Aahung recently ran a Facebook campaign to raise awareness about child sexual abuse (CSA). Through engaging use of GIFs and videos, the campaign introduced facts around CSA, and provided information for identifying the signs and symptoms of CSA. Finally, it offered caregivers skills and communication tips on enabling children to become aware of body protection and tools to respond to children who have been abused.
The campaign was successful by all metrics on social media- an above average post engagement rate, an uptick in page likes and outreach to a diverse audience as demonstrated by interaction on our posts in Urdu and in English. Our posts and videos were shared widely by individuals and on popular Facebook groups reaching thousands of people.
According to estimates, one in five children in Pakistan are sexually abused, although figures may be higher because often this crime goes unreported even in anonymous surveys. Media reports as compiled by NGO Sahil shows that 97% of victims are abused more than once. Research shows that perpetrators are often those close to the victim and according to UNICEF between 30-50% of them are known to the child. This figure includes family members, often those who live in the same house.
In a deeply family-based society like Pakistan, the fact that perpetrators are often related to the victim makes reporting this crime even tougher. One of the videos we shared on Facebook during the campaign depicted a family member as a perpetrator of this crime. This video was met with outrage and some disbelief.
Children often share that one of the reasons they don’t report their abuse was because of the fear of not being believed or hurting the family. Children pick up on messaging around the sanctity of the family, they fear that any information that threatens the institution will be met with disbelief or being reprimanded. This further adds to their shame around being a victim of abuse. Refusal to accept that sexual abuse can occur at home by individuals who are trusted in the family holds us back from acknowledging the prevalence and stopping this crime from occurring.
Through its Life Skills Based Education (LSBE) curriculum, Aahung has reached out to children in over 80 primary schools since 2010, imparting information regarding body protection and communicating discomfort. Through active engagement with teachers, administrators and parents using innovative training and tools such as theatre and mobile cinema, Aahung has actively been breaking down barriers and generate conversation around this issue. Communicating openly with children, building trust so they share, and ultimately believing and supporting them is necessary in protecting them.