Project Childhood – Prevention Pillar team released a report entitled, “Sex, Abuse and Childhood: A study about knowledge, attitudes and practices relating to child sexual abuse, including in travel and tourism, in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam.”

After interviewing more than 600 participants, the report found that most children and adults in Thailand, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), Cambodia and Vietnam understood child sexual abuse narrowly as the penetrative rape of girls. Other sexually abusive acts (such as inappropriate touching or exposure to pornography) were not generally recognized as well as the sexual abuse of boys.

“Limited understanding of child sexual abuse by children and adults means that cases can go undetected,” says Aarti Kapoor, program manager, Project Childhood – Prevention Pillar. “We know that child sexual abuse often begins with grooming children, inappropriate speech and touching and escalates to more serious forms of abuse over time. Child sex offenders are often known to the family and target both girls and boys; however there was little understanding of this amongst the people we talked to.”

Of all the groups interviewed, parents had the lowest levels of understanding on the issue of child sexual abuse.

“Lack of awareness of the basics of child sexual abuse means that parents are unlikely to identify risks and cases early within abusive relationships,” said Afrooz Kaviani Johnson, technical director, Project Childhood – Prevention Pillar. “Parents might miss opportunities to intervene and a lack of understanding can also affect their overall response to the needs of the child.”

The report recommends child sexual abuse prevention education, particularly for parents, guardians, children and community members.

“We know from international experience that child sexual abuse prevention education is an effective preventative mechanism to build resilience against abuse in vulnerable communities,” said Kapoor. “Children and adults need the information, skills and strategies to protect children from all kinds of sexual abuse – whether committed by a stranger, foreigner, local person, friend or family member.”

Interested parties can read the full report and executive summary or view the key findings.

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