“Let’s raise children who wont have to recover from their childhoods.” —Pam Leo
As every other parent the things I want to tell my child is a never ending list. A few weeks ago for the #MomsForABetterWorld initiative I had to prioritise and re-order this list and I wasn't surprised that Awareness about Child Sexual Abuse topped my list.
Almost every person I have talked to about this has recalled some or the other incident of some kind of abusive behaviour they have witnessed or experienced as a child. So I am sure this is an issue even larger than we can ever imagine.
I have always hated the festival of Holi because I was once forcefully coloured by an inebriated neighbour, a friend hates chocolates because her uncle would make her kiss him for those, an online friend recalls how horrified she was when as a child a grown up relative exposed himself to her.
These are real incidents that may/may not damage the child physically but leave deep scars for the rest of their lives, we cannot even imagine the horror a childhood becomes when abuse is persistent and under the covers for years.
India is still largely a traditional country where issues related to sexuality are largely taboo.A large number of our children are still made to view their bodies with shame and fear. We rarely speak about bodily functions openly and our social setup does not bar unsolicited physical contact like hugging or patting on the back.
We have a country where toilets are still unavailable to a large number of children making them even more vulnerable and easily accessible to sexual predators.
A lot of parents from my generation are shy to speak about touch and pleasure to our children because we were brought up in times when even mothers or teachers would not talk about even mensuration or puberty.
Often parents think its too early to talk to children about it but the sooner they know the better. Also it happens to only girls is a huge myth- all children, boys and girls run a huge risk of facing abuse.
The only way we can protect our children is by educating them about sexuality in an age -appropriate manner without scaring them
The increasing number of sexual crimes against children and the alarming trend that most often the perpetrators are people known to the child and the family makes it even more imperative that our children are aware of the risk and know what to do when.
Here are a few things that I often repeat with my six year old :
My Dear P,
- Our private parts need to be named and these are just like our other parts but private because we do not talk about them in public or show them in public.
- Always remember good touch and bad touch, try to know the difference between a simple/normal hug and an uncomfortable hug.
- Even when you feel the slightest physical discomfort with any person run and tell a parent /teacher immediately.
- You and me keep no secrets especially the ones that hurt.
- Say NO to physical contact whenever you are uncomfortable. Go offend the world, all I care about is your comfort and safety.
- Use your vocabulary well, use and know words and actions like cuddle, hug, kiss, hold, rub, show to indicate anything inappropriate.
- Know that whenever you report any such incident or even intuition YOUR version will always be trusted by me, I am here to listen even if at first it sounds funny or awkward.
- You can dial 1098 (CSA Helpline) and seek help for yourself or a friend whom you feel needs help.
A few reminders for myself and all other parents:
- If our child is a survivor of sexual abuse he/she or us have no reason to be ashamed about it.
- No tradition or family honour is greater than the childhood of a child so speak up , whatever the odds.
- Stand by your child ,only love can heal even the deepest wounds.
- We can prevent our children from being silent victims.
We need to be a loud and clear collective voice Against Child Sexual Abuse. Yes maybe awareness alone would not prevent all incidents of abuse but by speaking about it openly, strongly and clearly we are initiating a social avalanche that may save a lot of our children from suffering in silence.
This post is a part of #MomsForABetterWorld Blogger Contest at Women's Web.