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Research on Child Sexual Abuse in the Kathmandu Valley:

Report Release Programme

Children's Perspective
25 June 2003 CWIN SCNN

Silent Suffering
Child Sexual Abuse in the Kathmandu Valley: Childrens Perspectives
Research Report

Research Team


Mr. Gauri Pradhan, Ms. Sita Ghimire, Ms. Sumnima Tuladhar Research Team Leader: Keshari Kansakar Research Team Member: MS. Deepa Dhital Research Assistants: Mr. Sanu Giri, Ms. Sita Poudel Enumerators: Avash Piya, Avinash Rai, Chitra Gurung, Deepti Shrestha, Mahima Pradhan, Nisha Pandey, Numa Rai, Pankaj Bajracharya, Pooja Shrestha, Prashiksha Karki, Pratikshya Sharma, Sumita Pradhan


Child sexual abuse is a common occurrence in our society but talking about it or dealing with it is still a taboo.

Child sexual abuse is being increasingly reported these days. However, majority of the cases go unreported. Whether or not cases are reported, depends on circumstances including family background, associated social stigma, type of abuse, where it has taken place and the responses of the law enforcing agencies, etc.
Normally serious sexual abuse such as rape is reported, but other forms of sexual abuses are ignored by the society and the families. Incest and delinquent behaviours of children are least reported. Although there are some studies on effects of child sexual abuse, there are not enough references on level of understanding among children and extent of the problem. Hence SCNN and CWIN took initiative for this study.

Society vs. Individual

We have some common myths prevalent in our society regarding child sex abuse such as only girls are sexually abused, abusers are always men and strangers to children, wearing provocative dress is the cause of abuse, etc. The attitude and behaviour of society towards survivors of abuse aggravate individual suffering and is the cause of silence. The society values tolerance and non retaliation and encourages suffering in silence among survivors and the family. Sexual abuse of children by adults is also an abuse of authority and power by adults while children suffer in shame, guilt and fear. Apart from society individuals who carry out abuse such as paedophiles are also to be blamed for the perpetration of crime of child sexual abuse. Paedophiles or abusers could be most of the times unsuspecting common people, usually trusted by children such as respected family members, teachers, friends, etc.

Case of a girl
A village girl recalls this incident: It happened last year. I was 14 years old and studying in grade seven. I had to walk for 15 minutes to reach my school and had to pass through a small forest and terraces. I used to be alone on the way. One day I saw a man of around age 35 from another village, the man took off his trousers and asked me to go towards the forest with him. He did not speak but made some kind of gestures with his hands and fingers. I did not know the exact meaning but I was sure he was expressing some thing bad. I was very scared and ran back home. The next day the man was also waiting at the same place at the same time for me. On seeing him standing on my way to school, I again ran back home. I cried alone but did not tell anybody. I was so scared, felt very bad, humiliated and insulted so, I did not tell anybody. Then I did not dare to go to school again. My mother once asked me why I didn't go to school, I did not have courage to tell her the truth, so I just told her that I was not feeling well. My parents were too busy with their own work on the farm; I also helped them in their work instead of going to school. After many months of leaving school, my neighbours frequently asked my parents why I did not go to school. So, this year they readmitted me to the same grade. Even though I have not seen this man on the way, I am very scared to use that way which is the shortest way to school.

The specific objectives of the research on CSA include:

To identify the level of understanding of CSA among different groups of children (children in school and out-of-school); To understand the extent of the problem of child sexual abuse among children including their vulnerability in terms of where, by whom, and how it happens;
To recommend appropriate strategies for intervention to minimize the incidence of CSA. future


Since the objective of the study was to understand childrens level of understanding and their experience of sexual abuse, the focus of study was children in school and out of school. But because of the issue as well as the scale, we started with some skepticism whether or not schools and children would cooperate. But along the way, they cooperated very well.

The District Education Officer (DEO) wrote an introductory letter to the principals of each school in the sample.
Similarly, prior to the research, the team met with social organisations working with children at risk. Random sample was drawn from the latest school directory covering the Kathmandu valley. The approximate sample size of 5000 was decided. Given the sensitivity of the issue and age of children, we expected moderate to high non-response rate. So we went for larger sample size.

