What you can do about it – Practical advice from teachers, counsellors, educators and parents on starting the conversation around CSA with children.
‘Tell kids about their private parts’
Dr. Vinod Chebbi, sexologist, marriage counsellor, sex educator and founder and director of Medisex, Bangalore. (www.medisex.org).
When a child is abused sexually, it is very important to understand the circumstances in which he or she has been abused. CSA can be direct or indirect.
Direct abuse is when the perpetrator abuses the child physically by touching his or her private parts. Indirect abuse is when a child is shown pornographic content in the form of a movie or pictures or asked to play with sex toys. According to the Child Protection Act, showing pornographic content is also a form of abuse.
Sexuality education must be imparted to children as soon as they start recognizing themselves and become aware of their bodies, as early as 2. This means that parents should make an effort to teach kids about their organs (read genitals).
Emphasis should be on discussing gender issues because the anatomy is the same but gender and sexual orientation differs from person to person. Discussing this makes it easier for children to understand that every person is different from the other, irrespective of the fact that their genital organs remain same.
So, the solution is not to emphasize on the subject but to clearly explain it to prevent a child from being abused.
‘Teach sexuality etiquette like social etiquette’
The difference between sex education and sexuality education is that the former is biological but the latter is about making an individual choice to identify oneself.
To save a child from CSA, parents have to teach their children sexuality etiquette like they teach social etiquette because they can be the best supervisors of kids in such matters.
If sex education is delayed, children become more vulnerable and do not know how to handle themselves or a situation where they are being abused.
There will be instances of kids coming across all sorts of information and later, asking parents about it. Instead of being startled at the child’s questions, parents should try to find out the source of information. They have to clear misconceptions about the subject and explain, orally or through illustrations, while keeping the language simple.
If parents go the extra mile to explain, thousands of children who often undergo CSA by known people would be saved.
‘Don’t equate tantrums to bad behaviour’
Dr. Savita Date Menon, clinical researcher and psychologist
Sexuality can be explained from the point of view of contact and attention. This includes good contact, bad contact, acceptable and non-acceptable attention.
Sometimes, children behave oddly or throw tantrums to get rid of a relative or a family member. Parents shouldn’t interpret it as bad behaviour but try and understand if the child’s reluctance signifies his or her unwillingness to be with that person.
The child has to be taught how to exit the scene if he or she senses trouble or abuse. Also, do not teach children to fight against good and bad touch because they are not capable of it. Instead, recognizing good and bad touch helps them to handle the situation.
If an uninformed child indulges in any sexual activity, he or she pays the price for it. But, an informed child knows how it works and therefore, is able to express his/her discomfort, if not control or stop the activity.
‘Explain sexuality like a story’
Sonal Andrews, trainer at the Eurokids Teachers Training Institute
Sex education has an impact on a child’s psyche. Depending on the child’s understanding of the topic, parents have to increase the degree of information based on the child’s age and ability.
Parents get their cues from children and that is when they have to decide when to talk to their kids about sexuality.
If it is a five-year-old kid, his/her imagination will be at its peak and whatever he/she listens to forms his/her own thoughts and manipulates it. So, parents have to be scrupulous enough to keep it simple and real.
Explain the whole subject in a story format. It becomes easier for the child to understand and remember.
‘Teachers shouldn’t be hesitant or shy’
Manoj Kalia, teacher
Instead of freaking children out by directly talking about the functions of genitals and reproductive system or sexual intercourse, the teacher should be prepared to discuss that it is about one’s own self and there is nothing to be hesitant or shy talking about it.
But, most students do not take the help of teachers or ask them questions. Instead, they ask their friends or refer to other forms of media to obtain information. Maintaining secrecy also increases the curiosity of a child.
This is where parents have to step in. They have to be open to their children about the topic; developing a rapport with children creates a comfort level that enables the child to enquire further.
‘Don’t use Indian culture to mask the issue’
Shobhna S. Kumar, director, Queer Ink, a website on gender and sexuality issues
Sex education shapes a young person’s skills and knowledge to make informed choices about their behaviour and the consequences of these behaviours.
Using ‘Indian culture’ as an excuse to mask an issue that is crucial to a child’s development also shapes how responsibly or irresponsibly they in turn will live their lives in the future.
Some books that might be helpful for parents and teachers to teach sex and sexuality education to children:
“Girlology: A Girl’s Guide to Stuff that Matters”, “But How’d I Get in There in the First Place?”, “The Orange Book – a workbook for teachers”,” Good Times for Everyone: Sexuality Questions, Feminist Answers.”
‘Use the terms unsafe and safe. Good and bad are too absolute’
Vidya Reddy, Tulir Centre for the Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse
We understand that the terms “Good Touch” and “Bad Touch”, “Right and Wrong Touch” has often been used to help children understand these concepts, and such usage has been in existence in various countries as well. Very often, in India as well, child rights organisations often use the vocabulary of good/bad touch and right/wrong touch to refer to different kinds of touch. However, we at Tulir tend to use a different approach. We refer to these touches as “Safe Touch”, “Unsafe Touch” and “Confusing Touch”. The reason behind this approach is, that we feel “good” and “bad” , “right and wrong” are absolute terms, having strong connotations. When we teach children about “bad or wrong touch”, it does not guarantee that they will never receive such “bad touch”. In the unfortunate incident of them receiving such “bad” touch, they may associate such experience with the connotative value of the word, thereby tending to believe that because they have received “bad” touch, they themselves are “bad”, “impure”, “defiled”, “dirty” etc. However, the words “safe” and “unsafe” are neutral (or relatively neutral), and therefore may not lead to such negative feelings in children’s minds. Also, these terms put the onus of responsibility on the person who gives the touch (“s/he made me feel unsafe”), thereby pre-empt the possibility of the child blaming himself/herself for the act. There is more likelihood of children reporting an “unsafe touch” than a “bad or wrong touch” for the reasons as well.
‘Make it possible for kids to share everything with you’
Starting with an example of how a five-year-old child also could be a victim of child sex abuse, Srilalitha says that one cannot talk about reproduction to a child of that age because it is information overload.
You have to understand that you are not talking about the depths of reproduction or sexual pleasure to a child. The focus is to make the child understand that physical changes such as puberty are normal.
Children cannot recognise abuse at a young age and would not know how to describe their uneasiness to parents. It is very important that they be advised to share everything with their parents even if a person convinces the child to keep a secret.
This is the most important thing that will help us (parents) to save the child and prevent abuse.
Lead picture: At one of Enfold India’s school workshops.
This article has been published as a part of the CSA awareness month campaign on the blogosphere. The Alternative supports the need to raise awareness about Child Abuse and is a content partner with this campaign all of April 2012. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more updates.
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