Not Just Children, Childhood is also at Risk! – A Reader (Advocate, Citizen, Mother, Wife)
The recent murder in Chennai of a seven year old kid by a neighbour in the same apartment has sent shivers up the spine of many. Where are we heading?
Should we ignore this as just another crime committed by a criminal minded fellow citizen. Why did he do it? Rumours have it that the crime included an attempt to ‘molest’ the kid. One wouldn’t even want to identify the kid as a girl. A 7-8 year old would not even have developed into a ‘girl’. She would just be a kid.
The Known Face, The Unknown Character
In most of these cases, the kids are vulnerable to persons who are known to their families. An ‘unblemished’ and ‘trustworthy’ face which the kid smiles at, on a day to day basis. A face which the kid wouldn’t say ‘No’ to, when spoken with, the arms into which it would run, hoping those limbs would protect it.
But unfortunately, sometimes it is the same set of eyes, face and arms that was showing so much of affection that ends up torturing our tiny tots. How do we protect these kids from these unimaginable pain and trauma.
Do Institutionalized Sexual Education and Awareness Programs Help?
Some Schools and Social Networks suggest ‘Sexual Awareness’ programs among children, which includes teaching them on the right and wrong touches, correct and incorrect looks, good and bad words.
One wonders whether ‘institutionalizing’ these awareness programs is a step in the right direction. Many Counsellors say, ‘Yes, Of course, what’s wrong?’ and we see parents/ other stakeholders speaking about taking the children for counselling. Creating an awareness to guard themselves. Guard themselves against preying by some predatory elements of our society. We cannot causally call these acts beastly, because even animals refrain from touching a young (sexually immature) one. We are not referring to killing for food or to eliminate a competitor’s genes (as the Lion kills the erstwhile leader’s cubs in the pride).
Many Parents Clear, Yet Others Confused
It is clear to some parents. They have no second thoughts about the way ahead. Formal ‘Counselling’ is the panacea…as clear as daylight. But many others, like me, are confused about how to handle these situations…… a 40+ year old woman with two kids, having raised ten other kids along the way (nephews, nieces, neighbours’ kids)
While talking to kids about games, stories, toys, barbie dolls and ice cream, do I also talk about an wanted touch or an unwelcome stare? How do we tell them to differentiate?
Neighbour ‘Uncles’ who say a good morning daily in the lift, or the teachers who pat the kids on the back for a good performance in academics or some extra-curricular activities are possible predators?.
The child’s friend’s father may playfully squeeze the cheeks seeing his own daughter in the child. The elderly gentleman may hug a kid since he or she reminds him of his grand-child far away. We normally don’t encourage our kids to engage much with the liftman, laundryman, driver etc though we may ask kids to treat and refer to them with respect. But what do we say for these friends and family members, a very small percentage of whom could be wolves.
By talking on these issues openly with the kids, are we teaching our children that every adjacent person could be a threat to their body/mind/soul?????. I want all the sisters to look upto their brothers, brothers’ friends, uncles and other relationship as we all grew up without an ounce of doubt, feel secure and also safe.
Parents may Steal Childhoods unwittingly
In our effort to caution our kids about possible devils lurking in the big bad world, are we killing the child’s innocence or naive faith? By talking about intrusive touches etc, are we ourselves invading their carefree world and making them conscious of their body? The child may also lose trust in all known faces, including their own fathers’ and brothers’. We cannot steal from a kid, its freedom to trust its own near and dear ones in the family.
Is there a way other than Institutionalized Indoctrination?
In a soft manner, a parent can tell his/her kid to ensure that he/she doesn’t go to any body’s house without explicit permission. Not to eat anything offered by anyone, report immediately if anyone behaves in a manner which is uncomfortable etc. The parent could also give a few trusted persons’ names as exceptions. This approach may not be perfect but seems a better alternative to warping the kids’ innocence, till the time they grow a bit.
This approach is for those kids less than 10-11 years of age. For older kids maybe the Sex Education classes if properly developed/executed would help. But one should be extremely wary about the plug and play ‘wisdom’ that is handed out these days by all professionals (Law is no exception) without understanding the nuances or getting into details.
Any formal training or counselling could be done for the parents and teachers to be aware of their wards’ comfort/ discomfort and to immediately notice behaviour that is not normal. Kids may not voice out about abuse (if they are the victim) openly, since the perpetrator may actually scare them enough to ensure their silence. But their body language may speak.
We believe it is as important to Save Childhood and Innocence as it is to Save Every Single Child!
(The Reader is a Working Professional who counts on her family and maids’ eco-system to help her with her Kids. Herself an advocate, she is extremely wary about the plug and play ‘wisdom’ that is handed out these days without understanding the nuances or getting into details )