Altogether there were 32 schools in the sample.The total sample size was 5413 school children and consisted of 57% boys and 43% girls. 77 percent of sample students were from schools in urban areas and only 23 percent of sample students were from the outskirts or VDCs.

62 percent of sample students were from private schools. The age of students ranged from eight to eighteen, the majority were in the 12-15 age group. For out of school children, the sample was selected purposively representing different sectors such as children working in carpet factories, and those working as domestic helpers, street children and children in institutions. The total sample size of out-of-school children was 216; 148 were boys and 68 were girls. The age group of children lies between 10 and 16, most of them in the 12-14 age group. An anonymous questionnaire was administered to students from grade five up to grade ten. Pictorial questionnaire was administered to students from grades three and four and for out-of school children. Each question was depicted in a picture what that question was trying to ask. A short briefing about CWIN and the research such asits purpose, confidentiality, and time limitwas given before distributing the questionnaire to students in each class. After completing the questionnaire, students were given the opportunity to ask questions with the research team if they had any. A leaflet containing information on child sexual abuse, tips on how to protect themselves along with the CWIN Help-line number and the address was distributed to students.

Limitations of the research

Talking about the issue of sexual abuse itself was a tough challenge for the research team. Talking about sexual abuse to young children was even tougher. Despite our assurance that the information they provided will remain confidential, some children may not report sexual abuse due to fear, (especially with girls), while some children may report out of imagination after reading all the questions, still other children may not be aware that they have been abused. Information on family background was not included in the questionnaire as children may not be able to give accurate information of their familys economic status. However sample from
public and private school is expected to complement this information.

Although we recognize trafficking of children for the flesh trade and their use in sex tourism, prostitution, and pornography, this research does not include those forms of abuse. The pictorial questionnaire does not include questions on personal experience of sexual abuse. Some schools objected to including personal experience for smaller children. So it was decided that only while filling out the level of understanding, students were to be asked if they had experienced such types of sexual abuse. So the answers to some extent may depend on the facilitation skill of the team members.

Problems encountered by the research team

Some schools were apprehensive about giving access to the research. Some teachers needed more convincing on the issue of child sexual abuse and the importance of the research whereas some teachers were completely ignorant about the fact that boys could also be sexually abused. It was difficult to administer the questionnaire with young children from the lower grades. Even with pictorial questions, it was difficult to get their attention. Some students showed slight uneasiness with the questionnaire in the beginning. Some of the research team members being young also had to go through some harassment from students especially boys in the age group 15 and above--they repeatedly asked questions on purpose. There was some problem in understanding the language of the questions. Many students did not know the meaning of homosexuals, slum, bribing, and obscene.


Level of understanding
The measures on level of understanding included following questions: 1. What is child sexual abuse? 2. Who could be an abuser? 3. Who could be abusedgirls, boys or both? 4. Children of what age are abused? 5. Which types of children are likely to be abused? 6. Where could the abuse take place? 7. How does it happen? 8. Why are children abused?

Percentage of children with different levels of understanding on CSA

School Children
Level of underStandin g Q1 What is child sexual abuse? Q2 Who could be an abuser? Q3 Who could be abusedgirls,boys or both?1 Q4 Children of what age are abused?2 Q5 Which types of children are abused? Q6 Where does it happen? Q7 How does it happen? Q8 Why does it happen?


52.2% 14.6 33.2 100% N=5360

23.5% 20.4 56.1 100% N=5365


71.1% 6.5

59.6% 11.5 28.9 100% N=5379

74.0% 5.7 20.3 100% N=5373

21.1% 19.7 59.2 100% N=5103

31.3% 26.5 42.2 100% N=5351

Low Total

22.0 100% N=5352

22.4 100% N=5373

Out-of-School Children High


77.7 9.7 12.6 100% N=216

40.8 22.7 36.5 100% N=216


63.4 7.5

46.0 22.1 31.9 100% N=213

40.4 13.6 46.0 100% N=213

49.2 14.6 36.1 100% N=205

52.8 24.1 23.1 100% N=212


11.2 100% N=216

29.1 100% N=213

Types of Abuse

Non-Contact Forms of Child Sexual Abuse

Use of obscene language, exposure to

obscene materials, exhibitionism, etc.

Contact Forms of Child Sexual Abuse

Touching, kissing, fondling, oral , genital or

anal penetration.

