There is a very thin line between power and pleasure.
#MeToo created waves on social media, and for once we realised that right now it is anything but a silenced conversation. It is a clarion call for women and men who have been sexually abused. The responses have been overwhelming in terms of number and the harrowing details.
While adults go through hell after being sexually abused, imagine how it is when the children are targetted. The conversations with children about the sexual abuse they go through are still hushed up as they hurt the adult relationships of the parents, especially those with their family and friends.
Little children — from the age of a few months onwards — have been victims of child sexual abuse. There are stories abundant of helpless children, caught completely unaware by familiar friendly faces, which give them ghastly experiences and scar their minds for the rest of their lives; infants who bleed to death after abuse; children who have been thrown away into bushes after being raped and killed; toddlers who have been burnt after sexual abuse, so that no trace is left of the perpetrator — why have these children been abused? What have they done to deserve this?
Are we to believe that there is any dearth of awareness about the issue or attempts to stop prospective rapists? Is there any dearth of organized sexual outlets where the abusers may take care of their needs and desires? Is it necessary to victimize helpless, innocent children? Does sexual abuse give the perpetrator the pleasure he seeks? The thought of hurting a child or violating a toddler for the sexual pleasure or gratification of an adult is deeply disturbing.
This brings us to the opening line of this blog: does pleasure emanate from power, or does power generate pleasure? The act of overpowering an innocent child and force them into a sexual activity is clearly done from a perspective and position of power. It cannot be equated, under any circumstances, with a sexual activity where an equally consensual partner is involved, whose response to and participation in the activity is equivalent to yours.
There are some interesting articles for the curious mind to explore, which attempt to answer the question: why does an adult find paedophilia exciting? Please do read the articles here and here. While finding a logic or a rationale behind the act might satiate the intellectual mind, does it really help to curb this crime?
Awareness about the damage child sexual abuse causes to the child and their surroundings, might. Such abuse by adults is often carried out with the strong hope and conviction that the child will forget about the abuse. The caregivers and the family also shove it all under the carpet with the same hope — that the child will forget — while the reality is that the child never forgets; every last detail remains etched in their minds.
A child is an adult in the making. The scar, if not healed, gets bigger and worse with time. We thought we’d ask some friends who have been sexually abused as children about their experiences and memories, and gained some valuable insight into the phenomenon for our readers.
Sexual abuse is done mostly by men to little girls and boys. Often an uncle, an older sibling, a close cousin, a father figure, or even the father himself takes advantage of the fact that the child trusts them and allows them proximity to themselves. The children are then lured, threatened, and further manipulated to be engaged or forced into sexual activity by these people. This is a fact that one in five girls and one in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. For recent statistics, please check the link here.
The numbers are alarming.
A child, when abused, typically feels no shame, because they have not known how people define shame or honour yet. All that they feel is confusion, and often a state of dumbfoundedness, that they feel should be shared with their parent/sibling/caregiver. Now, the caregiver should know how to take care of the child from thereon instead of hitting, shouting, or shaming them — reactions which stem from their perception of social honour.
But that is not what the child needs then. The child needs affectionate words, followed by immediate medical attention, counselling, and immense love and support from the caregivers both in words and in action.
Giving love and support, among other things, also means that the child has to be told clearly that they haven’t done anything wrong, and that the caregivers trust what the child shares. It is sheer ignorance and stupidity for an adult to imagine that a child would lie about a sexual activity which they have never experienced before in their life.
The very first time that a child shares that they are not comfortable about sitting on the lap of, or kissing, or hugging someone, the caregivers must make a note of it, and empower the child to refuse to participate in such an act of ‘affection’, or to run away from their presence if so required.
The child has to be assured that the caregivers will try their best to ensure that the perpetrator will be punished so that no such incident happens again. For a child, the world is still a lot about black and white, rewards and punishments, so letting the child know that the perpetrator will be punished gives some relief and confidence to the child — a much-needed consolation in the post-traumatic recuperation period for the child.
Meanwhile, it is important to keep an eye on the child during the post-traumatic period and to connect and engage deeply with them to be able to build trust again in the mind of the child. This will also help the child to open up and narrate the incident once or twice to their caregivers, which can be digitally recorded with the permission of the child so that they are never forced to narrate the incident again and again.
Unless the child wants to talk about it and ask questions to understand what had happened, they must never be made to relive the experience. The process of healing can be long or short; it is unpredictable. All that is known is that trust and love get the child going on their path again.
So far, we have spoken about children who face sexual violence. What about the adults who commit sexual violence? How can we reach out to them and make them aware of the damage they cause? How do we ask them to stop?
Adults who engage in sexual abuse are often victims of child abuse and neglect. It is a continuous process of churning out a series of rape survivors, and molested, neglected, and emotionally abused children who later become abusers as adults. To curb the formation of more abusers and bullies, we, as parents or caregivers, need to create a wholesome ambience where they learn to love and respect all human beings, ignoring the factors that differentiate them. This is what will eventually bring about the necessary changes that we want to see in our children, as well as in the adults that they will grow up to be.
Every change begins with an early intervention in life. Children as the adults-in-the-making need to be made aware of the word ‘consent’, and the difference between ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’. One’s pleasure cannot be a cause for pain for another — this is a very basic tenet that needs to be taught and understood by both children and adults. To relate, please watch a relevant video here.
Child sexual abuse is the most ‘silent’ crime in this world. And if we further hush it up, we are breeding another generation of abusers, sexual or otherwise, who have not much respect for either individuals or for their human rights.
If you are a parent and are reading this, please take the crucial step of abandoning that special friend/uncle/relation who has broken the trust of the child and violated them sexually or by touch, word or glance. Otherwise, your silence will embolden the abuser further.
If it is the fear of social stigma, of letting the world know what your child has gone through that is bothering you, then fight it. Let that not overcome your love for your child, and your duty to do right by them. Let your child’s safety and well-being be your first priority, not keeping up appearances with your child’s abuser for the sake of social niceties, old friendships, or family relations.
Give it a thought. Let us work together in making the world safer for our children, and our stay in this world as purposeful and meaningful as we possibly can.