Don’t play in the mud, don’t eat too much chocolate, don’t run so much, don’t cry—Just a few of the numerous minute instructions we give our children every day. But we ignore the uncomfortable yet important advice we should be giving them. For example, to seek help whenever someone makes them feel uncomfortable or to run home as fast as they can when someone follows them or to scream at the top of their voice when someone touches them inappropriately. Recovery from a childhood tainted by abuse is difficult. Films like Highway and their characters like Veera played by Alia Bhatt give us some insight into this.
The numbers involved are quite shocking. Last year, an article that was published by Hindustan Times stated shattering statistics shared by the humanitarian aid organisation World Vision India. It unearthed that one out of two children is a victim of child sexual abuse and 98% of rapes are being committed by people known to the children. This might also be the reason why one in four families refuses to report such child abuse.
With such shocking stats, the actual scale of violence is still unknown. What can we do to combat such heinous crime? The first plan of action seems to create awareness and urgency to listen. Awareness about the signals your child is trying to give you and to listen to their plea. Typically, the abuser, whom the child knows and trusts, is convinced to stay silent or face a repercussion—Such as threatening to harm the child’s parents. It’s important to notice sudden changes in your child’s behavior.
The series called Satyamev Jayate hosted by Amir Khan had a special episode dedicated to child sexual abuse titled Break The Silence. The episode gave a holistic view on this issue, explaining the fear the child faces, the psychology of the abuser and how a parent can react to such a situation. The show also shared the children helpline number 1024 and a workshop to help explain to the adults how to teach their children to be more alert and aware. You can watch the episode here to know more:
Here are some key takeaways. Parents need to build a good rapport with their children from the start to ensure that when such incidents take place, children know that they have a safe place to speak up. It’s even important to talk and inform their children about the topic of childhood sexual abuse in an appropriate way like shown in the workshop. So, that children are more aware and alert to such situations. Don’t shrug off the awkward questions. As Sonali Bendre mentioned in our #TheGirlTribe episode, if the question is asked, that’s the time to answer it. Also, it is essential for parents to be aware of any behavioural changes in their children and try to decipher the source. To summarise, awareness generally becomes key to such a sensitive topic.
It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that so many pedophiles exist on this earth and there are no set rules to identify them. However, there is now a Child sexual abuse law in India after the parliament passed the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Bill, 2011.
The main focus is to educate your children on being aware and to also be alert as a parent for any signs in the differential behavior of your child. It’s key to have an open conversation with your child, where he/she feels safe to open up about such traumatic experiences.
It starts when you’re a child, it ends when you’re aware.