Experience of sexual abuse among school children Percentage of children who have experienced sexual abuse by type of abuse
Type of abuse Per cent Experience by sex Boys 1536(57.6%) Sample size

Obscene language


Exposure to obscene materials Contact form of abuse 28.8 Boys Girls 13.7 Boys

537 (26.9%)
1069 (35.1%) 465 (20.4%) 397 (13.1%)

Total=4660 Boys=2666 Girls=1994

Total=5319 Boys=3043 Girls=2276 Total=5331 Boys=3036 Girls=2295


333 (14.5%)

Sources of obscene language

54 % mentioned friends, 47 % mentioned strangers, 28% mentioned neighbours and only about 6% mentioned family members. Majority of boys mentioned friends while majority of girls mentioned strangers using obscene language to them. This suggests that it is common for boys to use obscene language among themselves, whereas in case of girls it is commonly used by opposite sex in streets, public transport, schools,etc.

Places where children experienced obscene language

40% children mentioned street/market, 30.2% mentioned school, 19% mentioned cinemas, 13% mentioned public transportation and 12% mentioned own house

Exposure to obscene materials: types of materials, with whom and where

57% children mentioned seeing pornographic movies, 47% mentioned seeing obscene photographs, 45% mentioned reading sexual magazines. The number of boys seeing obscene materials on the Internet is significantly higher than that of girls suggesting that girls are less outgoing than boys or that girls have less access to Internet than boys. 80 percent boys and nearly 62 percent girls mentioned seeing obscene materials with friends. Considerable number of children also mentioned neighbors and relatives. While only 7% of boys mentioned watching such materials with family, 30 percent girls mentioned doing that. 88 percent of boys mentioned seeing obscene materials with females while 65 percent of girls mentioned seeing such materials with males. The majority of children mentioned watching obscene materials in their own house, in another persons house, and in cinemas. They also mentioned seeing such materials in schools and in markets.

Experience of non-contact forms of abuse by type of schoolprivate or public

Students in private schools experienced a little bit more use of obscene language than those in public schools47.7 percent in the former vs. 40.0 percent in the later.
On the other hand the percentage of students exposed to obscene materials is a little bit higher in public schools26 percent of students from private schools reported seeing obscene materials with others compared to 32 percent from public schools. Almost 40 percent of students from private schools reported watching obscene materials on the Internet while less than 10 percent of students from public schools reported doing that.

Contact forms of sexual abuse

Overall 13.7 percent of children mentioned experiencing contact forms of sexual abuse such as kissing, the fondling of private parts, oral and penetrative sex.

13 percent of respondent boys and 14.5 percent of respondent girls mentioned experiencing one or more contact forms of abuse.
Thus unlike the common belief that only girls are sexually abused, the research showed that boys also face sexual abuse, whatever its effects may be on them. Fondling and kissing were the most common forms of sexual abuse children encountered. But a significant number of children also mentioned severe forms of abuse such as penetrative and oral sex. Many children might have experienced more than one form of sexual abuse.

Contact form of sexual abuse experienced by boys and girls by type of abuse
Type of abuse
Kissing on the mouth Fondling over clothes Fondling under clothes Fondling childs private parts Make child fondle abusers private parts Indulge child in oral sex Penetrative sex using object Penetrative sex Penetrative sex in anus

Boys %
35.1 36.6 24.4 22.3

Girls %
23.0 54.1 24.0 22.3

Total %
28.6 42.1 23.2 21.3

17.7 15.8
10.6 12.7 10.4

9.2 6.7
7.4 6.4 4.9

13.4 11.4
8.9 9.6 7.7

Person mentioned by children as abuser/s

Persons Strangers Friends Neighbors Person known to you only Relatives including family members Family friend Caretaker Others* Boys % 51.8 24.4 18.1 11.9 7.1 5.9 4.2 2.4 Girls % 49.6 19.6 14.5 10.9 12.5 4.3 5.9 6.9 Total % (49.6) (19.6) (16.4) (11.4) (9.7) (5.2) (5.0) (4.5)

*Others include teachers, wardens, etc.

Sexual abuse or sexual indulgence among peers?

Considerable numbers of children mentioned friends as the persons abusing them. This shows that children indulge in sexual activities with friends and again it may be forced or consensual, with the same sex or opposite sex. The majority of boys (63.5 percent) mentioned friends as the persons who used obscene language towards them.

