By Lakshmi Pramod:
A relationship between a mother and child takes deep root right from the point of conception. As time passes, the bond gets stronger and infinite trust defines their relation. However, no matter how close they are, at times, a child hesitates to discuss everything with parents. A highly sensitive and common issue all parents face today is molestation or sexual harassment of their children. Very often the mother is blamed for not ‘sensing’ it earlier or not educating her child the right way as expected. The horrendous question that comes to the fore is “What exactly is the right way to educate your child?” or “When do you start educating your child on such sensitive topics?”
Surprisingly in the case of the capital New Delhi, it seems that 97% of rapes are committed in homes and we expect women and children to feel safe at home. “Child sexual abuse is the deliberate exposure of a minor child to sexual activity that the child cannot comprehend or consent to. This means a child is forced or talked into sex or sexual activities by another person.” Fondling of a child’s private parts or exposing the private parts of a child to others are all different forms of child sexual abuse.
What makes it worse is the increase in brutality involved. In 2013, there was a story of a horrific incident involving two drunk men who watched porn and then lured a 5-year-old girl playing in her neighbourhood to a room in the building where she stayed and repeatedly raped her. A detailed examination revealed glass pieces in her vaginal orifice. What could have led to such dreadful actions? The culprits said it was an attempt to stem the profuse bleeding. Incidents of the male child being sodomised are also on the rise. News of teenagers being drugged or raped in public transport or left to die on railway tracks after such heinous acts is quite common today. Waves of anger and hurt arose with ‘Nirbhaya’ but have we achieved anything favourable with regard to female safety?
Earlier, parents only had to guard their children against rape. Today with technology and the internet holding sway over our lives, child pornography is another evil that has reared its head in our midst. Another common problem that people avoid discussing or is considered taboo is incest. Incest is the crime of having sexual intercourse with a parent, child, sibling, or grandchild.
In 2013, completed trials on child sexual abuse stood at a pitiful 15% of the reported cases. The situation appears worse when one realises the conviction rate for child rape and sexual assault stands at a dismal 31.5%. More than 85% of such cases are still pending in courts with no deadlines for conviction. Eight cases of sex crimes against children are reported every day on an average in the capital. The number of convictions out of such a high number is 166 that is a meagre 2.4% of the total registered cases. Besides, in 389 cases the accused was acquitted. Knowing all this the victim’s family decides to either withdraw the case or brood in silence as if the physical humiliation isn’t enough.
What do these alarming figures signify? For a layman, it means a child abuser is lurking around every corner. How would you know letting your daughter free to pursue her innocent games of childhood will not have fatal repercussions? Does it mean the modern mother has not taught her child about the harsh realities of child abuse early enough, what with three-year-olds or even kindergarten kids being molested, raped or brutally killed in schools or their own locality by neighbours and relatives?
A recent online article in The Huffington Post caught my attention which mentioned that an eight-year-old girl in Delhi pretended to be dead to avoid being brutally killed by her rapist. He kept pinching her to check if she had died and on finding her unresponsive he fled the scene. She managed to reach home but had been injured and raped when she was playing outside her house. Many such incidents, various stories which would definitely arouse sympathy, are frequently reported.
Honestly, signing online petitions, holding candle marches and holding talk shows might spread the news, enrage the public but seem not to be solving the issue at all. Celebrities like Kalki Koechlin have admitted to being sexually abused as children. Actor Rahul Bose, present in that conference, responded saying that child sexual abuse is a mammoth issue but talking about it is considered taboo. The subject doesn’t find a lot of space in cinematic portrayal too except for some isolated efforts like documentary filmmaker Sanjay Kumar Singh’s ‘Chuppi Todo – Break the Silence’ or filmmaker Onir’s ‘Abhimanyu’.
Maybe, being a bit more alert, telling a kid the moment he or she begins to understand the difference between a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ touch would help. It is easier said than done but I feel if computers and dance can be included in the curriculum in grade three, why not such educational subjects too? Firstly, parents need to understand that their child needs to communicate freely with them. No matter how busy their modern lifestyle is, no matter how burdensome the household chores are, give your child the time to speak out his or her mind.
Don’t take any mention of incidents of touching or feeling lightly, no matter who the child is talking about. Trust your child first because he or she trusts you to take care of them. Monitor the daycare or school your child attends closely and be attentive to the teacher who mentions any change in the mood or behavior of your usually cheerful and bubbly child. Teach your child never to accept the overtures of perverts known or unknown to them. The child may not be able to react then and there, but he or she must find a sympathetic ear in his or her parents when he or she gets home.
Do not blame the child’s habits or clothes if you feel helpless to react properly. Never let your child feel they are imagining things or ask them to ignore something which they may not be comfortable with. Very often ignoring the obvious today does irreparable damage tomorrow. These are some tiny steps one could take to ensure that their child is both free and safe.
Featured image credit: Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images.