A study on adolescent's knowledge and perception of the effects of sexual abuse in Lusaka, Zambia
Mwanza, Maureen Nyambe
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Adolescence is one group which has been identified as a risk group. According to World Health Organisation adolescence is a period from 10 to 20 years of age. This study focussed on the basic and secondary school-going adolescents, whose ages were from 13 to 20 years. The 10 to 12 years age group has been observed to be still in primary school, hence their not being part of the study group.The study assessed adolescents' knowledge of the causes and effects of sexual abuse. It also sought to establish their perception of the scourge. The main areas assessed included the definition of sexual abuse, it's effects to the victims and their perception—of sexual abuse.A cross-sectional survey was conducted on a sample of 300 people aged 13 to 20 randomly selected from 7 secondary and basic schools in Lusaka using systematic random sampling method. Data was collected using focus group discussion structured questionnaire.Despite the majority (93 percent) being aware of the problem; only 79.7 percent defined it correctly in relation to unconsented sexual intercourse. There was no association between sex and understanding of sexual abuse definition (P = 0.920). More than two thirds (71.7 percent) had low levels of knowledge of the causes of sexual abuse. Only 0.7 percent had high knowledge and 18.7 percent medium knowledge. Location of school was significant in the knowledge of the causes of sexual abuse (P = 0.020).As regards to the effects, only 4 percent possessed high levels of knowledge, of the effects of sexual abuse with the majority 67.3 percent exhibiting low levels of knowledge. This is a striking finding in that 84.3 percent of the respondents had alluded to the knowledge that victims of sexual abuse suffered from the after¬effects of sexual abuse but could not outline the effects. Even those who lived with their parents did not differ from the adolescents who lived with relatives or others in terms of knowledge of the effects of sexual abuse (P = 0.859).The levels of knowledge were interrelated with the school the respondent attended. There was an observed difference in knowledge between the adolescents who attended basic schools and those who went to secondary schools, despite them being in the same grades.The study showed rather incorrect perception of sexual abuse. Though 79 percent of the respondents gave the right definition, they still did not view forced sexual relations with their peers as being abusive. A good number too, mainly females had a similar view regarding sexual intercourse with older men who paid them in kind. Due to the harsh economy and poverty, selling sex has become an accepted practice among some sectors of society. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has not spared the adolescents. Since the older people go for the young whom they feel are not infected. However, the adolescents opinions regarding the perpetrators of sexual abuse, generally was that the government should change legislation to increase the penalty levied on them in the form of severe punishment like castration or increasing the number of years to be spend in prison up to life imprisonment. For a few of them, they felt perpetrators were mental misfits who required counselling and education even praying for them.In conclusion, the lack of knowledge exhibited in the study implies the inadequacy in the component of sexual reproductive health information the young are exposed to. It is imperative that parents and guardians realize the adolescent's increased vulnerability to sexual abuse and implement primary preventive measures, such as education and counselling at family level.Preventive strategies aimed at reducing the young people's vulnerability to sexual abuse should be commenced at Primary School, Basic and reinforced in secondary schools.In addition to this, it is strongly recommended that good policies be put in place by way of legislation, if we are to have young people who are health and free from Reproductive health related problem and HIV/AIDS. Indeed the nation needs adolescents with health mental status, for future development.