Research Brief: Victims of childhood sexual violence in Tanzania more likely to experience mental and physical health problems
Sexual violence against children is a global human rights and public health issue that impacts the emotional, psychological, and physical health of victims across their lifespan. The Violence Against Children Survey (VACS) was conducted in Tanzania in 2009 to measure the burden of violence against children and examine circumstances of the violence as well as associated health problems. VACS data were used to explore the prevalence, circumstances, and health conditions associated with childhood sexual violence in Tanzania. The findings provide an estimate of the prevalence of sexual violence in childhood among girls and boys, along with information about the perpetrators and circumstances of the violence. The study also includes findings on health-related conditions associated with experiencing sexual violence.
- More than one in four girls (28%) and one in eight boys (13%) experienced sexual violence before age 18.
- The most common type of sexual violence experienced in childhood was unwanted touching, followed by attempted unwanted intercourse and coerced sex.
- About 5% of girls (1 in 20) were physically forced to have sex before age 18.
- For girls, the most common perpetrators of sexual violence were neighbors, followed by strangers and then dating partners.
- For boys, the most common perpetrators of sexual violence were dating partners and strangers.
- The most common places that girls and boys experienced sexual violence were in their own home, the perpetrator’s house, or a neighbor’s house.
- For more than 80% of both boys and girls, the first incident of sexual violence occurred when they were 14-17 years old.
- Service seeking and use for sexual violence experiences was low; 22% of girls and 12% of boys who were victims sought services, and only 13% of girls and 4% of boys received services.
- For girls, childhood sexual violence was associated with an increased risk for having a sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnosis or symptoms, experiencing anxiety and depression in the past month, and recent alcohol use.
- For boys, childhood sexual violence was associated with an increased risk for having an STI diagnosis or symptoms.
What is added by this report?
Sexual violence against children is common in Tanzania. Most perpetrators were known to the victims, and the incidents of violence took place in familiar locations, such as in their own homes. The ages at greatest risk for the first incident of sexual violence victimization are in the adolescent years for boys and girls. Despite the consequences of violence on victims, and the need for services to address their needs, few victims sought services for violence, and fewer still who sought services received them. This study also documented some of the consequences associated with childhood sexual violence in childhood, including STIs, anxiety, depression, and alcohol use.
Vagi KJ, Brookmeyer KA, Gladden RM, Chiang LF, Brooks A, Nyunt MZ, Kwesigabo G, Mercy JA, Dahlberg LL. Sexual violence against female and male children in the United Republic of Tanzania. Violence Against Women 2016; 22: 1-20.
*Footnote: some variation between prevalence estimates from published papers and country reports may exist. This variation reflects slight differences in the subsamples and variables used in the analyses.