Editor’s Note : Child sexual abuse is a very sensitive topic and we have tried to deal it with as objectively as possible. It is a topic that makes most people uncomfortable but given the facts, we can’t have an ostrich approach and lend a blind eye to this prevalent social issue. Please share this post and comment to spread the awareness as much as possible.
April is considered Child Sexual Abuse Awareness month, when organizations across the world spread awareness about various kinds of child abuse and how, as a community, we can protect our children and help them lead safe, healthy lives.
If we talk of Child abuse in India, government statistics estimate that nearly 53% of children have been abused at some stage in their lives. Many cases of abuse are from family members or people known to the child, which makes it even more important to make our children aware, along with protecting them externally.
Indian schools offer very little help here – many state governments even oppose sex education. While the discussion goes on, we, as parents, need to get over regressive attitudes and find a way out ourselves. However, most parents get stuck at this question – “How exactly do we start this conversation?”
There are several relevant resources out there to help you. Here we list out some ways you can begin making your child aware – through direct talk, books, videos and websites.
How To Educate Your Child About Child Abuse
1. Set the right environment. Maintain a loving, open relationship with your child and always, always take the time to listen to them when they’re talking. This is extremely important in making your child confident that she will be heard and believed when she opens up about something. If you feel awkward about this conversation, your child is certainly going to pick up on that feeling. Get your mindset right first.
2. Start young. Abuse has no start or end age, so right from the beginning, use proper names for genitals and talk about them just like you would talk about eyes or arms. As they grow older, tell them that they can’t talk about their private parts to strangers or in public, but they can tell you if they have any problem there. This gives them their ‘safe space’.
3. All kids have phases where they like to run around without wearing clothes. Tell them that their private parts are private, which is why they should always be covered and kept clean and safe, as when wearing swimsuits. No one but Mommy or Daddy, or the doctor in the presence of Mommy can touch or see their private parts.
4. Try not to inculcate a blind sense of trust and respect in elders. This is really difficult in Indian society, but you’ll have to attempt to make a balance. If they don’t like an uncle cuddling them, they can be polite and say, ‘No Uncle, I have to go now’. You’ll have to model this behavior initially when they’re little, by using the same words to relatives who are trying to hug or kiss your reluctant child. That way, they get the message that it’s okay to say ‘No’.
5. Make them understand the difference between good and bad touch. For this, it might be easier to use books like the ones listed below.
6. Give them guidelines about keeping secrets. You can have some rule like ‘no secrets from Mommy’ or the softer ‘Secrets are still secrets even if you tell Mommy’. Reassure them that no one is going to hurt them if they tell Mommy their secrets. You can explain a little about policemen who’ll always catch bad guys and how they won’t be allowed to hurt anyone.
Make up Games
- Use role play games with dolls to help drive home all the points mentioned above, after you’ve discussed them with your child. Use different sizes of dolls and explain a situation to your child and ask her what she thinks is the right thing to do then.
For example: Baby Monkey (use a small soft toy) is waiting outside school for his Mommy (use Barbie). She is a little late, and while he is waiting an uncle comes up (use a bigger teddy bear). He gives him a chocolate and says that he was sent by Baby Monkey’s mommy to take him home. What should Baby Monkey do now?
Books that talk about Child Abuse
There are many books on this subject out there; here are some of the simpler ones that are easily available in India.
1. I Said No!
A kid level book that covers many topics including how to deal with threats and who to go to for help.
2. Some Parts are not for sharing
Simple and easy text to teach kids to take control of their bodies and identify inappropriate touch.
3. Do you have a secret? Let’s talk about it!
This book deals with the concept of secrets – what to keep and what to share.
4. Uncle Willy’s Tickles
A great way to let a child know that he has the power to refuse an adult’s physical demonstrations of affection.
5. Kidpower Safety Comics
– A comic book approach to teach kids people safety without being scary.
Videos are a quick and easy way to get the message across, especially if you’re feeling particularly awkward about talking to your child about abuse and safety. It can at least get the conversation started when your child asks questions about what he sees in the videos.
1. The Underwear Rule
A short quick film to start the conversation introduced by the Council of Europe.
2. My Body Belongs to Me
This is a kid-level video that explains things very clearly, though it might be suitable for kids aged 4 and up.
Check out Websites
Once you have introduced the topic to your child, you can check out more information online to help you keep the conversation going.
The basic CSA Awareness website. It features up to date news and articles on keeping kids safe from abuse.
This site offers a lot of resources specific to kids in India and you can get detailed information about children’s rights and about reporting a case.
A site created by the Council of Europe, there are links to videos and such to help parents educate their kids about people safety.
This site has several links about various aspects of keeping children safe. It is quite exhaustive and includes preventive as well as trauma care measures.
As parents, imagining our kids in such a situation is pure horror. Yet, child abuse is a common incident as statistics reveal. While it isn’t humanly possible for us to be watching over our children 24X7, we can take steps to empower them so that they are in control of the situation and can keep themselves safe, ensuring a healthy and happy life ahead.
What resources have you used to educate your child about abuse?
At what age did you start talking about it?