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SEXUAL ABUSE AND ITS EFFECTS ON MENTAL HEALTH

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Globally, 18-19% of women and 8% of men disclose being sexually abused during childhood. Most sexual abuse offenders are close pals. 30% are close relatives such as fathers, uncles, cousins. 60% are acquaintances like friends of the family, babysitters, neighbors. 10% are strangers. Sexual abuse is a major societal issue that needs to be tackled by every country in the world today.

Firstly, sexual abuse is any sexual act without consent. It is any sexual interaction between persons of any age that is perpetrated either against the person’s will, without consent, or in aggressive, exploitive, manipulative, or threatening manner.  Abuse involves a wide range of behaviors which occurs along a continuum, therefore sexual harassment should be defined along the same lines as sexual abuse. It is any unwelcome or inappropriate sexual advance or request for sexual favors which is coercive in nature, either in verbal or physical form.

It should be brought to notice that there is a specific trend of victims of sexual abuse. Most times, children, very young children, child bearing women, people with poverty, very old people, mentally handicapped people and physically handicapped people are sexually abused. But it still doesn’t change the fact that anyone could be subjected to sexual abuse.

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Sexual abuse brings about a lot of negative effects on the victims. It could lead to damage in one’s mental health such as shame, self-blame, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and most of all, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Other effects such as chronic pelvic pain, suicidal ideation, unwanted pregnancies, personality disorders, and self-injury could occur. In order to prevent these effects, a living victim should follow these few steps immediately after the incident. Firstly, the survivor should report to parents, agencies or the police and should never be afraid to. Secondly, the survivor should be taken to the hospital for a review by the doctor, thirdly, the survivor should undergo adequate counselling also, emotional support should also be provided for the survivor.

There are so many organizations, dedicated to giving help to survivors of sexual abuse. One of which is the Women At Risk International Foundation (WARIF), please visit the WARIF website www.warifng.org for more information. Another organization dedicated to this is the Domestic and Sexual Abuse Response Team (DSVRT) located at Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja. Mirabel Centre located at LASUTH, Ikeja also provides services dedicated to sexual abuse some of which are free medical services, counselling, shelter, and legal aid.

It is our duty as individuals, friends, siblings, cousins, citizens to be enlightened on world issues like sexual abuse. We never know when this knowledge will be of use, it could save the lives of so many. Therefore, we should never feel reluctant to take respective measures on major issues affecting our society today. Everyone has their share in making the world a better place, just do your own bit.

                                                                                                                                          

 Aisha Rabiu

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