In the case of exposure to obscene materials, the majority of children (80 percent of boys and 61.7 percent of girls) mentioned seeing such materials with friends.
With respect to contact forms of sexual abuse, a considerable number of children (24 percent of boys and 20 percent of girls) mentioned friends as the persons sexually abusing them. 59% boys as well as 46% girls mentioned seeing materials with persons below age 16.

Does this amount to abuse?

Even among friends, if there is sexual intention in watching obscene materials or speaking obscene words, then it amounts to sexual abuse.

If children watch such materials out of curiosity, it may not amount to abuse but the repeated watching of such materials may be a prelude to learning more about such behaviour.
Again the issue is whether or not sexual contact with peers of same sex or opposite sex amounts to sexual abuse. Even though sexual activities occurred within peer groups, it seemed that most of these are involuntary and happened as a result of trust from peers being taken advantage of. The results of the research also point out the changes in social norms among teenagers especially in urban areas. It seems that a trend of teenagers getting into relationships is increasing and they seem to indulge in sexual activities. There is a need for further research in this area.

Place where the contact form of abuse took place among school children
Own home Abusers house Market School Picnic spot Cinema Bathroom Public transport
Place related to domestic or other work

Boys %
14.4 26.3 19.2 12.0 18.6 13.8 10.8 6.9 6.0 9.3

Girls %
20.5 16.2 28.1 17.5 12.2 8.3 3.3 6.6 2.6 6.9

Total %
17.3 21.5 23.4 14.6 15.6 11.2 7.2 6.8 4.4 8.2


Means used by an abuser to abuse children

Means used by an abuser

Boys N=310 81 68 68 52 % 26.1 21.9 21.9 16.8

Girls N=218 67 46 19 53 % 30.7 21.1 8.7 24.3

Total N= 528 148 114 87 105 % 28.0 21.6 16.5 19.9

Took advantage of trust Used bribes Used seduction Used intimidation Used physical force Offered friendship







Most of the abused children felt hurt (38.7), disgusted (29%), and angry (30%) and girls mentioned these feelings most. The other feelings mentioned were shame, fear, and guilt. Most of the respondents put blame on the abuser for the abuse (73% out of 608 cases who responded); next they put blame on the society, family and the law. Among those who experienced contact forms of sexual abuse, 30% mentioned fear of family and society as the main reason for not telling about the incident to anybody. The other reasons mentioned were too shy to talk (23%), and fear of the abuser (21%). A higher percentage of girls (30%) mentioned fear of the abuser as the reason for not talking. Among those who talked about the incident to somebody, almost 72 percent children mentioned friends. Only 19% mentioned talking to parents and 10.5% mentioned the police.

Experience of contact form of sexual abuse by age group and type of school

Although children in all age groups are vulnerable, children in the 11-14 age group seem to be more vulnerable than the children in other age groups.

12.3% school children below 11 years of age experienced contact forms of sexual abuse.
34% children in the age group of 15 and above reported experiencing contact forms of abuse while more than 50 percent of children in the 11-14 age group reported experiencing it. A higher percentage of girls as well as boys (47%) from public schools experienced contact forms of sexual abuse compared to both boys and girls from private schools (40%). Besides strangers identified as abusers, neighbours come next. Among those who have experienced contact forms of abuse, 14 % boys from private schools and 20 % from public schools identified neighbours as abusers. In the case of girls, 7.7 percent from private schools compared to 23.6 percent from public schools mentioned neighbours as abusers.

Sexual abuse of a boy by a woman

The phone rang at the CWIN help line. There was a boy on the other end asking can you help me? When asked what kind of help he was seeking, it was clear on the phone that the boy sounded a bit nervous, in a hurry and had difficulty speaking. He said that the other day he had had sex with a woman and there was only half penetration and ejaculation outside. His question was, is there a chance to conceive? When asked about the age, he said, the age of the boy was 14 years old and that of a woman was around 27-28. But the woman was unmarried. The boy was a relative of hers. He had slept at her place in the same room and at night she had forced him to have sex. It was his first time. He was given relevant information and was told to contact the help line again if necessary. The boy was a student from one of the schools in the valley.

