The issue of child rape is important on many fronts. For one, fundamentally, child rape (the act of sexually penetrating a child usually under fifteen or committing a sexual act that is considered as comparable to sexual intercourse with the child) is a very serious matter whose gravity continuously weighs down on and undermines the psychosocial and politico-economic blocks of any society. For one, at the personal level, child rape results to multiple forms of physical injury such as bleeding, internal lacerations, damage of internal organs and even death. Deaths emanating from child rape are a culmination of the sexual mutilation itself, rectal and genitalia trauma. Child rape also exposes children to infections, specifically venereal diseases such as vaginitis. This is because, during rape, there is an absence of vaginal fluids. Child rape also exposes children to neurological damage. Studies have consistently shown a considerable reduction of the corpus callosum area and the left hippocampus among victims of child rape. All the above personal effects result in poor social and interpersonal skills, uncontrolled anger, emotional instability, destroyed sexuality and disrupted cognitive development (DeMause, 2009).
It is a fact that the effects above coalesce into macro-effects so that a society gets to feel the effects. Some of the effects that may be grappled with at a national level include heightened medical expenses, a generally disjointed and coarse society, a general breakdown in law and order, a psychologically unstable society or subculture and a cognitively impaired workforce. In light of the foregoing, there is a need to address it comprehensively so as to seek long-term and more tenable solution to this problem. This tenable and longer lasting solution cannot be found outside of relevant or related studies and research undertakings.
Conversely, the issue of child rape is also important because of its complex nature. According to McGee, O’Higgins and Garavan (2011), the complexity of the scourge of child rape is underscored by its elusive definition, the fact that different jurisdictions have unique definition of the status of a child and by extension, child rape and the readiness with which child rape is confused with related elements such as child sexual abuse. As already seen, in UK laws, child rape is sexual intercourse with a child who is under 15 years or another sexual act that is performed on such a child and the act and the circumstances surrounding it being comparable to sexual intercourse. The import of this is that any adult who has sexual relations with a child under 15 years is liable to criminal trial, the willingness or unwillingness of the victim notwithstanding.
Nevertheless, it is important to appreciate the grey areas that characterize even the clearest definitions such as the one proposed above. For instance, when a rape case occurs between two young people, one a day older than fifteen and the other slightly younger than fourteen, then defining the case as child rape will be contentious. In the event that these grey areas are not adequately addressed, there can be serious implications such as the inadvertent acquittal of rapists who have barely attained 15 years (Thomas, 2012 b). Again, generally stating, child sexual abuse is a broader term which covers a litany of sexual assaults on children including child rape itself and other forms of sexual offence such as fondling, exhibitionism, sexual assault, groping, sexting and obscene phone calls, child prostitution, sexual exploitation, sexual grooming and pornography. Thus, while child rape is narrowed down to sexual penetration of a child or a sexual act that is considered as comparable to sexual intercourse with the child, sexual abuse covers all sexually related acts that are meted out on a child. Thus, in criminal law, it will be important to distinguish child sex abuse and child rape from each other.
The need to gain a clear-cut definition of child rape as is exemplified above cannot be bypassed as a light matter. A problem cannot be acknowledged, diagnosed and satisfactorily addressed without its proper definition. The perennial problem that is rape is not an exception. In the absence of a legal definition, legislation, prosecution and prescription of a legal sentence and concerting global effort against child rape become very difficult to deal with. The need to have a clear-cut definition of child rape also informs the need for the study.
The matter that is child rape is important for study because matters relating to it are important for keen analysis and critical consideration because of its very dynamic nature. For one, it is true that child rape has mainly been looked at through the prism of the girl child. However, with the advent of the LGBT community, increased LGBT activity and an intensely sexed society, cases of the rape of the boy child have also soared. This means that there is an inevitable need to include acts of boy-specific sexual violations such as sodomy and conventional rape. While sodomy may be performed by a male abuser on the boy child, conventional rape may conversely be meted out on the same, but by a woman, mostly an older woman or girl. In this light, it will be important to produce results of statistical research studies to underscore the reality of child rape. The import of this is that sticking to the traditional view that the girl child is the sole sufferer of child rape is carrying on with the failures that have accosted the war on child rape. This is because this is tantamount to partial acknowledgement of child rape (Abeid, et al, 2014).
At the same time, it is important to acknowledge the fact that the matter of child rape has gained tremendous significance and acknowledgement in the global sphere. With the increased rate of globalization, there has been an increased awareness of the seriousness and nature of child rape. Under the aegis of international organizations such as the United Nations, there have come children’s rights organizations which are geared towards handling child-related problems such as child rape. Some of the organizations operating within the auspices globalization for the betterment of the child are UNICEF and FAWE (Collings, 2011).
The crux of the matter immediately above is that such organizations have realized the need to build a common front even in the face of uneven socioeconomic, political and legal stability and development. Developing countries always have constitutions too weak to protect the rights of the child against sexual predation and are also more vulnerable to political instability and civil wars and unrests due to a general absence of constitutionalism. These organizations therefore seek to work with the government and within the confines of the law to make legal reforms that would see children protected from rape, defilement and sexual abuse. Therefore, in a nutshell, the issue of rape is important even in understanding emerging issues in global politics and international relations and law (Thomas, 2012 a).
Again, the issue of child rape is important in understanding the nature, seriousness and scope of social work. Children’s welfare and pertinent issues such as child rape are a salient feature in social work. In this light, it is self-defeatist of a social worker to treat child rape as peripheral. Instead, a social worker should be abreast with the nature, danger, effects and legal understanding of child rape. All the above reasons inform my personal decision to undertake this research project.
The Implications for the Criminal Justice Field
Another reason behind the choice of topic (child rape) is that it has fundamental implications on the criminal justice field. This is because child rape and criminal justice are intertwined and borrow from each other. Successful fighting of child rape is fundamentally dependent upon criminal justice. For this, there has to be comprehensive laws that: clearly proscribe child rape and sexual abuse; and spell out the role of the organs (such as the police, the court of law [in relation to concepts such as the right to a speedy trial, right to an attorney, the prescription that should be applied to a verdict and sentence] and the prison system in the criminal justice system when dealing with child rape (Bachmann, 2010). Likewise, child rape also affects the criminal justice system in that, the inability to legally handle child rape invokes the need to rethink the criminal justice system which consists of the law, the police, the court of law and the prison system.
Abeid, M. et al. (2014). Community perceptions of rape and child sexual abuse: a qualitative study in rural Tanzania. BMC international health and human rights, 14 (1), 23
Bachmann, A. M. (2010). Kennedy v. Louisiana and the abolition of the death penalty for child rape: euthanizing "evolving standards of decency". Wake Forest Law Review, 45 (1), 231
Collings, S. J. (2011). Professional services for child rape survivors: A child-centred perspective on helpful and harmful experiences. Journal of Child & Adolescent Mental Health, 23 (1), 5 - 15
DeMause, L. (2009). Infanticide, child rape and war in early states. The Journal of psychohistory, 36 (4), 290
McGee, H., O’Higgins, M. & Garavan, R. (2011). Rape and Child Sexual Abuse: What Beliefs Persist About Motives, Perpetrators, and Survivors? Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26 (17), 3580 - 3593
Thomas, D. (2012). Rape of child - application of Sentencing Guidelines Council guidelines on rape of a child. Criminal Law Review, 7 (9), 723
Thomas, D. (2012). Rape of child - sexual intercourse with consenting girl aged under 13 - application of Sentencing Guidelines Council guideline on rape of child. Criminal Law Review, (13) 9, 719