A young girl! Not even 5 years old, was sexually abused by an instructor at the school. It happened not in some corner of an unknown village but within the vicinity of our own city Bangalore.
This distressing incident reminds me the rape of a 5 year old girl at New Delhi, by a neighbour. The girl was found in blood soaked clothes, with injuries to her lips, cheeks, arms and anus area. The most shocking news was that the doctors found the pieces of bottles and candle inserted in her vagina.
How brutally a child’s innocence was robbed off! Although she was discharged from the hospital within a week with her physical wounds cured, will her mental wounds be cured? Will she be able to lead a normal life like any other children? This abhorring event shook the whole country resulting in nation wide protests along with the devastating truths about child sexual abuse in India disclosed. A study conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development showed that 53.22% of children face one or more forms of sexual abuse. That means one in every two children faces sexual abuse in India. World Health Organization declared that India has the World’s largest number of sexually abused children and statistically speaking, every 155th minute one child below16 years is raped, at every 13th hour a child below 10 years and concluded that one in every 10 children is sexually abused at any point of time.
In spite of such shocking statistics, as Renuka Chowdhury, the Women and Child Development Minister of India states, the child sexual abuse is shrouded in secrecy. The Indian families try to cover up such incidents and show ostrich-maneuver convincing themselves, it is a Western problem and doesn’t happen in India. This kind of denial only intensifies the problem.
Apart from the lack of knowledge and denial, there are many myths around child sexual abuse. An active NGO Tulir points out that most people think, the abuser is mostly a stranger or a mentally sick person. The statistics show that about 50% of molesters are known to the victim, like the neighbors, teachers, uncles and aunts, older brothers, sisters or their friends, their own friends and classmates. These are seldom mentally ill.
Some argue that the children should be encouraged to forget about the abuse, as it doesn’t have any harmful effects. Whereas the research conducted by Mayo School reveals that there is a strong association between child sexual abuse and mental disorders. 95% of the adults, with the history of child sexual abuse, are subjected to anxiety disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and sleep disorders and attempt suicide at some point of life.
The worst of all myths, is the belief that the children lie and cook up stories about sexual abuse and they provoke sexual abuse. Have a look at the children. They are like unblemished flowers in the garden and are often compared to the God because of their innocence. They very rarely speak up what is happening to them and they seek help only when they are unable to bear any more. The child initiating sexual abuse is far from truth. That itself is a sign of being sexually abused. Calling the child being seductive is only the adults’ and abusers’ justification and misinterpretation. As caretakers and parents we need to trust and understand our children.
There is also a misconception regarding the meaning of child sexual abuse. It is any behavior of an older or more powerful person to wards a child for his/her sexual gratification. It includes both contact and non-contact behaviors. The contact behaviors include penetration of anus, vagina or oral sex and behaviors like fondling child’s private body parts or making the child fondle private parts, and forcible kissing. Other non-contact sexual behaviors are making the child exhibit private body parts, exhibiting private body part to a child, photographing a child in nude, making the child view pornographic materials, using sexually explicit talk and sexually abusive language with the child.
As mentioned early the children do not often disclose what is happening to them, because they are not able to understand or reason it out what is happening to them. We have to be vigilant, observant and alert to the signs of the sexual abuse. Once a 5 years old boy in a Montessori school started talking age-inappropriate sexual language. When spoken to the parents, the teacher came to know that the child was sleeping with a newly wedded couple. The child was counseled and helped to heal.
The symptoms like a drop in academic performance, repeated urinary infections, unexplained pain or swelling in genital area, excessive increase or decrease in food intake, sudden fear of a place/person/color etc., gives us a clue. Sadness, reduced speech, socially withdrawn, hostility or aggression, passive or overly pleasing behavior may also be due to the abuse. Sexualized behavior, inappropriate sexual comments and gestures and sexual activity at early age are also the symptoms of sexual abuse.
It is always better to prevent a sexual abuse than curing it later. The only way to prevent is by educating the child. NGO “Arpan” has announced three rules of personal safety:
Rule No. 1: It is NEVER all right for someone to Touch, look and talk about your private body parts, except to keep them clean and healthy. It is never all right for someone older or bigger to ask you to TOUCH, LOOK or TALK about his/her private body parts.
Rule No. 2: If someone tried to break this rule, say, “No” and RUN AWAY.
Rule No. 3: Tell someone you trust, and KEEP TELLING until you get the help you need.
Despite of all these efforts the children may still become victims to sexual abuse. in that case first recognize the sexual abuse, second encourage the child to talk about this experience and third seek professional support and fourth help the child to heal.
There are many government and non-government organizations, which support, guide and help the sexually abused and their families. A movement “Chuppi Todo”, meaning, “Break the silence” is in full swing encouraging both the abused and the caretakers to speak up. The reason for the steep 336% increase of child sexual abuse from 2001 to 2011 is due to the confidence on the part of the abuser that it will not be reported and there is no law to prosecute him/her. As a result of the continuous struggle of all those involved with children “The protection of children from sexual offences act, 2012” has been passed by Lok Sabha.
This new law has incorporated child friendly procedures for reporting, recording, investigating and conducting the trial of the offence. Unlike earlier it is not necessary for the child to go to the police station to give a statement. The recording of the statement would be done at child’s residence by a woman police officer dressed casually. There would not be any aggressive questioning or character assassination. Most importantly the media would be barred from disclosing the identity of the child. Hence it is time to break the silence and approach the law enforcers.
Dear parents and caretakers, think of the girl mentioned above again. How her innocence is robbed brutally and childhood is smashed, just because someone could not control his urges. She will never forget what happened to her or trust anyone. She has to live her remaining life in utter insecurity with shattered self-esteem. As caretakers we have two duties to perform. One – to protect, support and educate the children and the second important duty is to report the abuse and avoid more children getting abused.
Let us save the innocence of the children and help them enjoy their childhood! For Beautiful childhood leads to beautiful world!