Saturday, March 26, 2005

protecting children

Imagine youre sitting in the beach or coffee shop (or whichever is your haunt) with your friends. What would you do if someone casually mentioned that they had been sexually abused? Would you stop and stare? Would you be stunned and not know how to react, what to say? Would you feel angry with the abuser and upset? Would you feel dirty having touched such a person? Would you be irritated that such a serious “dirty” topic had come up socially? Would you wonder “but he (or she) seems so normal! …” Start thinking about it - this is not too far fetched you know.

According to the FPA, every 1 of 2 girl children is abused. Every 1 of 6 boys is abused. Quite scary isn’t that.

an abuser need not be just a stranger (it usually isn’t). it could be a parent, teacher, grandparent, relative, neighbour, driver, servant…anyone. There is absolutely NO classification like only people of a particular race or socio economic background are abusers.

Child sexual abuse may be defined as the coercion of a child by a more powerful person into sex for his/her gratification.

These constitute abuse:

1.Asking to be touched sexually
2.Peeping at children when they are bathing or dressing
3.Kissing inappropriately
4.Touching a child’s private areas (other than for cleansing)
7.Pornography – filming/showing
8.Obscene language, speech, innuendos

children who are left alone a lot, are insecure, unprotected, in dangerous or unstable environments, etc are more vulnerable to abuse.

Though a lot of abuse goes undetected and unreported, sometimes you may have a clue – im putting down a list of possible symptoms. Please note that these are more or less the general responses to traumatising events. Use your judgement and check whats going on : you cant use this as a blind check list.

1. Enlarged anus, vagina due to fisting or penetration (could be with objects also)
2. Bleeding
3. Bruising
4. Tearing of tissues (hymen, anal tract, vaginal tract)
5. STD/HIV transmission
6. Vaginal discharge (this is abnormal before puberty. Suspect abuse)
7. Abnormally late or early onset of puberty
8. Pregnancy
9. Pain, swelling
10. Irritation, burning sensation
11. Loss of appetite
12. self injury (the child may try to keep hurting itself after the abuse)
13. suicide
14. sexual dysfunction, impaired response to sexual stimuli (for survivors)

1. Depression
2. Fear
3. Aggression
4. Sleep disorders
5. Aversion to sex or to the gender of the abuser
6. Suicide ideation
7. Shock
8. Post traumatic stress disorder
9. Repressed memory syndrome (the memory gets involuntarily blocked out, and surfaces later in life. So if you ask the child soon after it may not remember, but may much later)
10. OCD
11. Fear of homosexuality
12. Schizophrenia

1. Withdrawal
2. Isolation
3. Violent
4. exhibitionism (the child may keep displaying the part of the body which was abused)
5. may become an abusive adult if it doesn’t get help and counselling.

Just as important is how to identify an abuser. First, child sexual abusers are of two kinds – molesters and paedophiles. Molesters are more dangerous than abusers in that they simply make use of an “opportunity” to molest a person who is vulnerable (in this case, a child). They are adults who may otherwise be in healthy working relationships with other adults. Paedophiles are people who enjoy sex only with children. They find only children sexually attractive. Most abuse is perpetrated by molesters than by paedophiles. Each molester abuses an average of 300 children in his lifetime. If one of those children grows up to be a molester himself, that’s another 300 children – it grows exponentially.

This is how you respond to abuse:
1. BELIEVE the child. No child is capable of fabricating a thing like abuse.
Don’t blame the child. Nothing a child did could “deserve” a response like abuse.

2. Be calm. Don’t panic, don’t start shouting in fury even if its with the abuser, don’t cry – youll scare the child.

3. Affirm the feelings of the child are real. Don’t deny or ascribe feelings about the incident. Keep an open mind.

4. Be supportive. LISTEN to the child.

5.Report the abuse only if the child is ok, depending on the kind of abuse etc. a court case is a long traumatising process during which the child may have to relive the abusive experience several times. Though it would be great to nail the abuser, our priority is the child. See to its needs first. Help it heal. Then think of the abuser. Sad, but that’s the way it is for the Indian legal scenario.

I had gone for a child sexual abuse prevention and healing workshop some time back. (All this is from the workshop). It was conducted by this ngo that’s doing really great work – theyre called Tulir (Center for Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse). They counsel the children, get them help, help fight cases in court… the works. If you know any child in need of help, that’s a good place to start. This is a good number to know : the national child helpline number is 1098 (remember as 10-9-8)

If youre an adult survivor in india, it is more difficult but not impossible to get help – I hear there is an ngo called Rahe in delhi that works with adult survivors. In madras tulir mentioned that there may be a self help group started. (ill let you know if that comes through).meanwhile, hopefully psychiatrists are becoming more sensitive to this problem.

Ill also see if i can find links for help for adult victims of abuse, and post them here if i do. Meanwhile, spread the word. You don’t have to be in some social service organisation for this – talk to siblings, family, friends, colleagues, go to your alma mater and talk to juniors… theres heaps we can do. Lets make sure as many of us as possible is aware of what to do to prevent abuse and to help victims of abuse.

