As he sipped a cappuccino, his respectable appearance and poised posture were enough to fool everyone in the room but the children. If only the grown-ups could see through his facade and notice the sheer discomfort of the kids when they were around him, then their childhoods might have been significantly different. The truth was that this respectable man was a paedophile and his victims were none other than his niece and two nephews.
As kids, we are made to believe that the safest place for us is our own home and the safest people are our own family members. But with every visit from their uncle, that belief gradually began to crumble. The children found it difficult to speak up. To cast doubt on the motivations of their uncle’s visits was forbidden. After all, their uncle was a gregarious man with an air of sophistication. Why would he not be welcomed warmly? Everyone thought he was staying at his cousin’s because he had to stay in the city for business trips.
Slowly, the children became desensitised to this routine trauma. They had no other option but to indulge their uncle in games of hide-and-seek where their uncle would always be the seeker. There were many questions the children had after such games but answers could be sought from nowhere. After all, they were only kids. They were not considered old enough to be questioning things. Meanwhile, their uncle would always bribe them with candies to keep their mouths sealed.
It is not considered socially appropriate to discuss paedophilia but it can be just as traumatising as any other act of molestation. There are many aunts, uncles, siblings, and other close family members who indulge in such acts but our society turns a blind eye to it. Why are we ready to comply with the needs of a paedophile over the safety of our own children? Being a victim of paedophilia can have tremendous impact one one’s mental well-being and it can last way beyond one’s childhood.
Paedophilia is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, as a paraphilic disorder. It is possible to diagnose paraphilic disorders. Paedophilia is considered a taboo topic by society but this leads to victims suffering in silence.
The need of the hour is to bring paedophilia under the spotlight. If we don’t shatter the taboo around the topic, then victims will have to keep suffering in silence. Moreover, it may allow those who are experiencing such urges, but are yet to act upon them, to seek treatment from therapists and psychiatrists.
Also, child molesters need not always be paedophiles. A recent survey found that sexual abusers of children may belong to any of these four categories:
However, even considering this, another study found that 88% of child sexual abuse is committed by paedophiles. By breaking the taboo around paedophilia, we can take steps towards preventing such acts before they take place. We already know where to take the first step – our own homes and neighbourhoods.
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 [email protected] You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.