Can boys ever be sexually abused? The answer might seem obvious, but at Childhood we have seen how the abuse of boys is often forgotten or disre-garded. Sometimes the abuse is laughed off. In other cases, the adult world places the blame on the boy. For boys who are abused, there is also the fear of being labeled as homosexual or “unmanly.” All of this makes it even more difficult for them to talk about what happened and find support.
Mocked when talking about sexually abused boys
A passionate pioneering initiative that Childhood has worked together with for a long time is First Step Cambodia. When this organization, the first in Cambodia, started talking about boys and abuse, the idea that boys could be abused was so alien that most people laughed and employees were even mocked. Strong network in Siem ReapIn 2014, when our partnership with First Step began, it was impossible for sexually abused children – whether boys or girls – to receive treatment in Siem Reap. We enabled the establishment of First Step in the city and that they, together with other local Childhood partners, could build up a strong network for early detection, therapy and treatment, psychosocial support for families and a system of foster families for children who could no longer live at home.
Teaching about boys’ vulnerability
With Childhood’s support, First Step has grown into a nationally established organi- zation that also trains others about boys’ vulnerability. In 2019, 56 organizations and authorities in Cambodia were trained by First Step. Before and after tests of the partici-pants’ knowledge of sexual abuse in general, and of boys specifically, show that the training filled a large knowledge gap.
Big lack of knowledge
The major lack of knowledge about the risks and needs specific to boys was also the reason why we invested in two national studies of boys’ vulnerability in 2019 – one in Cambodia, and one in Nepal. Based on interviews with boys who have been abused and the adults who support them, there is now a better understanding of the interventions that are needed and that are relevant to their situation. The studies are a part of a regional project that has laid the groundwork for efforts that will give more boys access to support.
What Childhood´s investment in First Step 2019 has resulted in:
274 children who have been sexually abused, or have sexually abused others, have received access to long-term, qualified therapy to ease the symptoms of trauma and reduce the risk of further abuse through First Step. Over 1,000 children and 1,000 parents have acquired greater knowledge about how sexual abuse can be prevented.
Text: Åsa Andreasson Åkerström, photo: private