You can teach your children about safe and unsafe touch without intimidating them by using the format below. Teach them that their body is theirs’ alone … Covered by their swimsuits are their private parts and no one is allowed to touch them in those parts.
Ask them “Does it feel good to be hugged and kissed by the people you love.”
Do you like it when mummy gives you a hug and kiss after you wake up?
When daddy gives you a good-night hug and kiss?
When Grandma and Grandpa or cousins and friends come to visit and everyone gets hugs and kisses? and Chocolates?
Tell them that these are all safe touches
A touch that makes you feel uncomfortable is usually an unsafe touch. Tell your child that they don’t have to keep it a secret, when someone gives them an unsafe touch. Teach them “Your body belongs to you. Nobody should touch you if you don’t want to be touched.”
Tell them ‘Your body belongs to you, respect and take care of your body, you can decide who can touch you, who can kiss you, or who can give you a hug’.
“You have the right to say, “No”” to anybody even if it is a family member, friend or cousin.
The offender is usually an adult, but could also be a more powerful child.
Types of child sexual abuse / What is considered sexual abuse
CSA may be in the form of a single incident or many acts over a long period of time. Abuse is more often perpetrated by someone known to the child. Abuse may escalate over time, particularly if the abuser is a family member. Child Sexual Abuse includes both Touching and Non-Touching Behavior (but need not be limited only to these acts) . It is CSA if there is
Fondling- Touching genitals.
Obscene phone calls
Oral or anal sex
Exploitation – giving or receiving money / gifts / chocolates for using a child for sexual gratification.
Or any other sexual conduct that is harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare.
At What Age Can CSA Start
One of the youngest victims of sexual abuse was a one and a half months old baby. However, in majority of cases, sexual abuse begins around 5 years of age, peaks at around 12 -14 years of age and then begins to decline (as per the Govt. report). It can, however, continue into adulthood.
Fact: The Ministry of Women and Child Development, Govt of India, PRAYS and UNICEF, 2007 reported that out of 12,447 children (hailing from all strata of society), 53% reported sexual abuse. Out of 12,447 children, 21% reported severe sexual abuse.
Myth 2: Boys are not susceptible to CSA.
Fact: Research also shows the incidence of sexual abuse of boys is also on the rise. 52% of boys and 47% of girls have reported sexual abuse of one form or the other. More boys than girls have reported severe form of sexual abuse.
Myth 3: Child sexual abuse occurs mostly in poor and illiterate families.
Fact: Research on reported incidents (from children and adult survivors) clearly indicates that child sexual abuse is a widespread problem affecting all strata of society.
Myth 4: Children lie and make up stories about sexual abuse
Fact: Children never lie about CSA. When a child comes to you reporting CSA always believe, trust, protect and support them.
Myth 5: CSA occurs in surrounding unfamiliar to the child.
Facts: Every child we know is vulnerable to sexual abuse even at home-house help/drivers/family members/neighbors. Children with disabilities are 3.4 times more likely to be abused compared with non-disabled children
Myth 6: Child Sexual Abuse starts only when the child is much older
Fact: One of the youngest victims of sexual abuse was a one and a half months old baby. However, in majority of cases, sexual abuse begins around 5 years of age, peaks at around 12 -14 years of age and then begins to decline (as per the Govt. report). It can, however, continue into adulthood in some cases.
Myth 7: 24 hour surveillance of the child will prevent sexual abuse
Fact: It is not possible for a single adult to look after a child 24 hours a day. It is much better to empower the child. The child can be taught personal safety, personal space rules, and safe and unsafe touch, just as we teach our children about how to protect the body from heat, cold, fire and injury. Ask the child to come and tell you if anyone ever breaks the body rules or if they experience an unsafe touch.
Myth 8: Explaining about personal safety (safe and unsafe touch) to the child will unnecessarily frighten the child
Fact: The child will not be frightened if we explain about personal safety as a choice and introduce the concept in a comfortable and non-threatening manner. We can tell the child that “your body belongs to you.” No one can touch you in a way you don’t like. (This includes pinching and slapping and hitting etc.)”.
