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Rape crisis centre: sexual abuse of children more widespread than commonly assumed

Almost half of contacts to the rape crisis centre involved sexual crimes against minors.

Sexual abuse of children is more common than is widely believed. Almost half of first contacts with rape crisis centre Tukinainen's legal service involved sexual crimes towards minors.

The scene of the crime is often a private apartment, and the perpetrator is an acquaintance, family friend or other familiar person, states lawyer at Tukinainen, Riitta Silver.

Silver considers it worrisome that sexual violence experienced by children and adolescents has not been prevented adequately.

"The figure has remained approximately the same year after year with no significant decrease," she says.

The overall number of first contacts to Tukinainen's legal consultation last year amounted to 234 and 248 in crisis counseling. Some callers are adults, whose experiences with abuse date back years. Approximately half of all calls dealt with recent cases occurring less than a year from the incident.

Sexual abuse of children and adolescents runs the risk of remaining undetected, as authorities and health care personnel are not able to identify symptoms, Head of Crisis Operations Heli Heinjoki reports. Children and adolescents may not be able identify the incidents.

"Often the perpetrator has been able to form a confidential relationship with the child, maintained, for example, by threats," Heinjoki says.

Experiences with sexual violence may result in long-term symptoms for a victim. They may have difficulties with school and eating, or enduring mental symptoms, such as depression.

"The younger the people are that we are dealing with, the more severe the impacts on their development. The experience becomes a cage of sorts that affects the person's entire wellbeing," Heinjoki says.

It has been recently reported that sexual abuse took place in the Swedish-language Methodist church of Finland. Several young boys were victims of sexual abuse from the 1960s to the 1990s.