Shedding Light on an Unspoken Pandemic: Sexual Abuse and the Impact of Global Mobility

Contributed by Karina Lagarrigue

In the vast expanse of conversations surrounding global issues, there exists a silent pandemic that often goes unnoticed, unheard, and tragically unaddressed. It’s a pandemic that shatters innocence, scars souls, and leaves behind a trail of lifelong suffering: the harrowing reality of sexual abuse in minors.

Consider for a moment the staggering statistics: 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 8 boys worldwide fall victim to sexual abuse before they even reach the tender age of 18. These numbers paint a grim portrait of a cruel reality that knows no borders, boundaries, or geographical barriers. However, a reality that can be so unsettling that it may feel easier to ignore than to face head-on.

A LIFE-LASTING IMPACT

The repercussions of such heinous acts extend far beyond the time when the abuse happens. They ripple through the lives of survivors, shaping their existence in profound and often devastating ways. Anxiety disorders, depression, sexual dysfunction, and even eating disorders, personality disorders, etc. can emerge as haunting legacies of childhood abuse.

This is why I believe we must awaken to the urgency of this issue, to the imperative of raising awareness and igniting change. But in our quest for understanding, we must also acknowledge another layer of vulnerability that compounds this already grave situation: global mobility.

In an increasingly interconnected world, where borders blur and cultures collide, the mobility of populations has become a defining feature of modern life. While this phenomenon brings with it a multitude of benefits and opportunities, it also carries with it a hidden danger—a vulnerability that threatens in many ways, our most precious and vulnerable: our children.

As families traverse the globe in pursuit of new beginnings, projects and opportunities, they often find themselves navigating unfamiliar territories, grappling with unfamiliar customs, and placing their trust in unfamiliar faces. During such upheaval, the safeguards that protect our children can become compromised, leaving them exposed to the predatory intentions of those who would seek to exploit their innocence. This is something we can, at leat, gain awareness on.

In this article, I would like to shed light on this dark reality illuminating the path to create a safer place for our children.

The Role of Consistency in Ensuring Safe and Supportive Relationships

As humans, we have an inherent need to connect and form bonds that offer us belonging, love, and security. However, in an upbringing marked by global mobility, these bonds are frequently challenged, reshaped, and at times, fractured. This can leave us vulnerable and maybe uncertain about our connections.

The web of relationships that define our lives are the ties we share with our peers, caregivers, teachers, family members and parents. These relationships serve as the bedrock of our social existence, providing us with support, guidance, and a sense of identity and belonging.

In a world characterized by global mobility, the significance of stable bonds grows, serving as essential anchors amid continual flux and transitions. The inherent nature of mobility presents significant hurdles to sustaining consistent and meaningful connections, leaving children who experience these challenges vulnerable to instances of abuse.

One of the reasons for that is the realm of education, where it becomes very difficult to maintain consistent references when it comes to areas like personal boundaries, let alone sexual education (often forgotten, usually taboo, and even forbidden in certain places of the world). This lack of consistency not only leaves children without essential knowledge and tools to navigate their own boundaries and relationships but also creates a breeding ground for misinformation and vulnerability to exploitation and abuse. Without proper guidance and consistency (where the lessons learned in one context may no longer apply in the next) children are left ill-equipped to recognize and respond to potential dangers, further exacerbating their vulnerability in a rapidly changing and interconnected world.

Strengthening Awareness and Empowerment Through Reliable Education

In our collective consciousness, the specter of sexual abuse often lurks in the shadows of unfamiliar places—dark alleys, isolated streets, and encounters with strangers. Yet, the stark reality paints a vastly different picture.

Contrary to popular belief, a staggering 80% of sexual abuse cases occur not in the shadows of the unknown, but within the seemingly safe confines of a child’s everyday environment. This sobering truth serves as a stark reminder that the threat of abuse knows no boundaries, respecting neither the sanctity of home nor the familiarity of trusted faces.

To truly grasp the insidious nature of sexual abuse, one must understand the complexities that underlie its perpetration. It is not a crime of opportunity, but rather a calculated and systematic betrayal of trust—a betrayal that often unfolds over time, as the abuser methodically grooms their victim, weaving a web of deceit and manipulation.

In many cases, the bond between abuser and victim is not one of fear or coercion, but rather of trust and affection—a bond that is carefully nurtured and cultivated over time. It is this bond that serves as the foundation for the abuser’s power and control, enabling them to exploit the innocence of their victim with impunity.

Given this serious situation, it’s crucial to acknowledge the vulnerable position our globally mobile children are in. It’s essential to equip them with the understanding and awareness necessary to identify signs of abuse, assert their boundaries, and seek assistance if they feel threatened.

Sexual education is not just about imparting information—it is about instilling a sense of self-respect, empowerment, and agency in our children. It is about teaching them to value their bodies, their boundaries, and their right to safety above all else.

By encouraging candid and transparent discussions on subjects like consent, respect, and positive relationships, we lay the foundation for a culture of empowerment. In such an environment, our children can feel assured and prepared to navigate life’s intricacies. Therefore, we must lead by example and approach these conversations with ease and normalcy. Actively working to dismantle the barriers that prevent victims from coming forward and seeking help.

Let us stand together in solidarity, united in our commitment to creating a world where every child feels safe, valued, and empowered to live their truth.

Kindly,

International psychologist specialized in Expat couple’s therapy and sex therapy

Early-stage Ph.D. in Sensory Processing Sensitivity, motherhood, and expatriation

Karina Lagarrigue is a psychologist and an ATCK, who experienced three international moves and over ten domestic relocations by age 18. With over 12 years of experience, she specializes in aiding Highly Sensitive People, cross-cultural couples, and highly mobile individuals. Currently pursuing an International Ph.D. in Highly Sensitive expatriated motherhood from Spain. As a highly sensitive expat mother to two TCKs, she intimately understands the challenges of expat life. Karina’s website www.expatworldpsychologist.com.