Today, as we celebrate Children's Day, here are some facts you should know:
- Over 53% children in India have been abused at least once in their lifetime.
- 50% of the abusers or sexual offenders are well-known to the child; either a family member or in a position of trust.
- Many reports (such as the RAHI report) reveal that more boys than girls reported sexual abuse of some form or the other. According to the study, 52% percent of boys and 47% percent of girls have reported sexual abuse of one form or the other.
These alarming numbers can be found in the National Study on Child Abuse (April 2007), Ministry of Women and Child Development and other small scale qualitative studies done by NGOs.
With the last National Study conducted way back in 2007, one can only imagine what the situation is like today. What's even more alarming is the fact that parents, education systems and guardians do not want to talk about child sex abuse and report these offenders, or even teach their children the difference between a good and bad touch.
Ex-Marketing Communications specialist Payal Shah Karwa found her true calling in writing about this burning topic. "Child Sex Abuse is a grossly ignored issue. It has been ignored by the government, law agencies and society as a whole. It needs immediate attention and society needs to be shaken up from the ignorance," she says.
While researching the topic, she discovered the inspiring story of activist Harish Iyer and his childhood sex abuse. Her book 'The Bad Touch' is a collection of stories from people who have suffered CSA and overcome the trauma. It is also a guide for parents to be sensitive to their child's feelings, and to know when something is wrong.
We spoke to Payal, and here are some excerpts from the interview:
a) What is 'The Bad Touch' all about?
The Bad Touch is a book on a mission to spread awareness about Child Sex Abuse. It is a collection of true stories of survivors-turned-thrivers of child sex abuse such as Anurag Kashyap, Harish Iyer, Amrita Purkayastha and others. Each story has a positive resolution and explores a different aspect of CSA to enable the reader to gain awareness. The book also contains several resources, practical guidelines and valuable information about CSA to equip them to protect a child or deal with a case correctly.
In your book, you have some big names like filmmaker Anurag Kashyap and activist Harish Iyer. Can you share how they overcame this trauma?
Each thriver has a different resolution of overcoming the trauma. For instance, Harish came out of the ordeal by dedicating himself to this social cause. Anurag Kashyap took to writing, though he was of the opinion one does not totally overcome the trauma. Others took to creative therapy, the power of prayer and psychiatric counselling. Each thriver has their own way of dealing with the trauma, thought not everyone has necessarily overcome it.
What is the biggest hindrance to the cause of eradicating this evil?
Amongst the various hindrances, lack of strong legal action against perpetrators is one of the biggest reasons why we have not been able to curb it. Hence a foolproof justice system that is implemented correctly at all levels, from the Police to the Court of Justice, is imperative. Though the POCSO Act 2012 has been passed, it is the actual execution that remains a challenge.
...and what is the one key to stop it?
I think prevention begins at home. If parents educate themselves, make themselves aware about CSA and take strong steps to protect their child, it can help a lot. And in case something untoward does happen at least they are better equipped to handle it.
In the same breath, I would like to state that the implementation of a strong justice system is yet another key solution to stop it.
Your tips to parents and how they can teach their kids to be wary and know the difference between Safe and Unsafe touch.
- First of all parents must educate themselves about Child Sex Abuse by reading up about it.
- They must attend workshops organised by NGOs like Arpan to learn the correct way to teach their child about the difference between safe and unsafe touch.
- They must teach their child the names of their private body parts in an age-appropriate way. In short, parents must EMPOWER the child with the right vocabulary so that they can recognise abuse for themselves and communicate to the parents if need be.
Now to prevent such situations from arising or if the kids are too small to defend themselves:
- Parents must ensure they do not leave their kids alone, even with a well-known person, for too long.
- Do not allow your kids to go to the neighbour's homes alone.
- If you have to leave your kids with a caretaker at home for a few hours daily, have security cameras installed in your home - it is an investment.
- Parks and gardens are a potential place for such incidents to occur. Ensure your child is within your field of vision if they are playing around.
Some tips for children as well on what they can do if faced with such a situation.
- The child must say 'NO' and run away from that place or scream and raise an alarm.
- If the child is unable to defend himself, he or should report to the parents immediately about the incident.
Finally, most parents will complain that there is no proper education material for kids to understand this sensitive topic.
Childline India Foundation, a non-profit organisation that specialises in children protection and rights, have released an animated short film called 'Komal'. This film won the FICCI Best Animated Frames Award 2014 and is arguably the best film to express and explain how CSA works to a child and to the child's parents.
Please watch the film and show it to your kids too.
You can buy your copy of Payal Shah Karwa's book, The Bad Touch, available in all leading bookstores.