Experience of sexual abuse of children in difficult circumstances

Out-of-school children experiencing different types of sexual abuse
Type of abuse Boys (N=141) Use of obscene language Exposure to obscene materials Contact form of sexual abuse 20 26 % 14.2 18.4 Girls (N=65) 9 7 % 13.8 10.8 Total

% 14.1 16.0

29 33







Out-of-school-children reported seeing pornographic movies mostly with friends while they experienced obscene language with friends and strangers. Regarding contact forms of abuse, most reported the fondling of private parts, and kissing from strangers, family members, the house owners son, caretakers, etc. Almost all street children reported experiencing all types of abuse. For street children taking part in this research, exposure to sexual activity including obscene language, pornographic materials, involvement with pedophiles, and with commercial sex workers started within the first three months of their being on the street. Most of them had had sexual relationships with multiple partners of different ages and from different social groups.

Summary of the findings

Unlike the common myth that only girls are sexually abused, the research results showed that boys are also equally vulnerable to sexual abuse of all typescontact as well as non-contact forms. More girls reported watching obscene materials with persons in a higher age group, and they also experienced contact forms of abuse by a higher age group, suggesting that there was a serious form of abuse against girls. Children in the 11-14 age group seem to be particularly more vulnerable than children of other age groups.

Students in private schools reported a little bit higher use of obscene language than those in public schools, the latter experienced more exposure to obscene materials by others compared to the former.

Again with respect to contact forms of sexual abuse, the data showed that 11.5 percent of students from private schools vs. 16.6 from public schools reported sexual abuse.
Children from private as well as public schools experience different forms of sexual abuse, thus confirming that sexual abuse cuts across the socioeconomic status. Children are vulnerable from different persons including neighbours, relatives, teachers, family members and strangers as identified by them as abusers. As the case study and the reported incidences of sexual abuse show, girls are especially vulnerable to contact forms of abuse when left alone at home while they are vulnerable to other forms of abuse in public places as well. Even though it seemed that girls are less outgoing than boys, both are vulnerable at different places that could be their own home, schools, picnic spots, and so on. There is no safe place for children as there could be abuser in every kind of person and in all sorts of relationships.

Childrens Perspective

Childrens opinions on CSA

The majority of both school children and out-of-school children mentioned shame for oneself and the family and threats made by an abuser as the main reasons that they were less likely to talk about abuse. Among out-of-school children the majority said threats or bribes made by the abuser may prevent them from talking about sexual abuse. In the experience part as well, those who had been abused but did not tell anyone about it, mentioned fear of their familys reputation as the main reason; the other reason being a threat from the abuser. This is also a major reason why abusers thrivethey know they can get away with it. It is an indirect threat used by an abuser.

In addition, Nepali families generally do not impart values of individuality in children, thus making children all the while think about the familys prestige instead of considering their own wellbeing.

Reasons given by children why they are not likely to talk about sexual abuse
Reasons It is their own fault Nobody believes them It is shameful for oneself and ones family They get punished Threatened or bribed by an abuser Are told to keep it secret They are ignorant of what is happening to them School children (N=5091) 27.0 27.1 61.8 24.9 56.3 39.6 41.6 Out-of-school children (N=172) 43.6 47.1 51.7 47.1 68.0 55.8 55.2

Note: The percentage of children who ticked Dont know in case of school children is 2.1 and 1.7 for out-of-school children.

The childrenboth in and out of schoolare in favour of learning how to protect themselves from abuse rather than seeking family help Although 57 percent of school children said that guardians should listen and believe them, 51 percent also said that they should seek help from the police, lawyers and social workers. 21.5% school children & 31.7% out-of-school-children also said children should be punished or that they should forget about the incidence. 90% children--both in and out of school were in favour of learning about child sexual abuse. As for the reasons, protection takes the priority of children for learning about sexual abuse. Other major reasons for learning about child sexual abuse cited by both groups of children are for knowledge and information and that it is their right to know. Among school children, 48 % said children should not know about such a bad thing and 43 % said that children would misuse such information. Nearly 29 percent said such a thing should not be taught for the sake of familys reputation.