Talk especially about the parts covered by the undergarments or swimsuit. How no one can touch them in those parts, except when keeping them clean and healthy (mother, doctor). Talk about personal space – the space around our body that we consider to be our own. Talk about safe and unsafe touch. Children are told about strangers and robbers and kidnappers. Similarly tell them about their body rules and personal space. Do not frighten the child. Explain that most adults want to help and protect children. There are a few ‘bad’ people who want to hurt children. We need to protect ourselves from such people.
Myth 9: If society gets to know of the abuse, the child have more to lose than the abuser
Fact: The silence of the abused and the people who know about it, is the main reason that sexual abuse continues. By exposing the abuser in a way which does not traumatize the child, helps the child to heal as well as stops other children from being abused. Everyone wants to “Look Good” and have a “good” reputation. The criminal has his reputation to lose. The child is a victim, blameless and innocent and will heal faster from the trauma if he / she perceives that justice has been done. Also important for the safe adults to form a union and handle this with sensitivity keeping the abused child in mind, by not telling other kids more than what they require to know, not targeting and isolating the abused child.
Facts about child sexual abuse
Any child we know is vulnerable to sexual abuse
Child sexual abuse is a universal problem affecting millions of children across the world
Both boys and girls are vulnerable to sexual abuse
Children with disabilities are 3.4 times more likely to be abused compared with non-disabled children
Disbelieve allegations of abuse
Note : This may be particularly true if the perpetrator is a family member.
The absence of force or coercion does not diminish the abusive nature of the conduct, but, sadly, it may cause the child to feel responsible for what has occurred.
Fathers / mothers
Siblings / cousins
Other family members – uncles, aunts
Teachers / coaches or anyone else who is in close contact with children
Does an abuser have defining characteristics?
Usually are pedophiles or child molesters
They do not share any specific common characteristics
Both men and women can be abusers
They do not belong to any particular socio-economic class
Education, or the lack of it, does not define an abuser
They need not have any psychiatric disorder or emotional / psychological problems
They can be married and have children of their own
May or may not have history of abuse in his/her childhood
When targeting a child, abusers usually
Pick someone who can be safely victimized
Get access to the child by gaining the trust of the child’s parent or adult caretaker
Gain the child’s trust and break down his / her defenses
Spend time observing and then tricking the child into performing sexual acts so that the victim appears to be a willing partner
Manipulate an apparently “willing victim“ through encouragement, coercion, surveillance, constraint and bribery
The above explained process is called grooming.
It increases the abuser’s access to his victim and decreases the likelihood of discovery.
The abuser works on the premise that emotional seduction is the most effective way to manipulate children.
Grooming begins when the abuser chooses a target area where children are likely to go: schools, parks, shopping malls, playgrounds,etc.
Baits Used by Child Abusers
They may offer to play games, give rides, or buy treats and gifts as tokens of friendship.
They may offer drugs or alcohol to older children or teenagers.
They almost always offer a sympathetic, understanding ear. I trust you. I respect you. I care for you more than anybody else. And “I love you. I’m here for you”.
They will Introduce secrecy at some point during the grooming process to create a bond
Later secrecy joins hands with threats
They break down the child’s defenses and increase the child’s acceptance of touch
Nonsexual touching in the beginning desensitizes the child. It breaks down inhibitions and leads to more overt sexual touching
Inappropriate behaviors indicating SA
When an adult or older child:
Shows undue attention towards a child?
Insists on hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling with or holding a child even when the child does not want this affection.
He/she is overly interested in the sexuality of a particular child (e.g.,talks repeatedly about the child’s developing body)?
Constantly maneuvers to get time alone or insists on time alone with a child
Spends most of his/her spare time with children and has little interest in spending time with someone of his/her own age
Buys for children expensive gifts or gives them money for no apparent reason
Frequently intrudes a child’s privacy, for instance walks in when children are in the bathroom?
