Years back, before I had stepped into the troubled teens, I was told in various direct and indirect words about the dangers lurking in our society- especially for a girl. And it didn’t matter whether she was a small child or way past her youth. It was a depressing phase, and looking back I don’t think it was the the best of approaches used , however I must admit that it certainly was effective in protecting me.
The big question – How do you educate your child to identify the predator masked as a friend or relative or just a random friendly stranger.
I go by my own experiences and those of people I know and am close to.
I was a shy girl, avoided crowds, got nervous when there were men around, kept my eyes firmly on ground while walking on road.
I was afraid of the male species.
I didn’t trust them enough to interact freely.
Even during college, I retained that fear and felt safe in company of a very limited set of friends.
I avoided being harassed.
Should I thank the elders for being protective and trying to save me from the hunters?
Looking back, I feel that this wasn’t the best of the ways to prevent abuse. Being defensive isn’t really the best form of defense. And I was just lucky to have been safe. In fact going by the traits, I was the perfect candidate to be a victim!
Is being over protective towards our kids the right way to deal with this issue?
In our family protectiveness is the expression of love. So when my cousin locked me inside the house when he had to go out and there was no one else with me, I was supposed to consider it as his love towards me. And when I revolted, the expected explanation was “It’s for your own good”. Thankfully the said cousin was younger to me and was also afraid of my temper. He had to give in to my angry demand of not having the door bolted from outside. I am sure similar things happen in a lot of other families as well. This hyper protectiveness also brings in a sense of shame when there is a victim in the family. This fear and shame feeds the strength of the abuser. Unless the abuser is convinced of the victim staying silent, he would never dare to breach the limits of decency.
The key here is not only knowing how to defend yourself but also to be bold enough to combat harassment.
But first, we need to educate ourselves.
What is CSA?
I trust my partner, can he still be harassing my child?
Ditto for my relatives.
Is my child (or any other child) getting unconfortable with my or other people’s verbal/non-verbal acts?
How do I make sure it doesn’t happen to my child (and those I might be responsible for).
How do I make sure that my child is aware enough to know what is acceptable and what is not?
How do I enable my child to say NO when required?
How do I know whether my child is affected?
How do I deal if he/she has gone through CSA?
How do I help my child cope up with the trauma?
There are so many questions which we normally avoid because they make us uncomfortable. But we need to learn. And we need to act.
Do we let our kids be cocooned in their shells?
There is no harm in being friendly with relatives/friends/neighbors. But it is important to know where the ‘limits’ are drawn and how to deal with situations where others try to breach it. Kids are smart, intelligent and very sensitive. We need not underestimate their understanding capabilities. They only need a strong support system. And it helps if the parents provide them with the trust that they are there for them in any and every kind of crisis. There is no shortcut to imbibe the trust in your relationship with kids. It grows with time, getting absorbed in the most subtle ways. It shows in the way a kid comes home from school and confides the most trivial of experiences. It gets reaffirmed when the parent responds back with a smile or concern and be really interested. And, it certainly helps when the parent offers advice in a non-forced manner, making the kid receptive to the wisdom of age. It is also important that this communication is two-way. No, I am not asking the adults to discuss the complexities of their lives with kids. Depending on the age of the child, a parent should discuss and share snippets of their own adult life. This would make the kid feel important and aware. Sometimes references to someone Else’s experiences (factual or fictional) and the way they coped up with their problems also helps in passing the messages in the most subtle manner.
We must inculcate values like, “its not alright to be a victim or even a mere spectator to any kind of injustice being done” . “It doesn’t help to silently endure”.
We must build fighters out of our children.
The idea here is to have them understand what is right and wrong and also what is the acceptable way (for the child and the family) to deal with it. Like they can be told about cases when the victims chose not to share with the family, it led to the abusers going Scot-free and thus putting others in danger as well- which is not acceptable to your sense of justice. The child has to understand that even if the abuser threatens to do some harm, the parents would come to rescue and provide protection. This would be a powerful tool to motivate enough & refuse to being treated in a manner which S/He is not comfortable with. The child should also be convinced through words and actions in day to day life that anything that he/she tells would not be taken lightly or brushed aside. As I said earlier, it has to start with and be applicable to even the ‘non-consequential’ incidents that are shared. This may help the kid in developing and believing in his/her own instincts and ‘knowing’ when someone’s words/actions start feeling more disturbing than entertaining.
We cannot make our kids abuse-proof by locking them up. But we can make sure that they are bold enough to say NO when required.
As a parent, I have this responsibility to make sure that even if there is no sanitized environment for my kid, she is still able to live with dignity. And as harsh as it may sound, if a parent is not able to provide support to his/her child despite being aware, then the person has no claim over the basic parental rights. And for those who cite reasons for keeping quiet, one can easily find an equal number of options to deal with them. It’s all about standing up for the rights of your child. And the child should be aware of the power of his/her parent and trust in their abilities to deal with crisis. A parent who is weak him/herself can never exude that confidence which is so required for a child’s sense of security.
An open culture in the family is always encouraging. It instills a sense of security and immense faith that – come what may they shall fight any crisis together.
Parenthood is a magical word. In my dictionary, it means ‘State of Bliss’ and its synonym is ‘responsibility’. This is what we as parents need to learn.
An earnest request:
Do visit CSA blog….Go through the information passed on by experts. Be aware and make sure that your child is protected. The twitchats are quiet informative. They might help you to identify the signs when (God Forbid)the crisis strikes. I hope it doesn’t happen to ANYONE.. But in case it does, it would help to know whom to approach for support. The blog has links to various support groups. Read the survivor-stories. They are not meant to titillate or scare anyone. They are true stories of pain, courage and survival. Accept the fact that CSA exists and there can be a MONSTER behind a kind and friendly face.
And above everything else, please don’t let your kids down.. Their smiles are very precious.. Don’t let them fade away…