Children's recommendations

As opposed to the belief that young children lack knowledge on child sexual abuse, childrens response reveal that they do have some knowledge and strongly feel a need for proper information to protect themselves from child sexual abuse and to cope with risk situations. Children have overwhelmingly voiced a need to have sex education in schools for all adolescents. However, some children also felt that children should not be introduced to sex education, because this, in their interpretation, would encourage them to indulge in sexual activities. Reflecting upon the social attitudes and socialisation, some children have suggested that shorts and vulgar clothes should be banned. Some children they have suggested actions to resolve problems of children at risk including street children, working children and children living in slum areas.

They think that those who have close family ties are safer than children who have problems and conflict within the family and also that unattended young children are more vulnerable. They suggest that adults, especially parents, should be there as a support for children to share their problems and fears. They added that parents should provide unconditional support and love and they should always be there for children to confide in, if children wanted to talk with their parents about abuse or of possible risks.

Along with the support system from adults, children have suggested support groups or peer groups within schools to combat all kinds of abuse targeted towards children in and outside school.
Their opinion is to eliminate all kinds of discrimination, including economic, social and gender discrimination. Children have also tried to link child sex abuse with poverty. They thought because of poverty, children do not get the chance to go to school which deprives them from awareness on such things. Similarly, children especially strongly psychological healing for abused children. recommended health services and

Interestingly, they also said that rampant use of alcohol in society is also one of the factors behind child sex abuse so alcohol and drug use should be discouraged. All children have a common concern that there should be effective laws to punish abusers. They have also suggested compensation to such children, so that they can live a normal and dignified life. They suggest that child survivors of sexual abuse should not only be treated as victims. They should be empowered and encouraged to live a dignified life.

Recommendations and Strategies

For children
a) A child-friendly prevention strategy should be prepared. The prevention strategy should give knowledge and inform both girls and boys about child sexual abuse. Adolescent education should be promoted for both school as well as out-of-school children. There is a strong need for psychosocial counselling and support to child survivors of sex abuse. There is also a lack of support systems for children, one of the alternatives might be to form support groups or pressure groups in schools or out-of-schools and promote child-to-child activists. Children's groups, forums and clubs should be mobilized to increase children's knowledge and strengthen their capacity to combat child sex abuse. There is a need to empower children by building confidence, giving lifeskills and training children for prevention and coping with risk situations. The prevention strategy should also encourage children to break the culture of silence in cases of abuse and exploitation. b) c) e)




For parents/guardians/teachers
a) Prevention strategies should also include guardians and teachers mainly for raising awareness. b) When children have queries about sex and sexual abuse, parents should have a dialogue with children to make them understand more about those issues, rather than discouraging them from talking about it.

c) Schools should introduce sex education course but consider measures to minimise controversy associated with it.
d) Schools should develop a code of conduct for teachers regarding child sex abuse and provide orientation to teachers on the issue for both educating children and educating teachers.

For children's rights organisations/ community organisations

a) b) c) d) f) g) h) j) k) There should be further study on young sex offenders and there is a need for a separate strategy to deal with them. Furthermore, prevalence studies should be carried out in rural areas taking into account the diversity of ethnic groups and their practices. Child-rights organisations should work towards raising wider public awareness for the prevention of child sex abuse. They should provide free legal aid and legal counseling to child survivors and their families. NGOs should work as Child Rights Watch and work in co-operation and build strong networks to combat child sex abuse. Helpline and Hotline Telephone services should be established in different parts of the country to combat child sex abuse and to reach out to children at risk. Internalisation of psychosocial counselling is needed at all fronts. It should be ensured that trained human resources are dealing with children. Community policing should be promoted and should play a role in bringing about social awareness and social action against child sex abuse. The community groups should also initiate child-friendly community justice systems and play a role in the mediation of conflicts surrounding this issue.

For the government

a) b) The sexual abuse of boys should be taken seriously and needs to be incorporated laws on the issue. The government should work towards the formulation of more progressive laws and policies and their effective implementation for intervention, prevention and a support system for the child survivors. The government should firstly work towards raising public awareness inclusive of all stakeholders and children. The government should also create policy to set up systems for a healthy school environment. There is a need to sensitize the law enforcing agencies and introduce child friendly justice delivery system. The government should take the initiative to formulate and put in to practice a Code of Conduct for all its employees, teachers and the media to combat child sex abuse. The government should formulate cyber-laws to protect children from the negative effects from such exposure. The government should show its commitment to strong action against crime against children in general and child sex abuse in particular.

c) d) e) f) j) l)

Thank you !