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Sujay Joseph
| June 2, 2021 | News and Events

Study Breaks the Silence on Sexual Abuse of Boys

Study reveals that boys being sexually exploited remain largely unknown, unacknowledged, and not responded to, across a wide range of contexts and cultures. 

Blue Umbrella Campaign Aims to Highlight the Widespread yet Hidden issue of sexual abuse of boys

New Delhi, 15 April 2021: Around the world, 1 in 6 boys experiences sexual abuse; many more are exploited or exposed to inappropriate sexual materials. Evidences suggest that the situation in India is also not different and underreporting keeps the magnitude of the issue under the wraps as elsewhere. These experiences are having long-term negative consequences for boys’ health and wellbeing, and the effects can be felt throughout all of society.

In order to highlight this widespread yet hidden issue of sexual exploitation of boys, a sensitisation campaign titled Blue Umbrella Campaign will be launched by Family for Every Child, UK and Butterflies in India on April 16, 2021. Blue Umbrella Day (BUD) is an international day to encourage adults to play a bigger role in protecting boys from harm and caring for them in ways that best support their wellbeing. Globally this campaign is intended to raise awareness of sexual violence affecting boys by engaging social media channels and inviting other organisations to take part too.

In contrast with the global trends, a systematic review in 2018 found high prevalence of child sexual abuse (CSA) among boys in India. The review estimated that 10-55% of the boys in school and college samples have experienced one or other forms of CSA in the country.
Expanding these evidences, a study conducted by Butterflies and Family for Every Child, UK, unravelled many intricacies and urges people to break the silence on sexual abuse of boys in the country. Drawing on sharing of survivors of sexual abuse, the study titled ‘His Silent Experiences’ unsettled several myths on survivors and perpetrators and revealed that majority of the boys were sexually abused between the age of 14 and 16 and almost all the perpetrators were known to them. The known persons included close relatives, neighbours, older friends and adult acquaintances. Challenging the stereotype, along with men, women and older boys or peers were also noticed as perpetrators using varying strategies ranging from explicit use of force and threat to persuasion to sometimes giving gifts and money for sexually abusing the boys.

Almost all the survivors delineated their painful experiences and resultant fear, anger, rage and shame due to the instances. “(I) was told that I will be killed. I got scared…even I cried, it was really painful…”, said one of the participant. Another one linked response with notions of masculinities; “I was very angry and was going to hit him with a stone. I was very angry and felt that I was not a man”.

No survivors in the study disclosed the episode with anyone. As a result of such abusive episodes and lack of support from parents, some of them were found to be living in fear, absent in schools, dropped out, lost interest in studies & ran away from home thereby ending on the streets without adult supervision.

The study further found that dominant notions of being a male in families & communities and sexuality increased the exposure & vulnerability of boys to sexual abuse and restrain them to report it and seek professional support.

“Recognizing this silence, as adults, we can step up and do something about it. That’s why, this 16th April 2021, we are drawing attention to this issue through a Blue Umbrella Day (BUD). The campaign emphasises on the fact that we can protect boys from sexual violence; that all boys need adult care as much as girls and that we can start by changing our attitudes”, said Rita Panicker, Director, Butterflies.

Butterflies is part of the Family for Every Child Global Alliance in initiating the Blue Umbrella Day (BUD) campaign, an international day to encourage parents, communities, and societies to protect boys and nurture them in ways that best support their wellbeing.

“In India, we (Butterflies) and thirteen other NGOs from nine states of India, who are members of the National Alliance of Grassroots Organisations (NAGN) are launching the Blue Umbrella Day campaign. We have created a special song, initiated social media activities and mobilised the traditional media on this issue and we hope that by starting a public conversation, we can challenge many dominant social norms related to gender, masculinities and sexuality and give all children, girls and boys equal adult protection and guidance”, added Ms. Rita Panicker.

The other organisations launching the BUD campaign are- in Mumbai, The Centre for the Study of Social Change, Hamara Foundation, and Salaam Baalak Trust; Koshish in Srinagar, Kashmir; Pratigya in Jharkhand; Mahila Development Centre, Amar Trishila Sewa Ashram and Sarthi in Bihar; Centre for Development in Gujarat; JKSMS in Jaipur, Rajasthan; Open Learning System and Unnayan in Odisha; and Shreyas in Kerala. 

Click here to download the study- 

A unique song was also composed to address this issue and can be listened to here- https://youtu.be/oPnZdDLUNOQ  

For more information on the BUD campaign visit- www.blueumbrelladay.org