Promote Holistic Programmes to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse

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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 all the topics that  require to be addressed with children in order to make our programmes more holistic. 

1. To begin with, myths pertaining to child sexual abuse must be addressed

2. Different forms of abuse - Contact and Non-Contact forms of Child Sexual Abuse must be addressed

3. Process of Grooming used by abusers must be addressed

4. Enumeration of what must be done when abused must be reiterated to the child

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 teaching children regarding these finer aspects are going to curb them off their 'innocence'. 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.