The workshop for Counsellors at Heritage Hotel, Byculla for debating minimum protocols for handling Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) cases; saw 36 counselor’s take a day off from their busy schedules to participate. Resource persons from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore took the counsellors through a refresher on the issue of CSA and counselling methods that can be employed for survivors.
The workshop was organised by the CSA Awareness Project team of CHILDLINE India Foundation (CIF) and included school counselors, psychiatrists and therapists. It was inaugurated by lighting a lamp, by the two resource persons, Dr. Shubhada Maitra and Dr. Preeti Kandasamy and Nishit Kumar, Head - Communication and Strategic Initiatives, CIF.
Starting with the simple question of 'Why are you here today?', Dr. Shubhada Maitra, Associate Professor at TISS helped the participants realise that though their work is with people from diverse backgrounds, whether visually impaired students, children from remand homes or adult survivors, CSA had been experienced by all, cutting across all barriers.
Picking up from the effect of abuse on the emotional state of a survivor, Dr. Preeti Kandasamy, Child Psychiatrist- NIMHANS held the participants interest as she took them through the basics of forensic interviewing, intervention strategies and the importance of rapport building with the parents and the child.
Post Dr. Preeti's session, participants were given a brief overview of CHILDLINE and how it works and the CSA Awareness Program currently operational in Mumbai. The counsellors were then divided into groups and given 45 minutes to discuss minimum protocols for volunteers, counsellors, children and schools, while handling CSA cases. This session was moderated by Mrinalini Rao- Country Director, India, Railway Children with Sandip Shinde from CIF as a support facilitator.
Participants realised, that though the groups they were discussing were diverse, they were deeply interconnected. As Group 1rightly summed up, "Volunteers should be a critical first step in spreading awareness and in identifying signs of possible sexual abuse, while in the second step i.e healing, counsellors could be brought in; while in the third step i.e legal proceedings, schools and CHILDLINE teams can be involved."