Abuse of the girl child: different shades, perpetrators and health implications

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Sixteen year old Omonsiegho(not her real name), an SS3 girl in a mixed sex Boarding School was asked to stand on her desk ; her offence? Not paying attention . For the rest of that class, the punisher; a middle aged, unmarried ‘Geography Teacher’ ignored her pains ,suffering and tears as she shifted weight from one lower limb to the other , seeking any position that will reduce her pain and give her some comfort . A few days later, Omonsiegho was called out to the front of her class and asked to sit on the floor .The rivulets of tears as she tried to express her innocence were made irrelevant by the relentless instructions and counter instructions shot at her to stand, sit, move away, and lie down .The old ‘angel and arch angel of Geography as he was often referred to, and whose selective notoriety the School Authorities seemed resigned to put up with was at it again. The young girl went through emotional trauma she alone can truly describe, as she tried to make sense of it all . The questions on the minds of many of the boys and girls who may have watched several episodes of this type of behaviour from the Geography teacher may not be too difficult to imagine ; many of them would have liked to know if he would do this to his own biological daughter if she did whatever. As it turned out following investigations, the Geography teacher was in the habit of coming down hard on female students, and especially the bright and beautiful ones .It was his way of softening them up before launching attacks. He was however friendly with the boys and always ready to assist them ,even financially.

If one might ask; is there something fundamentally different between people who have willingly gone through the God given process of reproducing themselves and those who have not or are unwilling to do so? Considering that the human mind is the most complicated and unpredictable entity known to man, how do you tell which Classroom teacher is capable or incapable of doing what ,when it comes to health of School children and child abuse?

Mr Geography teacher is using the persistent physical and emotional abuse of Omonsiegho as a way of getting something he alone badly wants? How many other young girls have gone through similar experience? Can Omonsiegho find the peace of mind to read her books in the prevailing conditions?

Child abuse comes in as many shades as can be imagined . In majority of cases and for those cases involving sex, the perpetrators are not people you very readily suspect;

Commonly under continuous subordination, senior students may subject junior others to various forms of abuse .

Teachers at the top may engage in all sorts of inappropriate behaviour if they find themselves in positions of absolute power ,where no one cares

There have been well documented cases of heads of religious organizations sexually abusing daughters and their mothers among their followers, doing so for years without any one daring to cry out about the evil acts. Where such followers are regarded as mere numbers, physical abuse may take many forms including excessive chores, whiplashing , shaking , pinching and kicking

Cases involving Moms and Step Daughters have also been followed where the girl child is starved , placed on long periods of starvation diet or low quality diets for refusing to get involved in abnormal or inappropriate sexual relationship with the woman she calls mother

Uncles, Aunties , care takers and care givers who are deviant and yet see nothing wrong with their brains have in several studies been found to subject children kept in their care to different forms of abuse including those which place sexual health and reproductive career of the girl child in jeopardy.

There is indeed a possibility no matter how remote, that in those situations where fathers are said to have forced themselves on their daughters, they are not the biological or true parents of the girls involved. It is the opinion of experts in DNA research that only women know the biological fathers of their kids, as most first born children do not belong to the men who claim them.

When the cat is away , the mice play without ceasing ;incestuous relationships are more likely to be common in polygamous and polyandrous relationships as well as those involving single parenthood where multiple partnering is the norm. In the study by this writer and late Dr George Chinyere Uzor, the researchers were surprised to observe that family heads were frequently in support and at times pressed on to suggest it . The girl child in these settings apart from the risk of growing up to be a disjointed woman also suffers physical and other forms of abuse . If the language she understands is vulgar, crude and harsh, such will be her best way of expressing her self as she grows up with a character and an attitude. Whereas she sees nothing wrong in getting into quarrels and with the free use of verbal invectives, accepting own faults and the use of words like ‘sorry’ may be strange to her. The researchers observed that religion, level of education, socioeconomic status culture and inability of Governments to give legal backing to the Child rights act were among the important factors which influenced abuse of the Nigerian girl child.

It is important to remind readers and stake holders in the educational sector particularly at the primary and secondary school levels, something only very little about how the strict rules and regulations in many of these schools and the ways and methods they are applied place majority of the female pupils and students in these schools at very high risks of child abuse , including sexual forms of child abuse. Unless the relevant authorities are constantly at alert and are able to maintain vigilance even during unguarded hours, loads of abuse can go on under the cover of darkness and with people least expected to be involved. Shame and pride will battle themselves within the abused child to prevent her from reporting any such activities. Beyond that, there will always be the fear on the side of the abused child that she will end up being the one to get the blame . Moreover, she will have been warned to expect unpleasant consequences if she told any one any thing. After all , students are usually not represented at meetings of Parents and Teachers’ Association.

We should also realize that it is not only in Catholic schools that young boys get abused by Priests and Holy Fathers for long periods of time without any one doing anything. Deviant patterns of behaviour are now being forced on children in secondary schools all over the globe By many standards, females have higher capacity for stress management and have demonstrated higher reserve with regards to practical coping device and ability to keep it inside, but girls mostly are at the receiving ends and would rather suffer in silence than tell .When a woman wants to tell, she is likely to tell it all, but when she chooses not to tell, she tells nothing to no one. If similar abuses are being perpetuated by women of the same faith, no one will know until some one tells , which as is the pattern with the males usually takes decades. What if routine psychotherapeutic checks were carried out in these schools, would it have helped to reduce the number of victims and the length of time the abuse lasted? We may never know . What must be emphasised is that in many of the secondary schools and colleges in the world today, including my country, Nigeria, there is need to seriously sit back and ask if some persons who have been entrusted with positions of responsibility are not regularly taking advantage of some certain policies, regulations and rules meant to keep the girl child away from falling into the province of abnormal and dangerous life style, to actually do more to cause more damage in respect of her physical ,emotional and sexual health.

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