26th July, 2020- By Shreya Bakshi

Child abuse can be emotional or physical. According to research by the National Crime Record Bureau, it stated that around 109 children get sexually abused every year. The NCRB data reported 32,608 cases in 2017 and 39,827 cases in 2018 under POCSO. Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act protects children from offenses like sexual abuse, sexual assault, and have various courts, support systems, and prosecutors set up for these children. This is a crime faced by both boys and girls.

In this lockdown, due to the Coronavirus, CHILDLINE – backed up the Ministry of Women and Child Development saw an increase in calls regarding abuse in children. In India, every second person has been sexually abused before they turned 18.

The only way to protect children from sexual abuse is by educating and creating awareness around it.

What is Child Sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse is a form of physical or emotional abuse that may involve sexual or non -sexual activities by an adult with someone below the age of 18 years. Non-sexual activities can be categorized as sexual talks, taking sexual photos, sharing sexual images, etc.

The alarming part about sexual abuse is, it is most often by a close family member or a known person. Usually, children are pressurized, emotionally blackmailed, and manipulated into the activity by being offered gifts, calling it a secret game, etc.

Safe Touch and Unsafe Touch

It is important to have a conversation with children about good touch and bad touch. Clear conversations about body safety rules help to keep them safe. Indian society is a closed, shy society and reserved in a certain way. Parents do not open up to their children about private body parts and safety.  Earlier, biology as a subject taught us about our bodies, but now parents have to step up to teach their kids about body safety. You definitely won’t talk about sex with a toddler, but you can go about it by teaching them about Safe touch, Unsafe touch & Unwanted touch.

Safe touch- These are touches that keep children safe and are good for them, and that make children feel cared for and important. Safe touches can include hugging, pats on the back, and an arm around the shoulder. Safe touches can also include touches that might hurt, such as removing a splinter. Explain to children that when you remove a splinter, you’re doing so to keep them healthy, which makes it a safe touch.

Unsafe touch- These are touches that hurt children’s bodies or feelings (for example, hitting, pushing, pinching, and kicking). Teach children that these kinds of touches are not okay.

Unwanted touch- These are touches that might be safe but that a child doesn’t want from that person or at that moment. It’s okay for a child to say no to an unwanted touch, even if it’s from a familiar person. Help your children practice saying no in a strong, yet polite voice. This will help them learn to set personal boundaries.

Parents should understand that the “clean” part of this rule applies to young children at an age when an adult might help them with diaper changing, going to the toilet, or bathing. The “healthy” part of this rule refers to doctor visits; for example, when the doctor gives a child a shot. An adult family member should always be present at doctor appointments. At some point during their teenage years, it will become appropriate for your children to handle their own doctor appointments.

Why is it important to have a conversation about the body with your child?

Many parents shy away when it comes to introducing body parts to their children. Children learn from what they see at home. If they observe that private parts are a taboo topic at home, they will relate to it as something to not talk about and associate a feeling of shame to it. They will hesitate before asking you the right questions and will not share their body problems, even if they are sexually abused.

Weren’t these the reasons why many of us never told our parents about sexual abuse?

But as a parent, you can change that.

To break this barrier you must call private parts by its name. Abusers take advantage of this knowledge gap and harass kids.

Children who are aware of their genitals and are informed about safe and unsafe touch are less prone to sexual abuse.

Being informed about private parts will help you protect the kids as they can communicate.

Treating private parts as a part of the body enables the free flow of communication.

Educate them about consent. Make body safety a normal conversation at home.

Start talking about it once they turn 2. Begin with the identification of body parts and then to identify ‘good’ and ‘bad touch’. There are several illustrative books like – My Little Body Book by Shruti Singhal, Do You Have A Secret by Jennifer Moore, and I Said No by Chip St. Clair that helps to talk about body safety to kids.

What are the signs of sexual abuse in children?

  • Unexplained redness, itching, or pain in genitals.
  • A sudden change in behavior on seeing someone
  •  Bedwetting
  • Increase in nightmares
  • Withdrawn behavior
  • Loss of appetite
  • Frequent meltdowns and anxious behavior
  • Unusual sexual behavior for a child
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Crying, irritability when taken to a particular place

How can you prevent it?

  • Be active in your child’s life. Know where they are going, be updated about the people they meet, the activities that happen throughout the day, etc.
  • Look out people around your child who are looking out for methods to be alone with your child, ignoring privacy (checking on your child while bathing, changing), or constantly giving gifts without an occasion.
  • Make sure you give an open space for children to talk to you about what bothers them.
  • Keep them informed about the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ secrets.
  • If the child has access to a cell phone or social media, monitor its use.
  • Always trust your instincts. If you are feeling unsure about leaving your child with someone, do not do it.
  • If the child opens up to you about being abused, stay calm. Do not blame it on the child or shame the child. Make sure you take action against it.
  • Make sure the child knows they will not be getting into trouble irrespective of what they tell you.

Children can only be comfortable talking about their sexual abuse provided parents to provide a safe space. Often survivors remain silent, and no action is taken due to parental and family pressure.

Protect your children and do not feel shy to speak up for them.

Anahat For Change Foundation

Registered address: 28, Diamond Harbour Road, Behala, Kolkata 700060

Branch Address: 14, Pathak Para Road, Behala, Kolkata- 700060