The truth about the statistics of child sexual abuse in India is not easy to digest. With every second child having experienced sexual abuse of some sort, today it is more important than ever to make childhood safe. Our Voix, a non-profit organisation, has set forth on the mission to spread awareness about child sexual abuse and work towards its primary prevention. The organisation conducts workshops for children and parents in schools, slums and societies and has so far covered over 4,000 children in four months.
Continuing to spread awareness to more children, a workshop was conducted on June 10, 2018, in Karol Bagh for the children of a slum near Liberty Cinema. We started with ice-breaking activities to get to know the children and make them comfortable with the volunteers. I was allotted a group of five children having contrasting personalities ranging from a shy girl who didn’t speak a word during the whole workshop to a boy who was jumping around the whole time and named our group ‘Super Bheem’.
The workshop began with asking children the powers of different cartoon characters to make them realize their own power, the power of their body! The concept of power makes these workshops unique. Informing the children about the various parts of their bodies, we moved towards informing them about their private parts and the types of touch. While the children knew that good touch would involve acts as shaking hands and giving a friend a hi-five, the information of bad touch was just limited to hitting and abusing others. The children were taught that bad touch also involved anyone touching their private parts, except for their mother and doctors in the presence of the parents.
But what if anyone touches you in these parts? When asked this question, the children answered with responses such as “Kaat ke bhaag jaenge (We’ll bite them and run away)”, “Maar denge unhe (We’ll beat them up)”, “Police ko bulaenge (We’ll call the police)” and “CID ko bhi bula sakte hai (We can call the CID too)”. We taught the children of their power of shouting ‘no’. This should be the first response to being touched in any private part, followed by running to a safe place such as their homes or if the incident had taken place at their home then running out of the home. They were taught to inform their parents, grandparents, elder siblings, teachers, or any elder they could trust until someone listens to them.
With the example of a girl Pari, we enacted an instance where no one was available to hear out what Pari had to say. In such a situation, the children were informed to call the police. The children knew the 100 number but were unaware of the childline helpline number, 1098. We recited “Das no aath (Ten nine eight)” with the children to make them remember the helpline number.
Often, the children who are being sexually abused are blackmailed into keeping it a secret either by offers of gifts or by threats. An incident was narrated to the children of a boy who, after being sexually abused was offered a bag of chocolates to keep it a secret. When asked what should the boy do in this situation, the responses given by the children were mixed with one girl saying that the boy should not tell anyone and keep it a secret. The children were taught that there were no secrets when it came to someone touching their private body parts and they should use the power of their voice to speak aloud about the abuse.
After the workshop, we sat with our groups and went over the information learnt in the workshop, also telling the children about non-touch sexual abuse. Four of my ‘Super Bheems’ remembered the children helpline number but I had to revise the names of the private parts. We promised each other to be vigilant about our surroundings and to take care of ourselves and our friends. With a bunch of selfies and photographs, the session came to an end.
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.