Allows children to consistently get away with undisciplined behavior?
Having few friends/ isolated
Desire to please
Values stressing family honor
Low self-esteem of the child
Initial disclosure is not done
Child now feels trapped and thinks
“I did not tell anyone when it first started. How can I tell them now?
Everyone will blame me for not resisting or not telling them earlier.
I feel too ashamed to explain all this to my mom/dad/teacher.
Maybe it will stop.”
The abuser, emboldened by the silence, goes ahead
A change in the social behavior of the child – a happy child becomes introvert, silent.
Learning problems, absences from school, inexplicable fall in academic grades, poor memory and lack of concentration.
The child may become insecure and cling to a safe adult.
Replaying the abuse with another child, generally younger or same age as them. This is known as sexualized behavior.
Change in eating habits: Child starts losing weight or may eat excessively, thus putting on weight.
Reluctance to participate in group physical or recreational activities
Regression to younger behavior, such as thumb-sucking, acting like a baby, bedwetting, speech difficulties
Sudden accumulation of money or gifts
Complaining of headaches, stomach pains or nausea without a physiological basis
Fatigue and sleeping difficulties
Poor self-care/personal hygiene/excessive bathing
Tendency to cling or need constant reassurance
Social withdrawal (such as poor or deteriorating relationships with adults and peers)
Child running away from home/school.
Developing fears, phobias and anxieties in relation to a specific place or adult related to abuse
Wearing provocative clothing, or layers of clothes to hide injuries and/or to appear unattractive
Obsession with sex or complete aversion to it.
Questioning their sexuality and gender
Drug and alcohol use, abuse and addiction.
Sleeping & Eating disorders
Perfectionism and workaholism
Sexual knowledge, behavior, or use of language not age appropriate
Sexual inference in children’s recreational activities such as drawing, playing, singing, etc.
Sexually abusive behavior towards other children particularly younger or more vulnerable than themselves
Self-injurious behavior, body-mutilation, getting into trouble with law, suicide attempts
Multiple forms of maltreatment or neglect may accompany child sexual abuse
Absence of one parent
What you can do as parents / teachers
Know your child’s teachers, coaches, day care providers, and other significant adults in their lives.
Make unannounced visits.
Ask questions. Stay involved. Talk to your children.
Teach them to recognize grooming behavior.
Teach them to be wary of any physical contact initiated by an adult.
Teach them to trust you with their problems and their pain.
Keep Your Child Safe
The safest child is the child who knows he can bring his problems and concerns to parents and adult caregivers without reproach or retaliation.
“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” -Albert Einstein
How should I respond?
Find a private place to talk
Believe the child; they may be confused about details but rarely lie about the abuse
Remain calm; don’t over or under react
Thank your child for telling you and praise her courage. If she expresses guilt or shame, let her know the abuse was not her fault.
Respect the feelings your child is experiencing. Each child expresses his or her feelings differently.
Tell the child it was not her/ his fault. The adult was at fault. The adult is guilty of a crime – even if the child did not tell when the abuse first started, the child was not responsible for the abuse continuing.
Tell the child that you would like to take the help of other adults (family members, institutions, staff members) to help the child, with the child’s permission.
Do not make false promises like “I will send the abuser to jail. I will beat him /her up etc’
Do not question or blame the child – “Why did you not shout for help?” “Why did you not tell me earlier?” “Why did you not fight?” Remember, it is a child and the abuser is a person known to the child – trusted and loved by the child.
Do not ask the child to “forgive” “forget” or “adjust”.
What should I do?
Keep the child away from the offender
Do not make negative comments about the abuser since your child may know and care about that person.
Don’t correct your child’s language if she doesn’t use the proper terms for private body parts. Use her language.
Tell your child you will be taking action to keep her safe, but don’t promise things you can’t control (e.g., “I’ll make sure he goes to jail”).
Report the abuse and seek professional assistance
What does an abused child want?
An abused child wants two things:
The child wants to be believed and
The child wants the abuse to stop.
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