Sunday, April 08, 2012

Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month

April is Child Sexual Abuse Awareness month.  

My daughter is a very affectionate child and willingly hugs even people that she has met for the first time and spent just an hour with (if she likes them.)  That is something about her that people find very sweet (and I do too.)  But yet, somewhere deep inside, it worries me.  How do I teach her her limits without scaring her off?

And I worry that since she knows that people love it if she hugs them, does she hug them even though she is not comfortable?  Sometimes, we encourage her to hug, because, come on, hugs are beautiful, and there can never be enough of hugging.  But what if she thinks hugging is the norm?  Should we stop encouraging her to hug people she doesn't know too well, even though we know them well, and she's spent time with them with us around? 

I really don't know. I have no idea where to draw the line.  I don't want to throttle her natural desires.  I guess I can only rely on her good sense, and teach her to respect her body, and be firm about not doing anything that she doesn't want to. 

And if at any time she doesn't want something done to her (hugging, kissing, tickling, even if it is by us, her own parents) then we simply must respect her wish and withdraw immediately. 

And if she ever displays discomfort or hesitation when somebody else is pinching her cheeks or kissing her or pulling her towards them (in our presence) we must not chide her, worrying about what the person will think.  We must encourage her to draw away, if that is what she wants.  And if the person is offended, it is up to us to say something like, "Perhaps she doesn't feel like it, let her be."  For our children, we are the ones they can trust unconditionally.  And if they don't find support when they need it, well..... what do I say?  That's one of the worst situations for a child to find itself in.

With this kind of support, she will realize that she has complete right over her own body, and that she has the final say in it.  And that is perhaps the only way she will learn to respect her body.

Am I being too paranoid?  In this issue, there is probably nothing like being too paranoid.  We as parents must be totally aware and alert about everything that there is to know about child sexual Abuse.

Unfortunately, CSA is more common and prevalent than we think it is.  And a child who has been abused can in some instances, be scarred for life.  So what do we do?  How do we handle it?

The site  or this app  has many pointers and lots of information.  I urge you to spend some time there.

But I will collate all the information that I have gleaned from my study.

Teach your child (both girls and boys are at equal risk.  I'm just using "she" here for convenience.)

- Give your child the Good Touch Bad Touch talk. An example website (there are many more)

A Good Touch - is something that makes you feel good, feel happy.
A Bad Touch - is anything that doesn't make you feel comfortable.

- Tell the child about where it is inappropriate to touch and be touched. 

- In an age-appropriate way, the child must be introduced to the private parts, and must be taught that only certain people are allowed to touch those parts, and that too, only to keep it clean and healthy. 

- She must be taught that if someone needlessly asks her to take off her clothes, she mustn't, and if someone takes off their clothes in front of her, that is wrong too.

- If someone touches her inappropriately, she must immediately stop them, or scream, or run away, and not be with them alone, ever again.

- If anything untoward happens, she must tell her parents immediately. 

- Even if the abuser says that it is a game or a secret, she simply must tell her parents, come what may.  No secrets should be kept from parents.  And this should be literally drilled into the child.

For the parents:

- Unfortunately, child abusers are most often known to the family -  known and trusted.  So you have to make the right decisions about whom to leave your child with.  Preferably, not alone with anybody, and if it is inevitable, drop by unannounced from time to time.

- Keep a watch on your child's behaviour - any behavioural change must not be ignored.

- If the child does come and tell you about an incident
  - react with concern, but remain calm.
  - do NOT react with disbelief.  That could be the worst thing you could ever do.
  - Take action immediately.  Apathy is dangerous.

Please share your tips, and spread the awareness. 


rajk said...

Great post Shruthi. The more awareness there is about this, the better. Though my son is older than Puttachi he is still quite innocent in certain ways and I've taught him CSA. There is a good video out there where a man talks to children about what to do if they feel someone is doing something wrong to them. You'll probably find it on youtube. I'll look and send it to you.

Bhavna said...

Hi Shruthi! I've visited your blog a few times earlier through haathi's blog. I enjoy reading your posts..all the more because i'm mom to an 18-month old boy.

CSA is something that was never spoken about until a few years ago.Good post. It gives me sleepless nights to think of what I could possibly do to keep eye when my kid starts going to school or starts having a life of his own.

you can visit (totally dated though).

Anonymous said...

I love kids. I am a guy (recently married) and will definitely have kids in the near future.

2-3 years ago, a guy was arrested and charged for trying to rescue a girl child in England in a park. The guy tried to help the child stand up when she fell or something of the sort. The parents charged the man with sexually abusing the girl and he was arrested and there was a lot of news coverage regarding that. He was finally released without any charges after someone filmed the incident uploaded the video on youtube! What if there was no video?

Since that incident, it seems that men in England stay away from children even when they are in danger of injury, for the fear of being branded a paedophile!

I dont know what the solution is. But modern society is a mess. I wouldn't know what to do when a child falls in front of me. I would instinctively want to grab and rescue the child, but something might stop me and other men. Sad.

anoop said...

be aware that CSA mostly takes place when your kid is with other older (juvenile/teenage) kids, relations included. yes, and leaving them un-supervised for a long time is a bad idea.

you are a smart mom, im sure you will manage this.

JayEnAar said...

Wow, Shruthi! that's something! You've taken a sensitive, almost taboo subject, and dealt with it like a pro, but from the perspective of a mother. Kids are precious they need to explore and enjoy the world but even a beautiful world can sometimes be a mean and harsh place. It can be tough being a parent, and finding the balance between protecting children from danger and letting them grow up and learn for themsleves can appear almost impossible. Your essay on the topic of CSA is a great help. Well done!

Shruthi said...

RajK, can you give me the link? I tried looking, but I wasn't too sure which one.

Bhavna, don't worry too much. Just be aware and alert!

Anon, that is very sad. And such incidents are unfortunate byproducts of a paranoid society. Well, we just have to use our judgement at that moment...

Anoop, thanks for your confidence in me ;)

JayEnAar Kaka, thank you. I'm glad you think this will be useful - serves my purpose.

Radhika said...

Shruthi, very useful post. You've touched upon a sensitive topic which we mostly feel 'only happens to others' and not us. These days, schools have started talking about it. The Hindu's Young World carried a small writeup last year, which explained in simple words as to what is bad and good touch. While with our explanation we may be confusing or scaring the child, reading out the article, was taken easily by my daughter. Thanks for the post.

praneshachar said...

Satya meva jayathe TV show anchored by Aamir Khan a week back was superb
Aamir explains, "There are three areas in your body where you must not let anyone touch you - Chest, between the legs and back (Bottom)".
Every child identifies a protector, BE ONE. Spread the message and don't let your child be a victim of Child Sexual Abuse
victims who are grown up and are well settled now coming out and narrating the experiences was just appreciable as it throws open what all can happen and how ,,,,,,, super Aamir Khan hats off to you

Aarthi said...

Read this post now....thanks! I came to this post from your post on July 18th 2014..Our Children's safety. Made me extremely sad how inhuman one can get....really? that is all the strength one has. Have a lot of people stopped thinking at all?

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