Saturday, May 24, 2014

It Takes a Community to Protect a Child!


In one of my previous post I mentioned about keeping an ongoing communication open with the children in your life. The reason for my talking about “children in your life” is that I wish to address all adults who are stakeholders in the issue of well-being of a child – you could be a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher, or a mere neighbor. Because it takes a community to keep our children safe! More about this later.

Now, when you are talking or listening to a child, you need to be aware of certain key points that matter.

First of all with regard to child abuse or child sexual abuse or even beginning of a potentially dangerous contact with a perpetrator the strange fact that haunts us is that the child DOES NOT REPORT the incident to the concerned adult. If at all the children talk among themselves it never reaches adult ears.
Now why do you think this happens?
It is because the child is an evolving person with limited abilities and understandings.
In our entire lives the only task we undertake with zero knowledge, zero experience and zero exposure is that of being a parent. This does not mean that we do not LOVE our children. But LOVE is such an over-estimated but under-understood emotion and a state of being.

Loving someone does not prevent that person from having a sudden illness.

Loving someone does not save that person from being robbed, attacked or murdered.

Loving the world around us does not protect it from its predators who rob it of its natural resources.

Love as an emotion alone accomplishes fairly nothing much. But love as a commitment, love as an action on the other hand fairly makes the world go round!

When you love yourself you take care of yourself – you do not drink, smoke or abuse your body in any way. You do not abuse your mind by polluting it with all negative, unproductive thoughts. You do not abuse your heart or emotions by harboring hate, dislike, vengeance or anger.

When you love your children you actively take care of them – their bodies, minds and spirits.

And children need not mean only your biological children but ALL children, simply because they are the future of our world.

So any adult should actively care for the children around them. Because it takes a community to keep children safe.

More on how to do this later, or better still, why don’t you readers add your comments on this?

Links to refer – just two for now, there are dozens!:

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Request for Active Participation . . .

What exactly is Child Sexual Abuse?

   It is, according to the medical and legal authorities, any behaviour committed by an older or more powerful person on a younger or more vulnerable person for his/her own sexual gratification. The abuser may be an adult or an older child; the victim is always a child. The child is defined legally as a minor or anyone below the age of 18 years.

   Whether one is a parent, grandparent or aunt or uncle, or even a mere neighbour -- we are what can be termed as “significant adults” in the lives of the children around us. Thus we should all be concerned about their well being and safety. I personally believe this to be of paramount importance and in an effort to create greater safety and prevent harm or abuse would like to share some facts regarding Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) with you.

   First of all it is important that one becomes aware of CSA. This is because it there all around us and most of us are blissfully unaware of it while those who know about it choose to turn a blind eye towards it for various reasons.
Some facts about CSA are . . .
·        CSA begins as early as at the age of 5 years
·        69% of Indian Children are victims of physical, emotional or sexual abuse
·        89% of the crimes are perpetrated by someone the child knows and trusts – often a family member
·        80% of the cases go unreported or even un-shared with parents/family

  Some news reports from India are given below – I have provided the links for you to delve deeper if you so wish:
   NEW DELHI: In a shocking revelation, a government commissioned survey has found that more than 53% of children in India are subjected to sexual abuse, but most don't report the assaults to anyone.

   Hear these stories and then imagine them amplified thousands of times — in every brutal variation — in every part of the country. Imagine 48,838 children raped in just 10 years. Imagine what it means when you are told this staggering figure — which is a National Crimes Record Bureau statistic — is possibly only 25 percent of the actual child rapes going on in the country. And that only 3 percent — a mere 3 percent — of these make it to the police. Imagine what it means when you are told child rapes have seen a chilling 336 percent jump from 2001 to 2011.

   If you search there is no dearth of statistics about this matter. But what matters is what WE do, as concerned citizens, concerned adults.

