Never take your child’s safety for granted. You never know what can happen.
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Scene 1: A city school
A security guard is playfully jostling with a cherubic little pre-schooler. The child is waiting beside the guard because his ‘auto uncle’ is late to pick him up. In the course of play, the guard kisses the little boy, tickles him, hugs him. The boy squeals with laughter.
Scene 2: A dance class
It’s a childrens’ dance class. Parents/guardians come and drop off their wards at the door. The adults do not bother to go in or check if the dance teacher is actually inside. Instead, they say ‘bye’ to their children at the door and promise to come back in an hour’s time, when class is over.
Both situations happen every day in our city. Was it wrong on the part of the security guard to be so affectionate with that little boy? Perhaps he was acting in all innocence, but he is an adult and a ‘stranger’. He is also touching that child inappropriately. In many countries, such behaviour can lead to imprisonment or other penalties.
The chubby pre-schooler’s parents have entrusted an autodriver to drop and pick up their son from school. But do you think the child tells them what happens in school, every day? More important, do his parents listen? And what of the parents of the little dancers? I have a friend who runs dance classes for adults and children, and she says that often, parents of her young students never bother to check if the dance teacher is actually present. “Shouldn’t these parents make sure their children are safe inside,” my friend wonders.
Good touch versus bad touch
Child sexual abuse happens. As horrifying stories in our newspapers tell us, every day. Vidya Reddy of Chennai-based Tulir-Centre for the Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse, a non governmental organisation that works with the survivors of abuse, stresses it is very important to teach children, even young pre-schoolers, about ‘good’ touch and ‘bad’ touch. She maintains that as a parent, if you don’t clearly tell your child what kind of behaviour from strangers (or others) is okay, and what is a no-no, the child will simply not know. Ms Reddy stresses every child is vulnerable, and ‘special’ children even more so. For, if a child has speech, vision or hearing impairment or is physically/mentally challenged, he or she is so much more helpless against an abuser.
Fellow Bangalorean and prolific blogger Farida Rizwan knows only too well how vulnerable special children are – her daughter is physically and biologically an adult, but mentally still an innocent child. So Ms Rizwan has, through her blog, http://www.chaptersfrommylife.com/, been very vocal on the issue of child sexual abuse. In fact, she has even produced pictorial graphs to show what kind of touch/behaviour constitutes abuse. For who is an abuser? A sibling, a relative, a family friend, an auto/bus driver, a security guard, an older child in school, an ayah/peon/helper, anyone really. It could be the friendly neighbourhood ‘Uncle’ who always has sweets and a pat or a kiss for the children. Or it could be the ‘Aunty’ next door, who wears revealing clothes and likes to lean close to young, impressionable boys and girls. The accompanying image I have used is from Ms Rizwan’s blog.
What can you, as a parent do?
In India, strangers on the street feel free to tickle a child, pinch his or her cheeks and/or fondle the child, right in front of the parents. It is considered acceptable behaviour. So here is what you can do:
- Tell your child that hugs/kisses from strangers are not okay
- That no one must touch/tickle your child in the private parts
- That it is not safe to accept sweets/treats from others (and/or unknown people)
- That, he or she must shout/ask for help/protest loudly, if someone tries to hold or cuddle them
- If God forbid, your child is behaving strangely or complains of pain, be alert
And finally, to know why parents must be on guard against abuse, log onto: http://www.tulir.org/faq.htm
Why should you and I take all this trouble? Because, our children have the right to a happy and safe childhood. But as parents, we must also be aware that bad things can happen.