“I didn’t even know what was going on. It was like a game. I remember that my parents went out and my brother forced me … I remember that I was very disgusted. I didn’t want to play and it was repeated several times ”.
With these words, a 12-year-old girl recounts the sexual abuse she suffered in the bosom of her family until she was able to get out of a defenseless situation that many other minors live “in silence” in Spain, whose suffering often leaves no marks or counts with immediate family support.
This is highlighted by the ANAR Foundation after seeing how, during the last decade, cases of sexual abuse of minors have multiplied by four and radiographing the drama experienced by the 6,183 victims treated between 2008 and 2019. Its conclusions are reflected in a study presented this Tuesday and based on the analysis of the testimonies collected through the 89,808 calls that were made within the framework of its help channels.
Closer – Child Sexual Abuse: A Rising and Silenced Reality – Listen Nowplay audio
Closer – Child Sexual Abuse: A Rising and Silenced Reality – Listen Now
The research shows that the cases attended have increased by 300% , from 273 in 2008 to 1,093 in 2020, and accounts for an average increase of 20.5% in the last five years, when there has been a significant increase of abuses through networks and messaging applications.
“The presentation of this report will cause an important social impact, but it will also create disbelief in certain people. We must make all citizens aware that sexual abuse of children exists in our country and is not an isolated phenomenon “, said the director of the Legal department of the ANAR Telephone, while the director of programs of the Foundation, Benjamín Ballesteros has stressed that these cases respond to ” a hidden and silent reality ” that must cease to be” a taboo subject “in Spain.
78.3% are girls
The data of the study relative to the victims show that 78.3% of the cases were female, of which 59.1% were adolescents between 13 and 18 years old . As for men, Anar wanted to specify that, although they are minority victims – one in five – they tend to be abused at a younger age than women, since in 53.4% of the cases they are under 12 years.
In 2.6% of the cases, the minor had some type of disability .
Average age of victims: 11.6 years
The research also reveals that the average age of the victims is 11.6 years and focuses on the youngest victims, under 12 years of age , since they are at greater risk as they have less capacity to react when feeling unprotected. 15% of the victims were less than 5 years old .
On the other hand, abuses tend to recur over time (in 69% of cases) and are accompanied in most cases by physical violence or intimidation , especially when the victim is a woman and an adolescent.
Profile of the aggressor: male and family member or trusted
The profile of the aggressor is that of a man, of legal age, belonging to the family or to the circle of trust. The father is still the main aggressor , but over the years the proportion of cases in which he is the mother’s partner has increased, while the number of “known or trusted” adults in the family has decreased.
Only in 10% the aggressor is not known to the family, cases in which the abuses are carried out mainly through the Internet.
Most abuses do not leave marks or wounds
From Anar they have insisted that 80.2% of the cases of abuse and aggression do not leave marks or wounds , so the situations are more difficult to detect. Victims suffer mainly obscene touching, although one in ten victims also report having suffered violent penetration.
“The victims have great difficulty in demonstrating the abuse because in many cases there are no physical signs and unfortunately the reactions of the environment are not supportive,” said the director of the ANAR Telephone / Chat, Diana Díaz.
Díaz has also remarked that the aggressor himself “is going to try not to leave any kind of trace to continue acting” against the minor and points out that the “most traumatic” aggressions occur in the age group that goes from babies to toddlers. twelve years , who have “a more sensitive body” and less awareness of the situation.
The environment denies the facts, covers up the aggressor or blames the victim
In almost 38% of the cases, the environment denies the facts; in 31% the aggressor is justified or covered up and in 7% the victim is blamed.
In this context, of all the cases handled by ANA, only 43% showed the intention to report and did not reach 11% who formalized the complaint. Of these, 18% were judicially filed for lack of evidence.
50% of abuses occur in the minor’s own home
Also relevant is the fact that 50% of the abuses take place in the minor’s own home , followed by the abuses that take place in the homes of other relatives or in the school or out-of-school environment.
Likewise, Díaz has warned that we must be “very careful” with school environments and extracurricular activities of minors, which represent 13.2% of cases of sexual abuse.
Most frequent symptoms
The study also shows that the most frequent symptoms that victims present are sudden mood swings, psychosomatic symptoms , sexual knowledge inappropriate for their age, explicit sexual behaviors and aggressiveness.
In addition, he maintains that all the parameters analyzed have worsened over the last decade: the time of suffering, the frequency of the attacks and the severity increases.
The “herds” increase
On the other hand, the Foundation has influenced the increase in group aggressions or “herds” , when the victim is abused by two or more people (10.5% of cases in 2018) and also warns of an increase in throughout the decade in the cases of minors treated for gender violence, attacked by boyfriends, partners or ex-partners (6.3% in 2018)
“In recent years we have encountered the phenomenon of the ‘Herds’. We have to be very aware that in preadolescence and adolescence group aggressions are also taking place”, stressed the director of the ANAR Telephone.
Increasing cases, in line with court rulings
The result of the investigation, according to the foundation, is in line with the information in the annual reports of the State Attorney General’s Office, where sentences for sexual abuse of minors have practically quadrupled between 2012 and 2018.
ANAR also wanted to underline that the knowledge about cases of sexual abuse of minors is scarce in Spain and encourages public authorities to investigate the problem , as well as to carry out prevention campaigns to encourage complaints from an early age, professionalize care and address reforms in the judicial sphere to improve the protection of children and adolescents.
The ANAR phone and chat for Help for Children and Adolescents is 900 20 20 10. It is free, confidential and is staffed by a team of professionals made up of psychologists, lawyers and social workers.