   I invite comments and suggestions from all . . . please contribute.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Who isn't talking about Child Sexual Abuse these days?
Hardly anyone! The reason could be that media is full of it nowadays and every morning when one opens the newspaper there are at least one or two incidents reported there in horrid details.
That alone is enough to make one’s skin crawl. In case you have children in your family at once you are seized with a sense of dread which sort of eases when your eyes light upon your little one… child or grandchild…that soft glowing face, eager bright eyes and the happy smile! It is enough to make your heart melt!
And once again your thoughts move to that other little one who was subjected such a cruel treatment by someone he or she knew and trusted.
What a pity, you muse. Couldn't someone have stopped it? Prevented it? Ensured that the child was safe? Surely the child had parents, lived in a family surrounded by other adults in the community – cousins, uncles, aunts, teachers, tutors, drivers, servants, etc. etc. Surely someone could have noticed something was different? That something was wrong? Your thoughts are now crowding, milling around in your head screaming for attention.
Then your routine day’s chores drag your attention away from that topic and you go about your work calmly, those uncomfortable thoughts pushed to the background.
Not for long, only to surface again with added vengeance the next day when you once again see some other news of some other child having been subjected to the horror of child sexual abuse.
And you wonder – just for a second may be – is there something I could do to prevent such a happening in my vicinity?
If you do that then here is what to do.
Begin close at home, in fact at home…your own home!
More than 90% of sexual abuse perpetrators are someone the child knows and trusts.
So, talk to the children in your life (your own children, nieces and nephews and grand children) about personal safety and make sure that it is an ongoing dialogue rather than a single event because this might scare them. Perhaps if the children are not your own you could talk to their parents in order to a) create awareness in them about CSA and b) to obtain their permission for you to talk to the children. In my experience (and I have five grandkids and three step grandkids aged from 15 to 4) most parents ARE a bit embarrassed and even scared about these matters and are relieved when another trusted adult is ready to take on this task!!

Create opportunities to communicate –
v  Talk to the children in your life about their relationships with other people. More importantly, listen to the child and let him tell you how he feels about different people in his life. These dialogues should encourage him or her to talk to you about both positive and negative feelings and situations.
v  Let the children know the difference between safe and unsafe touch. Safe touch is welcome and it makes any one – child or adult – feel good and nurtured. Unsafe touch makes a person feel uncomfortable, which makes one feel funny or dirty. There could be no tangible reason for this feeling but we are to trust our intuition which is a good guide in these matters. The child should be encouraged to trust his or her intuition and not be ridiculed for such a feeling.
v  There is a tacit understanding that a child should show respect to elders and not be rude to them. This is more so in Asian countries. But on the contrary you should let the children in your life know that not all grownups are “good” and they should say “NO!” to something that makes them feel bad or uncomfortable.
v  Teach your children at a very early age the correct names for the body parts including the private parts. Make sure that they do not feel embarrassment about these parts as they are in the body to do a specific task of waste removal and that is that!
v  Teach your child that the body parts covered by his under garments are personal and belong only to him. Meaning, no one should be allowed to see or touch these parts. You could make allowances for the parents who regularly bathe and clean the child or a doctor who would need to examine the child ONLY in the presence of a parent. Explain all this clearly in no uncertain terms or ambiguity.
v  Train your children in being assertive. This would not only help them to take care of themselves in case of child abuse but also raise the self esteem to such a level to handle bullies and other unpleasant people they may encounter in the world around.
v  Teach the children to shout, "No!" or "Stop!” when they encounter unwanted or undesirable attention from anyone.
v  Then teach your children to speak about the incident with an adult they trust and that it is always alright to speak about it even at a later time.
v  Encourage the parents around you to keep the channels of communication open and friendly so that the child does not keep any secrets from them. The family motto should be that “We keep no secrets.” This of course is easier said than done – some boundaries are sure to be there especially in matters which are not child-appropriate in our conversations and dealings. But in simple day-to-day matters maintain openness and transparency so that that becomes a rule of the thumb in the families close to you.
v  By communicating with you or their parents about all the other adults they encounter in their life as a routine the children can identify trusted adults in their lives.
Most important of all, always believe the children if and when they report something unusual or unsavory to you. Support other adults around you to have a better understanding of children and their world – what makes them tick; what is important to them; what makes them happy or sad and what causes anxiety to them.
Remember that children rarely lie unless threatened. So support other adults around you to have a relationship with the children in their lives which is not based on threats, coercion, adult authority or intimidation. These power games might provide temporary results of control but in the long run do not foster healthy relationships between adults and children.
This comes from my heart – more later! Please feel free to leave comments.