Friday, 24 April 2015

CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE : How to Prevent It.

Umpteen times, I’ve heard people belonging to the older generations complain that the youth of the country can do nothing except indulging in alcohol, drugs, smoking, dating (which they indirectly mean having sex)  etc. Although this a blunt generalization which is not true in many of the cases, even if we assume it to be true, have they ever cared to wonder what made the youth like this?

The official statistics say that more than 53% of children are sexually abused in India. Since children do not feel comfortable talking about this topic, it’s difficult to estimate the actual numbers.

When I asked some of my friends to give a rough estimate of the numbers of children who fall victim to sexual abuse, the most common answer I got was 90% girls and 30-70% boys. I agree with the large number of girls being sexually abused but to be very honest, I haven’t got any idea about the approximate percentage of boys that are sexually abused as children. According to my observation, boys are hesitant to admit being sexually abused because of the pseudo definition of being a MAN we have put before them. “Mard ko dard nahi hota” (Men don’t feel any pain) and “Men don’t cry” are some of the comments hurled at them when a man unveils his hurts. We don’t give any second thought before saying, “Why are you crying like a girl?” when a boy cries because apparently, crying is a “girl thing”, isn’t it?

Child Sexual Abuse

But the main concern here is, how long are we going to wait to stop this? 

When asked about what can be done to prevent sexual abuse, one of the most common answers is “strong law enforcement”. While this too is necessary, I beg to differ.

One of Nirbhaya’s rapists very proudly said before the camera that a girl is far more responsible for rape than the rapist himself. He’s in prison, but does that change anything about how he thinks? The juvenile involved in the case will be released this December. Do you expect him to have had a paradigm shift? He’ll be out on streets, maybe eve-teasing and sexually harassing girls or sexually abusing younger cousins. Before blaming it on the system, have we ever stopped to care about what we are doing about it?

We are doing the perfect thing. 

We protect the girl child in our house and ask her to refrain from befriending too many boys and going out late. We don’t care to teach the boy child to respect fellow females. We allow him to shout at his sister and chuckle saying “boys will be boys”. We let the brother decide whether the girl will wear jeans or salwar-kameez, whether the girl will have a boyfriend or not, when it would be the right time for her to have a smartphone and the list goes on. No, please don’t be surprised. All of these are things I have observed over time. We let the boy have an upper hand over the girl, raising him with an unhealthy sexuality. We allow the girl to be ordered around by the boy, again raising her with an unhealthy sexuality. Don’t you think it allows the assumption among men that young girls are easy targets?

We teach children right from the very beginning of the childhood to “respect and obey the elders.” Good elder or bad elder, who cares? We don’t allow our children to keep a point before us. It is automatically assumed that since the child is talking something we don’t agree with, they’re wrong because of the lack of experience. A logical reply from a child is termed as “answering back”. We don’t care how comfortable our child is with an elder, touching their feet and greeting them is of utmost importance. “Adults are always right.” Don’t you think it makes the child question themselves when an adult decides to sexually abuse them? Don’t you think it makes the adult assume that they will not be questioned even if the sexual abuse is revealed?

We awkwardly change the TV channel when a sanitary napkin or condom advertisement, or a kissing-scene shows up on the TV. We give all kinds of stupid explanations to children when they ask us about what these ads are about, or how are children born. The mere mention of the word “SEX” makes us uncomfortable. Do you think a child will be comfortable in sharing their incident of sexual abuse with you when they perceive that anything related to sex is completely wrong?

We never care to educate our children about sexual abuse. Sexual abuse, are you kidding me? Such things don’t happen in nice families and we certainly belong to the nicest of families. Yes, children can be molested or even raped in news reports, but our own homes? Impossible!
Do you think a child would come to you and talk to you about sexual abuse when they don’t even realize what’s happening?

“Shhh. Now don’t tell it to anyone alright? He’s your grandfather, he won’t ever do such thing. You must be mistaken.” Yes, we say such kinds of things when a child chooses to tell us about their abuse.
Do you think the child will come to you again and tell you about another time they get sexually abused from now on, even if by someone else?

“What’s done is done now. He’s your uncle, we can’t spoil our relations with him. Everyone makes mistakes, don’t they? Just try to ignore him, okay?”
We choose to reply the child with such insensitive responses in case we decide to believe them.
Do you think the child will ever again trust you for their safety?

Child sexual abuse
We teach our children to stay away from strangers and avoid any kind of conversation with them. But we never give a second thought about leaving our kids with people within the family, when in reality, in 90% of the cases the perpetrator is known to the child in some way. Do you think a child will report their sexual abuse to you when they are taught that people in the family can be completely trusted?

We shy away from telling our children what their reproductive organs are called. We give funny names to them instead, or name them nothing at all. Do you think a child will come to you and talk about the violation of one his organs he doesn’t even know how to name? Why can a finger be called a finger but vagina not vagina or penis not penis?

We judge the authenticity of a person by their age, financial status, position and devotion for religion. We seldom question people pioneering in any of these categories. Do you think a child would be able to complain to you about someone who you respect so much?

According to me, the reasons stated above are the ones which foster the growth of sexual abuse the most. We don’t take a moment before putting the blame on the system, while we ourselves are very much responsible for it.

Now the question which arises is, how can sexual abuse be prevented?

How can the children be protected from something that can damage them mentally, emotionally and even physically?

According to my observation and experience, these are some of the ways I feel would be useful in preventing sexual abuse among children :

1. Think twice before trusting an adult (male or female) with your child. Being skeptical is not the key, being alert is. Remember, most of the times sexual abuse happens in our own homes by people we trust.

2. Create a comfort zone for the child so that they can come and speak to you about any problem. 

3. Educate the child about their anatomy, including the private parts and their names.

empowerment of children

   4. Avoid shying away on topics like menstruation, sex and contraceptives. Sex-education is absolutely necessary for the prevention of sexual abuse. 

    5.  Educate the child from early age about “good touch” and “bad touch”. Teach them to immediately protest and make as much noise as possible in case someone touches them on the “danger zones” (chest, armpits, buttocks, vagina, penis).

6. Don’t be hesitant to question an adult if you see their behavior with a child as inappropriate. 

7.  In case a child tells you about being sexually abused, support them and take steps to ensure that it is not repeated. 

8.  Make your child believe that you trust them so that they don’t hesitate to report any such incident to you. 

9. Often children sexually abuse themselves while playing games like house and doctor-doctor. Get alert and intervene if you feel suspicious about any such activity within a game. 

10. Respect the boundaries of children and refrain from touching them in inappropriate areas.

11. Raise your kids of both gender with equality.

12. Observe the comfort of children around adults and in case, a child is not comfortable around a certain, don't force them to interact with that adult.

Remember, most of us are either parents-to-be or already parents. To ensure a good future for the country, isn’t a healthy sexuality and a stable emotional and mental health of the youth necessary?
We know the answers, but we are hesitant to admit them. We’re afraid to look into the mirror and face the reality. Is the denial mode healthy? Is it okay to let children lose their innocence and childhood to the clutches of sexual abuse?

raise your voice


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