Perceptions about Child Abuse: An Exploratory Study in Two Districts of Andhra Pradesh (2018)

Locations: Andhra Pradesh

Sponsor: World Vision and CESS

Two districts were chosen for this study – East Godavari and Krishna in the state of Andhra Pradesh where the operations of the international funding organization are ongoing. This study did a Purposive Maximum Variation Sampling. East Godavari district has 2 urban and 62 rural mandals while Krishna district has one urban and 49 rural mandals. In East Godavari, the two urban mandals were selected as well as three rural mandals. The rural mandals were selected based on the criteria of literacy rates – one each from the lowest quintile, from the middle quintile and from the highest quintile. Similarly, in Krishna, the single urban mandal was selected along with four rural mandals in different quintiles of literacy rate. In these ten mandals, 20-25 children were sampled purposively in the age group 6-18 years. Similarly, 20 adults were sampled from each mandal according to Maximum Variation sampling. They included parents, teachers, anganwadi workers and healthcare workers. The entire sample was engaged in group data collection followed by one- to-one interaction with a subsample of 50 (five per mandal) children. In the case of adults, group data collection was conducted from parents followed by one-to-one interaction with a subsample of 40 (4 per mandal) with teachers, anganwadi workers, and Asha (healthcare workers). This study explored (a) what ‘abuse’ and ‘safety’ mean to the children, (b) which are the safe, spaces, time, people, (c) which are abusive spaces, times, people, acts, (d) what led to these perceptions, (e) any lived experiences of abuse or risk of abuse and (f) who are the safe people who can help them or which are the safe spaces where they can seek protection. The domains explored with adults were (a) What are their perceptions about safe and unsafe places? (b) What are their perceptions about safe and unsafe people? (c) What are the signs in children’s behaviour to be on the alert about? (d) How to persuade children to confide in them? (e) How to react to instances of abuse? (f) What are their perceptions about child sexual abuse? The findings were that for the youngest children in the age group 6-8 years, corporal punishment was the main fear. However, they felt secure in the protection of the family. Physical violence in public spaces emerged as a key concern for young adolescents in the age group9-12 years. Physical abuse was also described in the family context. Emotional hurt was a significant issue for the girl children. Friends emerged as the key support for the adolescents. Sexual abuse was the most pervasive form of abuse faced by adolescent girls in the age group13-18. Stepping out from home was thought to be fraught with risk of sexual harassment in public spaces. In closed domains like home and schools, they were helpless when faced with abuse. The girls were often victims of sexual assault by their ‘friends’. Adult men in the community, too, sought opportunities to abuse them sexually. People to turn to for help were fewer than in other age groups as both family and society viewed the narratives of the girl with suspicion and would rather protect the family honour than seek justice for her.