Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Child Sexual Abuse – it’s closer home than you thought

With the current spate of child sexual abuse cases coming out in the media nationally and internationally it finally seems the society will start believing, sexual abuse does happen and not necessarily anywhere outside but could be within one’s own home. A no. of incest (sexual relations with a family member) cases that have cropped up show that maybe homes are not that ‘safe’. The National Study 2007 says that 50% of the sex offenders (family member, relative, friend, neighbour) are known to the victim. At Arpan, an NGO based in Mumbai that works to Prevent the occurrence of Child Sexual Abuse and heal those who have been affected by it has found that in a damning 94% of our cases the offender was known to the victim. When safety is not guaranteed even with people a child knows, then it’s time for society to come to the child’s help. The only answer seems that the child must be empowered with skills to protect him or herself from sexual abuse. Just like we teach them general safety rules like staying away from fire, looking before we cross the road, etc. so should we teach them about personal safety.


Arpan is teaching Personal Safety in schools and it’s imperative parents teach their children the following key things:

  • Children are special.
  • Its their body and they are the boss of their bodies.
  • Difference between safe touch and unsafe touches; any touch that leaves them happy and comfortable is a safe touch and any touch that makes them feel bad, scared, confused or uncomfortable is an unsafe touch.
  • Give Vocabulary; Parts covered with a swimming suit are called Private Body Parts.
  • Personal safety rules to keep their private body parts safe.
    Ø Rule 1: It is never alright for someone to touch, look at or talk about their private body parts except to keep them clean and healthy.
    It is never alright for some one to ask the child to touch, look at or talk about their private body parts.
    Ø Rule 2: If some one breaks this rule they must “SAY NO and RUN AWAY”.
    Ø Rule 3: Tell a trusted adult about it and keep telling till they get the help they need.
    Even if someone breaks this rule it is never the child’s FAULT.

Tips for parents:
· Keep open communication channels with children so that they come and share things that bother them.
· Don’t force them to kiss, hug people they don’t feel comfortable about.
· Keep vigilance on where the children are, who are their friends and the people around them.
· Most children don’t report sexual abuse. Look out for symptoms that can indicate something is wrong. Symptoms could be:

Social: Social Withdrawal ,Increased hostility or aggression ,Overly pleasing behavior ,Drastic change in achievement patterns.

Sexual: Sexualized behavior ,Early sexual activity,Use of abusive sexual language

Medical: Psychosomatic illnesses ,Pain or swelling in genital area,Repeated urinary infections

Psychological : Eating disorders ,Anxiety or Indifference ,Depression,Suicide attempts

The above symptoms are only indicative and do not necessarily mean the child has been sexually abused. Only with further probing when the child reveals can one be sure.

If abuse has happened believe what the child has disclosed and be positive and supportive. Tell the child it’s not his or her fault. Get the child away from the abuser and try and help to see that other children don’t become prey to the abuser as well.

Most importantly take help from mental and medical health professionals. Whilst most people seek medical help mental health is not thought of as very important. However, in cases of sexual abuse what is UTMOST important is mental health intervention. We often think the child will cope, forget about it and move on with life but this is far from truth. The truth is that the more time goes other complications manifest in the psyche of the individual leading to long lasting trauma as an effect of abuse that never seems to go away. The healing never happens with time. One never forgets. Hence the earlier the healing process is started the better it is for the individual. However not all children might require counseling as this depends on the severity of the abuse. Therefore, professional advise must be taken to decide what’s best for the child.

Arpan provides counseling services and can be contacted on +91.98190.51444 or write to info@arpan.org.in. Website: www.arpan.org.in

For children who’ve been sexually abused, life ends before it even begins. We as parents, adults in the society can at least do so much that we empower our children to prevent abuse and help them heal if it happens. If we are not able to do even this, then somewhere we adults have failed to provide the basic right a child has: to safety.



Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

No comments: