Every second child in India is a victim of sexual abuse, and this is not just a figure of speech. Official statistics* state that more than 53% children in India are exposed to some form of sexual abuse and most of them never report it to a parent or a guardian. Yet, we as a nation remain surprisingly tight-lipped over the subject.
A comment from a fellow activist prompted me to write this blog. She observed that our “sanskars” prevent Indian parents from having an open dialogue with their children. Blasphemous as it may sound, the biggest reason an abuser takes advantage of a child is because his/her parents failed to abuse-proof the child. Which leads to the obvious question — Can we raise abuse-proof, empowered children?
The answer is a resounding YES!
The solution is simpler than you imagine — Educate, Communicate & Empower.
1. Educate yourself on the psyche of a child molester:
The molester could be a man, woman or teenager. Could be single or married, homosexual or heterosexual, most often a friend or family member. Paradoxically, the person causing damage to your child is often someone you trust. Financial and educational background doesn’t matter – this person can be a domestic aid or a corporate executive. (Sometimes the Devil does wear Prada)
Basically, anyone can be a child molester and since there is no way you can identify them on the basis of their appearance, you must understand their psyche.
The molester begins by gaining the trust of your child (and yours too). He/She gets to know their likes and dislikes very well. This person often buys goodies, treats and gifts for your child. He/She tries to get alone time with them. They will go to the extent of touching your child in your presence so the child gets the (wrong) message that it is OK for them to do so in private too.
Molesters are smooth operators who prey on a child’s feeling of guilt, fear or shame. They even go to the extent of manipulating a kid to believe that this is somehow the kid’s fault.
What you can do to avoid this:
2. Communicate With your child:
a) Keep all lines of communication open with your child. If there is lack of communication between parents and children, the Molester takes advantage of the situation to further isolate the child.
b) Teach your child the difference between the ‘good touch’ (like a mother’s hug) and a ‘bad touch’ (anyone touching their private parts).
c) Since you can’t tell who is a molester and who is harmless, discourage people you are not too sure of from seating your child in their lap as a preventive step.
d) Tell your child that it is not OKÂ for anyone to touch their private parts and if someone does so, they must report it to you immediately.
e) Never let anyone crack a dirty joke in your child’s presence.
Signs you must take note of:
– Child remains angry all the time
– Cries a lot or remains depressed
– Tries to avoid being with a certain elder
– Is unusually attached to a certain elder and tries to protect them
– Seems withdrawn and doesn’t communicate
3. Empower your child:
Let your children know that you are there for them no matter what, and mean it. Trust a child when he/she complains to you. It takes a lot of courage for them to speak up and if you take them lightly, they may not approach you again.
Most importantly, if you find out, do raise your voice and confront the molester. Such people are serial offenders and if not confronted, they will find another prey. Public humiliation is the only thing that will stop a molester.
The question remains – will we continue to live in denial or will each one of us find the courage to break social stereotype and have a heart-to-heart talk with our children?
(1098 is a free emergency child helpline number)
*(Ref: 2007 report by UNICEF & Ministry of Child and Women Development)
If you are a survivor, parent or guardian who wants to seek help for child sexual abuse, or know someone who might, you can dial 1098 for CHILDLINE (a 24-hour national helpline) or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.