It is encouraging to see that The World Health Organizations has just published Clinical Guidelines for Responding to Children and Adolescents Who Have Been Sexually Abused. With prevalence rates of one in four girls and one in six boys—WHO has declared child sexual abuse a major global public health problem and a violation of human rights that leads to adverse health outcomes.
WHO used various global studies to determine the number of cases of child sexual abuse. When medical authorities were informed, they underlined a need to “(i) work with communities to improve timely care seeking by survivors of abuse (ii) raise awareness of healthcare providers about child sexual abuse and its health consequences and how to recognize it; (iii) improve the response by healthcare providers towards those children and adolescents who seek services; and (iv) improve coordination and timely referrals between other services or authorities where children and adolescents who are sexually abused are identified or taken to, and health services.” (p.8)
The guidelines specifically consider the physical safety of the child during disclosure of sexual abuse, AND the psychological safety to ensure disclosure does not further traumatize the child. I must share that when I saw that WHO was trying to make disclosure of sexual abuse safe, and possibly the first healing step for a child, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of relief—finally, people will be expected to listen to victims of child sexual abuse with respect and care.
I am dedicating this post to the many survivors for speaking out to help WHO determine the magnitude of this silent epidemic, and to all the survivors who must stay silent to be safe. Hopefully, we can help your voice be heard soon. We will fight for you until you can join us.
World Health Organization--Responding to Children and Adolescents Who Have Been Sexually Abused Clinical Guidelines 2017.