I meet many proactive parents who have already spoken with their children regarding ‘safe touch’ and ‘unsafe touch’.
That’s a great first step! Now, the question is, what will a child do if the abuse doesn’t involve any touch?
For most parents, the conversation on abuse starts and stops at telling the child that no one should touch their private body parts. However, what they neglect to include, in this discussion, are the other forms of sexual abuse that are just as rampant, if not more. For instance, if someone:
1. Clicks their picture in the nude
2. Makes them watch pornographic material
3. Makes sexual comments or gestures
4. Shows their own private parts to the child
Will the child even know that they need to report this to an adult? Chances are, they won’t. Or at the very least, it’s likely to be confusing since they have been told only about ‘unsafe touch’. But, we can’t expect children to act on information they haven’t been given. So, while giving safety-related information to the child, do include a discussion of unsafe behaviours that don’t involve physical contact!
My favourite is this comprehensive and precise rule coined by the team at Arpan (an NGO):
“It’s not okay for someone to touch, look at or talk about my private body parts, except to keep me clean and healthy. It’s not okay for someone to ask me to touch, look at or talk about their private body parts.”
Therefore, the next time you broach the topic with your child, don’t forget to expand the conversation from ‘unsafe touch’ to ‘unsafe behaviours’. Apart from ensuring that they understand the various kinds of abusive behaviours, this can sometimes help incidents of abuse come to light, before they progress to more severe forms.
A version of this post first appeared here.
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@example.com. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.