Home News Children; victims of sexual violence in Nigeria -Survey

Children; victims of sexual violence in Nigeria -Survey

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By Ndidi Chukwu

A National survey of violence against children has found one in five girls and one in 10 boys aged 18 to 24 years have been the victim of sexual violence. Similarly high rates were also found for children aged 13 to 17 years—one in seven girls and one in 11 boys, according to the Violence Against Children (VAC) survey conducted by the National Population Commission.

Among abused girls, one in seven 18-to-24-year-olds got pregnant, compared with half of all aged 13 to 17. Sexual touching and unwanted sex were the most common forms of sexual abuse, but most children did not report any form of sexual, physical or emotional abuse, few sought help and even fewer received any help, the survey said.

Sixteen percent of girls up to 18 knew of a place to seek help, but only five in 100 sought help and only 3.5% of them received any help. Up to 39 in 100 boys of the same age group knew where to seek help on sexual abuse, but only 3% sought help and half of them got any.

For children aged 13 to 17, the figures on those who knew where to get help or received any help are even less.

Boys and girls alike were equally likely to suffer physical violence citing a male teacher as the first incident, followed by a female teacher or adult neighbour for girls and an adult neighbour or some authority figure for boys, the survey found.

“Parents, followed by uncles or aunts, were the most common perpetrators of first incident of emotional violence among 13- to 24-year-old Nigerians,” it said. It cites cultural norms that require a woman to “tolerate violence to maintain family harmony and not to complain to anyone when beaten or abused by her man” as influencing the occurrence and continuation of violence.

It also found strong association between childhood violence and prevalence of violence against intimate partners in later life. Girls with childhood experience of sexual or physical violence were “significantly more likely to use violence against a romantic partner, boyfriend or husband that those with no experience of sexual or physical abuse,” it noted.

The VAC survey recommends prevention services need to be wider to match the high prevalence of violence against children. “Why are [children] seeking help and not getting help? The institutions that are supposed to provide help are either not providing it or they are not known,” said Sharon Oladiji, child protection specialist at the United Nations Children’s Fund, which assisted in the VAC survey.

Nigeria is the ninth country to conduct a VAC survey—and the first in West African—but the findings are yet to get final authorization before its official launch in September, officials said.

VAC has revealed attitudes toward children, considered vulnerable before parents and authorities above them, and children are not being encouraged to speak out or being assisted to recover, according to NPC public affairs chief Ngozi Okakpu-Nwagbo who presented the findings to journalists in ongoing efforts to generate awareness about ending violence against children.

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