Promote ‘6-Cautions’ to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse & Not Limit to Good Touch-Bad Touch
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Teaching children ‘Good Touch and Bad Touch’ is not good enough to prevent child sexual abuse. ‘Safe Touch and Unsafe Touch’ is comparatively better, but certainly not comprehensive or impactful enough to prevent all forms of child sexual abuse. Horrific incidents of child sexual abuse that have come to light in India have prompted at least some schools to start training children on prevention of sexual abuse in recent times. However, most of the schools seem to restrict the training of children to ‘Good touch/Bad touch’. It propagates the myth that there has to be ‘TOUCH’ involved for it to be considered sexual abuse.
Consider the following examples. An abuser is watching the kid bathe or change clothes. Or Forcing the child to watch porn. Or sending the child porn images on Whatsapp. Or coming very close to the child and pretending to touch but not in fact touching. Or exhibiting the genitals to the child. Or masturbating in front of the child. Do all these constitute child sexual abuse? Yes, it better is considered child sexual abuse. If you notice, none of what I have written above as examples of child sexual abuse involve ‘touch’. Then why are we exclusively emphasizing on ‘good touch/bad touch’?
In this appeal, I shall focus on an alternative to ‘Good Touch/Bad Touch’ narrative. ‘6-Cautions’ is what I am calling it. Working with children in this area over the last few years in my capacity as a psychologist, I am convinced beyond doubt that when explained using examples and creative methods, these ‘6-Cautions’ is not theory heavy, and most children can understand and remember, and act. CHILDREN MUST NOT BELIEVE THAT SOMEBODY IS VIOLATING THEIR RIGHTS ONLY WHEN THERE IS TOUCH INVOLVED. NON-CONTACT FORMS OF SEXUAL ABUSE IS EQUALLY A CRIME. Enumerated below are the 6-cautions.
1. ‘Look’ Caution: This caution helps children to be aware that Voyeurism , Exhibitionism, Making Children Watch Pornography, ‘Sexting’, and other behaviors where the sexual abuse involves ‘seeing’ must be reported.
2. ‘Hear’ Caution: This caution helps children to be aware that speaking in a vulgar manner directly or over phone, telling a child ‘I am going to touch you’ (Not necessarily doing it), pressurizing a child to touch him/her verbally (irrespective of the outcome) must also be reported.
3. ‘Touch’ Caution: Here a child must be encouraged to report not just when touched in the private parts, but mostly when touched unnecessarily and when nobody seems to be around. Is it okay if an abuser touches the child’s stomach or the under arms. Absolutely not. By over-emphasizing on what is considered ‘private parts’, many abusers are getting away molesting children as children are not reporting when touched inappropriately in any other part other than ‘private parts’.
4. ‘Hold’ Caution: This involves hugging, making the child sit on the lap, or could range to penetrative sexual activity.
5. ‘Alone’ Caution: This does not directly constitute sexual abuse, but could act as a precursor to sexual abuse or some other form of abuse. This refers to encouraging a child to be in circumstances where the child is alone or seeking information regarding when the child is alone. Example: Checking with the child the times when he/she is going to be alone at home, or playing ‘secret’ games with the child and encouraging the child to not disclose it to anyone.
6. ‘Space’ Caution: Getting very close to children despite a lot of space around. This can act as a precursor to a possible abuse.
I am not saying this is 'THE' model to train children. But I do believe it is worth exploring and refining, and a bit better and comprehensive than 'Good touch- Bad touch' narrative.
Let us not assume children won’t understand. Let’s explore ways to help them understand using means that they learn best. Let's invest in creating animation, infographics, videos, role plays, quizzes, hypothetical case studies etc. WE MUST TRY. I could be wrong, but with my limited work with children, I do know that most children as young as 7-8 year old do understand the concept.
Let us also not worry that if they know these ‘6-Cautions’, their 'innocence' is lost. I am writing this because I have heard parents, teachers, and so many speaking on these lines. What innocence are we talking about? Is keeping children uninformed, ill-informed regarding the many shades of child sexual abuse the way to protect their ‘Innocence’. Awareness is empowering, when promoted through dialogue. Children must be dialogued with on everything that concerns them. One would be amazed what children can bring to the table when given safe space to voice their feelings and thoughts.
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