I happened to come across this video the other day which immediately made me sit up and write on this socially tabooed topic.
Remember that friendly neighborhood uncle who talked sweet but never left a chance to grope you outside the public eye, or that old relative who touched you at all the wrong places? Or even that milkman or fruitwala who accidentally (but deliberately) bumped into you touching your skin?
It has evoked some bad memories, hasn’t it? Even though 20, 30 or 40 years might have elapsed but you can still relive the horror of those moments. You have grown up and some of your perpetrators might have long gone, but their acts have stayed with you all these years. You stayed silent, didn’t speak about it to anyone in your family, not even to your mother. Yes, there was a social stigma attached to it. What could your mother have said? Or better still, what could she have done about it? The uncle was a known member of the society. No, no. It was better you didn’t say anything to anybody.
It happens to almost all girls while growing up that some member of the family or friend takes advantage of their innocence. As there is no sex awareness, most of them choose to keep quiet. And their silence is then accepted as their fate. Though there was no lecher in my family (thankfully), there was one in my neighborhood. The 50-something man used to roam around with his beaded ‘mala’ chanting ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna Hare Hare” and then would deliberately try to mingle with young girls touching them inappropriately. Though all of us hated him and avoided going near to him, none of us complained to our parents. I can’t recollect now why we were afraid of reporting him to our parents.
The times have changed but the people have not. Young girls are the same and the society is still the same, full of sick and depraved people. But what still rankles is the lack of awareness amongst the parents. I have a little daughter and my blood boils every time I think of something like this happening to her. This is the reason I resent when male members of the society; friends and family try to be too touchy-feely with her. I may be paranoid but so be it. Let her grow a little bit and I will be the first one to make her aware of this situation.
Here’s what you can do to make your little ones safe from sexual offence:
Being a parent, you have to shoulder a lot of responsibilities. Being aware of such behaviour in this otherwise civilized society is also a part of your responsibility.
- Notice constantly if there is any change in your child’s behaviour; if an exuberant/naughty/extrovert child suddenly becomes quiet and brooding or their marks start falling or they lose appetite even for their favourite dishes.
- Take steps that your child is not among strangers without mature company.
- Except immediately family, trust no one. Even then you need to be cautious.
Better be safe than sorry:
The fruit vendor in our society is extra friendly with small kids. Though he might have meant no harm, I once saw him throwing my girl high in the air. I immediately admonished him. Similarly, you need to monitor closely. You never know who is bad and who is good.
- Make your little child wear cycling shorts, bloomers under skirts or frocks. Under short skirts, make them wear tights.
- Make sure their school bus has a female attendant.
- Try not to send them in private transport.
Talk to her:
We understand that your child is young and you want to shield her from external influences. But also remember that awareness in your child is half the battle won. So as soon as your child is old enough to understand, teach her the concepts of good touch, bad touch. Most schools have this kind of knowledge parting but there’s no harm in starting early. Tell your child that she needs to talk to her teacher or parents if she feels bad after someone’s touch.
To an older child, give her/him basic sex education. Talk to your child regularly and tell her to come to you if any untoward incident happens.
Take someone in confidence:
There are circumstances on which you have no control, eg. you need to leave your child in a day care, or with family or friends. Take someone in the family in confidence and ask her/him to keep an eye on your child in your absence. When I had left my 15 months daughter with her grandparents for 2 months, I had requested my mother-in-law to be extra attentive when she played with male servants in the house.
Take her side:
If your child comes running to you complaining about some bad incident, immediately soothe her. Listen to her side of the story and take immediate steps. Most often than not, a well-respected family member/friend or a neighbor is involved. Don’t hesitate. Remember, this can traumatize your innocent child forever. Don’t choose a sexual pervert over your child. Also, take her/him to counselors for help.
If I have left something important, please share in this forum. It may help an innocent child from being a victim of sexual offence.