Train your kids to:
- Confront the perpetrator
- Confide in you
Sexual abuse victims span a huge spectrum of age, class, socio-economic status and circumstances – I am prioritizing children because of the following reasons:
- They are at the mercy of others for their care
- They are the ones who will most often not complain so you don’t even know that they are suffering
WhoVictim: A study1 conducted by Union Ministry of Women and Child Development (India) presents stark statistics:
- At least 53% of children have suffered at least some form of sexual abuse and that boys and girls are equally vulnerable – this means every other kid you see or talk to has experienced or is experiencing sexual abuse
- 50% of the time, the abuser was someone known to the child
- 53% of the abused were boys. It is a gross misconception that boys need not be fussed over when it comes to sexual abuse.
It is a vicious circle – since most child abuse happens within the apparent safe confines of family and friends – they are the least reported lest they should break family ties. The victims are just expected to grow up and gradually forget what happened.
The Bollywood movie ‘Monsoon Wedding’ captures this dark truth quite realistically – except for the ending – it is hard to believe that, if an elder of the family is caught red-handed, he will be boycotted by the family (which is what happens in the movie).
WhatOur linguistic capabilities suggest we qualify sexual crimes and put them in ‘minor’ to ‘major’ categories. On the contrary, any kind of abuse is a violation of a child’s trust and an attempt to forever mar his / her self-worth. Sometimes, after a kid has courageously spoken about his / her ordeal, the elders try to marginalize the crime because it was just ‘groping’ and not ‘rape’. Any intrusion without their will is unacceptable and we should not look for justification before deciding to act.
What you can do to stop itUsually the broken links of communication are threefold:
- First, when the child is not able to say ‘no’ to abuse – either due to lack of education or due to fear of being blamed for it
- Second when the child is not courageous enough to confide in someone after the fact
- Third, when the person in whom the child has confided, does not take appropriate action against the culprit – this situation often arises when the offender is a close relative
Here are some measures to avoid kids’ sexual abuse:Preventive techniques – apply to both parents and teachers. These measures may help you minimize the risk of your kids getting exposed to abuse in the first place.
- Start educating your children about sexual organs early on, and train them to say no to unsolicited advances from anyone
- Do not trust your children with anyone – always be aware of their whereabouts and watch over them – this may mean that you will have to sacrifice that late night movie for which you had planned to drop your kids at a friend’s house
- The most important lesson for the parents is that it is OK to distrust a well-intentioned person than to make the mistake of trusting an ill-intentioned one. When it comes to your children, it is OK to make blanket judgments and committing the error of false positives.
Your kids’ childhood is sacrosanct and no one should take priority over itRemedial techniques – these measures should help you minimize the negative impact on your child once he / she has already faced abuse and confided in you.
- Listen attentively to your child and instill the trust in him / her that you will take corrective action against the perpetrator – regardless of the person’s links to family / community
- Follow through on your promise of taking corrective action – the child is now looking to you to be the protector – confiding in you was the biggest step the child has taken. Do not ignore the problem and definitely do not act like nothing has happened.
- Of course for the above to have happened (for your kid to muster courage and talk to you) would have warranted your being approachable and having developed an open relationship with your child that will enable them to come to you regarding such issues.
2. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. 2000 Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement. 2000 – http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/saycrle.pdf