what Every Parent Should Know About Child Abuse

One in every 3 girls in India have suffered sexual abuse. The ratio for boys is 1 out of 2. So what do we know about this menace that lurks in the society and haunts our sons and daughters day after day, night after night? I had the good fortune to co-author a Child Sexual […]

One in every 3 girls in India have suffered sexual abuse. The ratio for boys is 1 out of 2. So what do we know about this menace that lurks in the society and haunts our sons and daughters day after day, night after night?
I had the good fortune to co-author a Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Training with SCERT, Delhi in June 2018. It’s a mandatory Teacher’s Training in all the schools of Delhi/NCR since its launch in October 2018 with an impact to over 45 lakh students. While researching this topic, I focused on how children can identify the abuser and what is it to be done in case they have been targeted or already abused.
Contrary to popular belief, the “Good Touch/ Bad Touch” being imparted in schools in the current times is ineffective and incomplete as it doesn’t teach the child how to prevent the situation and how to deal with it in case they find themselves alone with one. It doesn’t upskill children psychologically to avoid getting manipulated by the perpetrator either.
What I found in my research was that child abuse offenders who were interviewed by the law enforcement agencies and psychologists in multiple countries, all deploy the same strategies. All of them:
Observe children from a distance and identify a child who is shy or submissive. They wouldn’t dare pick a confident, loud kid who would make a fuss out of things if he doesn’t like anything the predator says or does.
They engage in ‘Priming’ and ‘Grooming’ stages which are becoming friends with the child by buying him/her icecream/ toys/ taking them to the park etc. They do this to gain the trust of the child and the adults around.
They usually begin touching children on non-private parts such as shoulders, knees etc. and see how they respond. They might put an arm around them in a friendly way. This is them testing their boundaries and trespassing into the child’s.
They isolate the child from their environment.
They commit the crime.
They blackmail the child that they would tell their parents and then the child would only get reprimanded by the parents. If they catch children bunking school or doing anything else which the authority figures wouldn’t approve of, they use it to their advantage as ammunition against the child.
They might also shame the child that s/he has caused the act to happen and if word gets out, the child would only get humiliated in the school/ college. So what can should be done by parents, teachers, the school authorities to empower the child?
1. First of all teach them that no zone on the body is a good touch zone if it’s by a stranger or even a family member except mother.
2. Don’t persuade your kids to give kisses and hugs to all visitors or even caretakers when they don’t want to. It teaches children others can violate their boundaries just because they’re older or friendly with them.
3. Make sure they have a healthy self-esteem and their locus of control is internal so that noone can manipulate them into doubting themselves.
4. Teach them even if an adult tries to touch them even on their knees or holds their hands in a lingering way, they must point it out in public so that the adult is deterred from doing anything further. Teach them to be bold and loud such that they become gaslight-proof.
5. The parents should stop trusting their neighbors and even family members and install cameras at home, come home unannounced and plan out their career breaks in such a manner that they are able to be there for the child.
6. Create a safe haven for the child such that he/she feels safe enough to confide anything and everything in the parents.
7. Teach them even if they have lied to the parent or school authorities, their lie is nothing compared to someone trying to bully them or rape them.
8. Clearly define what is rape, what is molestation, etc. Even kissing or touching the lips or cheeks can count in molestation.
9. Show them cartoon movies at the age of 5-6 to make them understand vicariously and then discuss takeaways from the movie with them
10. Teachers must also notice the change in a child’s behavior, walking style, any bruises on the body or change in body language such as slouching, looking down, fear or anxiety in children in their class.
11. It is the teachers responsibility to report the matter to the school principal if they find a case of child sexual abuse and the principal’s legal liability to involve the child’s family and police. Although this should be done in a manner that doesn’t put the school in a negative light.
12. Conducting trainings in schools using role play to teach children how to act in such situations is the dire need of the hour. Skill building goes way beyond just being able to identify that one is being touched in their private parts.
13. All contact with the abuser to be immediately cut off- even if it’s another student at the school, the child must be suspended and the parents must be called. Strict actions go way beyond.
14. In situations where family members are involved, they should be instantly reported to the police. The child needs to experience the reassuring consequences of having reported the crime, by being given adequate trust, emotional warmth and the reinforcement that they did not do anything wrong.
Children can suffer guilt for having reported their family members, especially if it results in police action being taken. That is where the role of effective parenting comes in – by making sure that the child knows it was not their fault, the offender is suffering the consequences of their own actions and not the child’s. It is also imperative to reassure the child of their safety and appreciating their courage and on the feet thinking to come forward and report the incident.
Healing the mind and body is essential to holistic growth and emotional security. Trauma lives inside the body for years and may manifest diseases. So the earlier it is addressed and healed, the better. Another thing to self-check is the denial and repression of tough feelings. If you suffer in any way or just feel you could get more out of life, feel free to reach out for professional help instead of suffering alone.
The author is a counseling psychologist and chairperson for Women Economic Forum and a trainer at Superhumans Academy.