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  • Writer's pictureNave Nijjar

Silencing Childhood Sexual Abuse

The culture of silence, a rooted cultural norm in South Asian, European, Middle Eastern, Asian and Black families, restrains attempts of physical and sexual abuse survivors from getting the help they need. The fear of revenge and being disowned is prominent in home of these families where kids are being abused.

Family shame, honour, and stigma are cultural barriers to survivors of childhood sexual abuse in ethnic communities. The community’s reputation is prioritized over survivors. Women can be deemed as not worthy of marriage if they have been sexually assaulted/raped. This shame holds women back from reporting and seeking the proper medical attention that they need.

Survivors live in silence and fear. Feelings of shame and guilt are universally felt as emotion. The pervasive shame, family’s reputation, lack of trust, victim blaming, and less likelihood of prosecution are causes of childhood sexual abuse.

Survivors are also aware that perpetrators lack prosecution. Perpetrators play on the vulnerability of the children and aware that a family’s reputation will silence the truth. This discourages children, teens and women from questioning authority figures. Especially if the perpetrator is a breadwinner in the family, the fear can become volatile and dangerous.

Culturally, some women delay seeking help and even reporting sexual trauma as this is stigmatized in the community. These stigmas include marriage requirements, strict gender roles, expected silence, loss of support, social stigma, lack of knowledge about available resources around sexual assault and domestic violence. Discussing sexual abuse is a taboo topic as is talking about sex in general. Most traditional families are not aware that boys can experience sexual abuse and lack education on this not being gender specific. Children lack resources and information to deal with this kind of trauma.

Research has shown that disclosing sexual violence can help reduce its long-term negative consequences including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, dissociative disorders, anxiety, social isolation, suicidality, loss of self-esteem, sexual dysfunction, distrust of others, substance abuse and repeat victimization. Sexual violence is traumatic and can impact many different aspects of a survivor’s life. Women, men, and children are entitled to be equipped with the knowledge of their rights and options to decide the best choice for them. If any of the information above pertains to you or someone you know, please reach out to me. I will provide a safe space for any trauma therapy.

- Nave Nijjar

Registered Psychotherapist

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