Tuesday 3 October 2023

Children’s Hospital treats more cases of sexual abuse than physical

Of ten minors who arrive abused, six are girls and four boys

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In spite of the fact that this Sunday, September 9th was celebrated as Children’s Day and that everything should be happiness, there is a sad reality that can not be hidden and that affects dozens of children all over the country.

Children between the ages of 5 and 6 are the most vulnerable to being sexually assaulted. Photo for illustrative purposes.

Currently, the Hospital Nacional de Niños (HNN) – Children’s Hospital – receives more children for sexual abuse than for physical aggression, something they consider alarming.

Cindi Mora, head of the social work department at the medical center, explained that the four most attended emergencies in 2017 were, the negligence of parents with 669 cases, (the child had an accident due to carelessness of the parents), emotional injuries with 665 (adults treat them badly), sexual abuse with 69 and physical aggression with 33 incidences. That year the HNN evaluated a total of 3,753 emergencies.

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Mora said that the 2017 figure could be maintained or at worst increase for this year, since up to June there have been 1,031 different cases.

“It could repeat the same order… unfortunately the statistics continue to grow,” said Mora.

Mora added that during the second half of the year the number would increase due to the holiday season and most of the children are in their homes so they are more vulnerable to accidents or to being abused.

The social worker added that in order to determine if there was any abuse or rape, they do medical exams and also approach the child in a psychological way so that he/she can express what happened.

“The hospital has a protocol where not only medical assessment is important, but also that other professionals in different areas can contribute and the child can tell us to get an idea of ​​what happened,” Mora explained.

Abusers target 5 and 6 year-olds

Mora explained that they investigate all cases; however, in most cases, abuse occurs in children between 5 and 6 years old

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“When we talk about abuse with them it is done in a general way, in this there could be children who suffer from touching in their private parts or suffer another type of abuse, for example, taking photos or compromising videos,” added the specialist.

In 2017, the Children’s Hospital treated 3,753 emergencies. Photo: Gesline Anrango.

“All this obviously causes an emotional injury that will affect them. There are children who, after such an act, stop eating, feel discouraged, have changes in their behavior, do not sleep well and there are others who do not present any visible alteration, but that does not mean that it does not affect them,” she added.

According to Mora, in most cases relatives are the abuses, as stepfathers, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and even dads.

“They are people of the intrafamilial nucleus who have or earn the trust of the parents and the child to commit the abuse. Many times parents do not realize this because they are in a family and do not believe that something like this could happen,” Mora explained.

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Although those who commonly abuse minors are men, the social worker indicated that women also commit this atrocity.

“With our experience we can say that out of ten cases, about six suspects are men and 4 are women. It has always been said that men are the abusers, but we are also seeing that women also commit abuses,” she said.

As a social worker, Mora has something very clear: When a child says they were abused, it’s true.

“What the abuser does is threaten their victim, tells them that if they talk they will hurt the father or mother, but when the child gets tired of this and talks, we must believe them because the children do not lie when they are abused and you have to understand that when they talk it is because they have already thought a lot about what happened, so we have to pay attention to them” Mora said.

Alarming data

Data from the Children’s Hospital is just a small sample of the harsh reality that many children live in that medical center.

Most cases of sexual abuse are not treated in a hospital but are addressed by the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (PANI) – the child welfare agency.

Data provided by the PANI showed that last year, 2,816 children were sexually abused. However, the majority of cases do not end in abusers being sentenced.

According to the Ministerio de Justicia y Paz, the ministry that operates the jails and prisons, up to this September there are 919 people convicted of sexual abuse against minors, of which 915 are men while four are women.

Irene Lobo, a psychologist from PANI, said “There are specific factors that make the victim not want to report, for example, they have received threats from the abuser or not feel safe to say for being a relative or a close person,” said Lobo.

Both in the Children’s Hospital and in the PANI, they are aware of the importance of maintaining a relationship of trust with the children so that in the event of any abuse, the child has their support.

Source (in Spanish): La Teja

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