Our newspapers are often ablaze with nightmarish stories of child sexual abuse that fill a parent’s heart with dread. Even as statistics tell us that 40 percent girls and 25 per cent boys below 16 in India suffer this horrible fate, child sexual abuse remains one of the most terrible, yet least acknowledged horrors of our society.
Children who have been victims of sexual abuse end up with serious psychological issues related to self-esteem, self-image and confidence which, if not addressed promptly, become a baggage that they carry all their lives which can taint all their relationships and make them dysfunctional, asocial, or even anti-social.
While parents constantly send a prayer to the universe for their kids’ well-being, preventive measures are something we cannot neglect. Here are 5 things every parent must tell their kids about sexual abuse.
1. Good Touch And Bad Touch
In an alarming number of instances, the perpetrators of these heinous acts are either close family members or family friends. With the number of double income families on the rise, it is very common for young children to be left in the care of hired help, usually under the supervision of older family members. While there exist caring and loyal caregivers, there are also plenty of cases where the child has been abused, either by the caregiver or by the boyfriend of the female caregiver who visits her in the absence of the child’s parents.
Thus, every child needs to be taught the difference between a loving touch and an abusive one. Kids can be told that no one is allowed to touch them on the areas of their bodies that are covered by their swimsuits. If anyone tries to do so, the kids need to protest and tell their parents.
2. No Secrets From Mama And Papa
A few years ago a neighbor noticed that her seven-year-old daughter winced as she changed her underpants. Filled with foreboding, she questioned the kid gently. Hesitating, she said that for the past two days a ten-year-old boy in her school van would push apart the legs of the six and seven-year-old girls in the van and prod them with his boot. The mother took immediate action, informing the child’s parents and the teachers in school, and the mischief was stopped well in time. The mother’s keen observation of her child and the child’s ability to confide in her mother played a crucial role in this.
At other times it might be strangers or even known people luring kids away, offering them treats like candy, favourite foods or gadgets and behaving inappropriately. However, if your kids are in the habit of confiding in you, any mischief brewing can be nipped in the bud.
3. Keep A Distance From Strangers
If your child is very friendly or gregarious, he needs to be made to realize that there are bad people out in the world who might harm him. Make sure he understands that under no circumstances should he ever accept things from strangers or go anywhere with them.
4. Kicking, Screaming And Basic Self-Defence
As your kid grows up, encourage her to learn at least one form of self-defense. Also, let her shed her inhibitions through role play and teach her that if anyone behaves inappropriately with her, she should not hesitate to call loudly for help, and if need be, kick, punch and scream her way out of the situation. Also, make your kids memorize both parents’ contact numbers in case of any kind of emergency.
5. Safety In Numbers
Always teach your kids that it is good to avoid lonely places such as secluded spots on the school premises, or at parties, picnics, outings etc. Make them understand that whenever they are away from their parents’ supervision, outside the home, at parties and functions, or even in school or school-related events, they should move in groups of at least two, or more, as there is safety in numbers. Restrooms, stairwells, elevators and any other kinds of enclosed or lonely places are especially to be avoided alone.
Above all, remember, child sexual abuse is a social disease that needs to be dealt with firmly through exposure, education, and prevention.