The number of child abuse cases coming to light seem to be increasing at an alarming rate. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, every hour, 4 children in India suffer from abuse. Often, in the same day’s newspaper, more than one child abuse incident is reported. Moreover, these cases are not restricted to a particular gender or economic class. In fact, contrary to popular perception, young boys are at a higher risk of sexual abuse than girls.
No parent feels secure today. Many parents are worried when they leave their child alone even in safe or secure places. I have an eight year old son, and whenever he goes down to play in our apartment complex, one part of me is always worried. This is despite the fact that I live in a gated community, where strangers are not allowed in without permission and small children are not allowed to go out on their own. This is in such stark contrast to our own childhoods, where we played outside our homes fearlessly and our parents were assured of our safe return.
Living in such times, the FIRST THING that we as parents should know is WHAT CONSTITUTES CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE. Most people erroneously believe it be only physical abuse. Inappropriate gestures or sounds with sexual intent, making a child watch objectionable content, all come under the category of abuse. It involves mental, physical and emotional abuse of a child through overt and covert sexual acts.
The NEXT most important thing is to MAKE YOUR CHILD AWARE OF ABUSE. Even a small child can understand the difference between private parts of the body and good and bad touch. I attended a workshop on sexuality during my college days, where during a session on child abuse, someone shared a very interesting anecdote. One of her friends had taught their young child about private parts and told her that if anyone other than her own parents touched her there, she should just yell, “Don’t touch my booboo”!!! Admittedly, it led to some fun and embarrassing moments, but the parents were at least secure in the knowledge that their child could scream out if required. Next, tell your child not to keep any secrets from mommy and daddy. This is important because typically, the perpetrator convinces the child that this is a secret between the two of them. Finally, parents should always keep channels of communication very strong between them and their children. It is only then that children will feel secure sharing their fears or negative experiences and emotions. For slightly older children – preteens and teens, it is important that parents start discussing sensitive issues such as attraction, crushes, relationships, sex and abuse. Children need to know that they have a right to say no when they are not comfortable in any situation. And also to not give in to peer pressure.
THIRDLY, be able to recognize any signs of sexual abuse in your child. I think it is important to be aware of any cues the child may be giving – any change in behavior, refusal to go to any particular place or meet a certain person, any kind of pain or any bruises on the body should not be ignored. Other symptoms could include insomnia, bed wetting, a clingier than normal child, or a child who is withdrawn. Guilt and shame or confusion are very common feelings a child might go through. A parent, sensitive to the child’s subtle changes will be able to recognize such feelings more easily.
It is also important to be aware that the ‘abuser’ can be lurking anywhere – in our homes, in our housing complexes, in schools or in public places – in the form of friendly uncles, household help, guards, conductors, even friends or older peers – you name it. It is well known that most cases of sexual abuse happen with people whom the child knows.
In this scenario schools and day care centres become very important in partners in children’s safety and security. A child spends more time at these institutions than at home. It is natural for parents to want to ensure that the safety measures being taken are sufficient. There are a number of things that schools can do safeguard their students against child abuse.
The first and foremost and also the easiest is to put in place physical infrastructure that can prevent abuse. Simple measures such as CCTV cameras in various parts of the school can be an obvious deterrent. Ensuring that support staff such as drivers, conductors, administrative department etc. are not allowed access to the school wing and have facilities that are separate from those of the students can also go a long way in enhancing security. Ideally there should also be a separation between senior students and the younger ones. Many young teenagers can also become perpetrators. School buses can also have CCTV cameras and any change in bus staff should be duly informed to the parents. A lot of the newer schools already have many of these facilities in place. Many day care centres allow parents access to live footage of the babies. Moreover, schools should have a no tolerance policy in cases of child abuse.
Secondly, it is important to educate both teachers and students about sexual abuse. This should be taught in all classes and children should be encouraged to reach out to an elder in times of difficulty. There should be anonymous helplines in place as well as counsellors in school. Schools should also put posters across the school, so that the issue of child sexual abuse does not become taboo to talk about. Teachers should also be trained about recognizing potential perpetrators as well as how to respond if a child approaches them or they observe a case of child abuse.
