I had the opportunity to enroll myself for a volunteer training session by the CSAAP (Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Project) team of Childline India which works towards prevention and communication of sexual abuse cases in a child’s life. Our trainer Ms Suchismita Bose from The Foundation gave much needed insights to help us understand the roots of the problem. Here are some signs which as per the trainer we should watch out for in a child :-
- Acting out in an inappropriate sexual way with toys or objects
- Nightmares, sleeping problems
- Becoming withdrawn or very clingy
- Becoming unusually secretive
- Sudden unexplained personality changes, mood swings and seeming insecure
- Regressing to younger behaviours, e.g. bedwetting
- Unaccountable fear of particular places or people
- New adult words for body parts and no obvious source
- Talk of a new, older friend and unexplained money or gifts
- Physical signs, such as, unexplained soreness or bruises around genitals or mouth, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy
- Not wanting to be alone with a particular child or young person
Subsequently Suchismita highlighted and underlined some very important aspects for a parent to be aware of and behave appropriately
Stop making the child feel like a victim
As she rightly said, parents can be under equal turmoil. However she pointed out that given their courage to face the situation, the onus of making or breaking the child lies on the parent. She says as an adult or a parent the biggest help that we can do to your child who is a victim of sexual abuse is Stop making him feel like a victim. This can give the child the much needed courage to shift the burden from being a victim to becoming level headed and combat the situation like a warrior.
‘Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?’
She pointed out a very common and a natural pattern of reaction by all parents. And am sure we have it internally imbibed this. When you hear a child sob his story the next question that pops in our mind is ‘Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?’ According to Suchismita, its not just the words but even your eyes speak in volumes. Projecting this question in your dialogue directly or indirectly stimulates a thought in the child’s mind that he could have controlled the situation, while may not be the case in reality. Why put the child in a spot when he is already undergoing a trauma?
Stay away from self-assumed counseling
Suchismita warned us against counseling the child. Not because the child will not respond but we as amateurs may not adopt a right method unlike a professional counselor who just knows where to stop. She also encouraged all of us to use the services of children helpline 1098 who can help us at all stages from counseling to helping us file an FIR.
In conclusion, it must be said that parents need to take that extra step of making their child aware of this problem by not just alienating them from the crowd but by educating them about the problem and helping them to be a part of the crowd.