Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Child Sex Abuse - A Growing Reality

For the past few days, in a shocking incident that rocked all of Mumbai and whoever read or heard about it, a 03-year-old baby has been raped in her own school by the watchman, who, ironically, was hired by the school to guard the children.

While parents, social workers and everyone has been discussing about what to do and not do about the same, there is a whole new set of things that we, as parents, need to be careful about.

Psychiatrists have come out in groups, asking parents to be extremely attentive towards their children. And remember, it is not only the girls who are in danger (though the number of abused girls being reported seems to be more than that of cases involving minor boys) but little boys too are in an equal danger.

As a mother, as a parent, here are the guidelines you absolutely need to take care of to ensure your child is safe out there:

1. Not Just The Strangers: No matter what others may tell you, its a myth that most of such harm is inflicted in children by outsiders or a stranger. Often, the severest harm is done by those your children know. This does not have to be someone in the family or friend circle, it could be the building or school watchman (as in the recent case of the rape of the 03-year-old in a school in Mumbai), the cable guy (remember the Kurla, Mumbai multiple rape cases involving children?) your neighbour, school bus driver or conductor, play-school janitor, local shop vendor, the partner of your nanny or house maid. All these people do not fall in your immediate circle, yet they are a part of your life and most often than not, your children know them. At such a young age, it is really difficult for these little ones to think of these known 'uncles' as strangers. Hence, as a parent, you need to be extremely careful not to let your child interact with them. Never, under any circumstance, should you let your child be alone with them.

2. Avoid Night-Stay Or Sleepover At Any Place Where You Are Not Around: True, we sometimes allow our children to stay the night at a relative's place. But let us be very honest about it - these incidents have often involved family members too. So make sure that your little one does not have a sleepover with anyone else but you. This does not have to mean that you are suspicious about your family members, but when it comes to the security and safety of your child, it is always best to take all possible precautions, rather than go along to please others and ending up harming your child. Let baby sleep with you, and only you (parents).

3. Talk To Your Child: Let your child know that no matter what, you are always there to listen to your child and to understand their fears and pain. Your child should be comfortable talking to you, without the fear of being scolded or reprimanded. Make a conscious effort to sit down with your child each day and talk to them about school and play and friends and about the different people they meet during the day. Also ask if they have met anyone new, or made any new friends.

4. Read Those Signs: Many times, children who have been frightened or are confused about something that has happened to them or to someone close to them, tend to show their fears and apprehensions in their behaviour. Our little ones are too young to always express in words what they feel. So look out for the signals - mood swings, sudden temper, becoming excessively quiet and reserved, afraid of things, not willing to talk or mix with people, wetting the bed, not wanting to go to school (or another place), excessive clinging to parents, tantrums, sleep disturbance, poor attention in class, no interest in studies - these are a few of the signals that will tell you that something is definitely wrong and should warrant your immediate attention and action.

5. Talk To The School: You may think they will get irritated, but many schools appreciate the parent's interest in their child's life. This does not mean that you need to visit or call the school each day. But make sure you keep having an on-off discussion with your child's class teacher and with others parents of the class. Ask them about your child's behaviour in class.

6. Check Your Baby: Make it a habit to check your baby each day at bath time and changing time to check for any signs of wound or scar. You are the best judge to pick up any such sign.

7. Not Baby Talk: Many times we end up dismissing our child's talk as it may sound embarrassing to us, or because we do not agree to it. Do not make your child feel that what they tell you is of no importance. By doing so, you will only shut the doors of free communication between you and your child. Keep your eyes and ears open, understand what they are saying and look into the same.

8. A Counsellor Can Be A Friend: Forget about tabboo and the thought of 'What will people say?". If you feel your child is in any discomfort, or is getting shut off from school, visit a counsellor who works with kids. Most schools these days have counsellors who are friendly and trained to handle child-related cases. Book an appointment immediately.

9. Forget To Be Angry: Remember, no scolding, punishment, or harsh words. What they need is a friend, not a dictator.

10.Show That You Love: Hug your little one, tell them you love them and that they are the most important person in your life. Talk to them, cuddle up with them and constantly assure them of your love.

And like I always believe in and say:
'Heal the world we live in
Save it for our children' - MJ

Happy Parenting!!!!

Debolina Raja Gupta

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