Finally, as a society, it is important that we act in a concerted manner against the menace of child abuse – be gentle and responsive parents, alert citizens and responsible educators and care givers. It is important to break the silence around the issue and mainstream the discussion so that more and more parents and therefore their children become aware of child abuse and prevent such cases. As a society we should be able to raise confident and secure children, children who live in safety and are free to reach their true potential.
This article was first published in April 2018 issue of The Education Insights
Thank you Sakshi, this is a great share. I honestly believe that most of us do not know how to handle or bring up this issue, unfortunately.
No matter how heart wrenching, gut wrenching it might be, child sexual abuse is a heinous crime that needs to be talked about. Great and enlightening post!
thanks! please do share so that more people become aware.
This topic is always confronting, because we don’t want it to be happening. Watching out for the signs, educating our children and keeping the communication open is so important!
true. please share so that more people are aware.
THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS! I watch so many documentaries about this and it BREAKS MY HEART. Thanks for spreading awareness!
glad you liked this. please do share.
This is such an important topic that of course need more awareness. the stat of child abuse are really scary and cause parental anxiety too. I agree making our kids informed and teach them basics that you have mentioned in the post, can make a huge difference in overall situation.
It’s so true that most of the people we trust with our chidlren can cause more harm. You have highlighted some good points. We really need to make our chidlren aware and have them yell rather than remain silent and bear the shame.
Children are vulnerable. Those who are sexually abused have the misfortune to be in the presence of perpetrators with no one was there to protect them. The specter of child sexual abuse is frightening to parents and caring adults.
Though talking about child abuse gives us chills of disgust. It is do very important to talk and educate our kids about it. Glad you touched this topic.
The topic is a serious one to discuss No way we want this to happen to any child on this earth. educate kids about sexual abuse and keeping communication open with adults and parents in special may reduce the % of child abuse cases.
Children are vulnerable and easy target. It’s very important to educate them and trained them to protect against abuse. This is such a heart aching topic.
Sexual abuse to kids has increased these days and that actually irritates me . Glad you explained about this topic. Every child should know required amount of sex education.
Sex education is needed to be imparted as soon as a child starts communicating. The importance of the knowledge of good touch and bad touch is very necessary to understand. Also, we as elders should be more attentive to what the child is trying to communicate. We often ignore their signals.
It is sad that today we act to make our kids aware of these issues way earlier than their age. But as parents, it is our responsibility to teach them in their understandable language without scaring them.
It is such a painful topic and was so taboo at one time. I have been a victim but I was quiet as we didn’t have that open relationship with our parents. Communication is the key and a protective atmosphere. Joint families were good but the underlying currents were surely there.
Teaching kids the right touch and the bad touch and making them feel confident is major responsibility of the parents. You are right that we played fearlessly in our times, we just need to assure our children that we will listen to them without being judgemental and always support them, then only the initial hesitation will go.
Thanks for this. People should also understand the different ways of abuse so they can inform their kids about the same. Mental abuse is the worst. Sometimes you don’t even know what’s happening until it gets too much to handle.
I think no crime can be as gruesome and sad as CSA. Statistics of CSA are on the rise. Raising awareness, educating our kids and supporting them can help big time. Kudos to you for doing your bit in raising awareness for this menace!
Good touch and bad touch is something which is introduced in school at very early age. This is much needed in today’s time as it make kids aware. And this is not just the responsibility of a school but for parents too.
We are living in an era when kids as young as 5 are not even spared. Making them aware is so important
Awareness about child sexual abuse is a necessity. We should not underestimate our kids. They understood better.
Child abuse is a topic that gives a chill down the spine and yet becoming common these days. The kids should know whom to approach
This is such awesome post and so very well written this topic is so very important though many people(parents) don’t know how to deal with it .Much needed for everyone to read.