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Blogger Senthil said...

Very well written and informative post. Incidentally, I have read somewhere that counseling psychiatrists, if they are not careful, are capable of inadvertently "planting" ideas of sexual abuse into the minds of children, resulting in the child thinking it has been abused. I think this was in an old Reader's Digest about a divorce case where the wife accuses her husband of child abuse, and their child is examined by psychatrists... we indeed live in disturbing times...

7:52 am  
Blogger Arch Storm said...

Especially in India, people are just too conscious to even speak about it in public. I dont mean the multiples crowds, i mean the rural parts of our country here 70% of the people live.
It would help if those people had access to counselling.. however since even a NOT for PROFIT oganization has to show some amount of profit, I dont think it would be commercially viable for them to reach out to villages.

1:23 pm  
Anonymous misha said...

@Arch storm
I dont agree with your arguement on the commercial inviability of a not-for-profit organisation in rural areas. What makes you say that?

9:56 pm  
Blogger m. said...

@senthil: hi. yup, ive heard about that happening too. so many shades of grey...!

@archstorm: things are changing. there was a book released recently called "bitter chocolate" which was about child abuse, written by a woman was abused as a child.

the point of stating service before profit as an objective means that you will deliver services that though may not be commercially viable, are socially relevant and hence worth sustaining. NGOs network to reach out to different areas.

12:21 am  
Anonymous kaushik said...

well, jus came across ur bolg....very heavy stuff in here....some things still keep happening....well remember that balancing equations stuff....for every good thing someone tries to do....there r always these scum who balance this....

3:14 am  
Blogger Arch Storm said...

@ Misha,
Lets consider the red cross. 65% of the money actually goes to the employees. The word Not for Profit Organization means that the aim of the organization is not to make profit. However, most of these organizations make profits. The Red Cross, Blue Cross and all the other American Charities, they spent millions just keeping their employees! Now, THIS IS NOT WRONG. Because nobody gonna do nothin if they aint gettin paid.Period!
However, this case works ideally in America because of the charity to churches system. Which is why American charities have such a huge presence in other countries.
Misha, all said and done, do u really think that the USA would want a presence in say Sudan or any other country just for charity's sake? Of course not. Its all about Imperialism. And maintaining a 100 charity organizations in a country would give more leverage to the developed nations to sway the politics of the other nation than maintaining a 10,000 people army!
I think I have deviated enough now..what i really meant to say is that if I want to contribute 1$ to an orphanage, by the time it reaches the kid there, 80% of it would have dried up, and this is without any kind of corruption...
Imagine how much money is needed to reach tens of millions of people on a daily basis!

3:44 am  
Blogger Arch Storm said...


5:31 am  
Blogger ekalavya said...

hello m,
just came across what u had written and though most of it makes undoubted sense, maybe a few more needs highlighting. in the country in which i live at the moment, and the workplace which pays me, there is a strict rule when it comes to talking to children( escorted by their parents). it says in their handbook( oh yes they have a handbook for even stuff like these) that the employee may not talk to the children and will adress all issues to the parent. initially, found this rule really weird, but apparently, its omnipresent in a lot of other occupations as well, ranging from menial workers to doctors. some might think there's a logical answer to this, and it took me a lot of questioning, including the manager of the worlplace to explain why so. according to him/her, the reason why we were not allowed to talk to children was because the parents had every right to sue the company in case they thought that the employee was suggesting ' wrong motives' if he/she spoke to the child. i was really dumbstruck to find that the extent people actually went to, to avoid any possible problem. i know there are these perverts everywhere and god forbid i get my hands on any one of them, but suggesting the 'motive' that most of us dont have and a sad few do, i really wonder if we are sending the right signals!!!!

imagine if i found a child really cute or funny or smart. would it be a crime for me to say that?? well it is...cause the rule book says so!!! . do i need to have parents stare at me wondering wht 'secret motive's 'i had in mind when i was talkin to their child ? some questions perhaps will never be answered, cause the society chooses, and when it does, its always the extreme !!! when do we balance whats actually taking place and what needs to be done to prevent it !!! child abuse as u pointed about m, is prevalent in magnitudes beyong reports and statistics, but i strongly feel that bringing about rules that applies to the workplace like the one i mentioned before is sadly going to draw our attention from the actual crimescene( people start at home!!!!) to situations where they mostly do not hold any kind of relavance.
wish the person who wrote that stupid rule book would stop beating around the bush and probably check his own home first !!!!!


1:26 pm  
Anonymous kaushik said...

Ekalavya....are u by any chance in the US?...they have similar rules....actually I find them funny !...

11:45 pm  
Blogger Arch Storm said...

hey ekalavya...
havent we as children always been told never to speak to strangers? i guess peodophiles have been there since a looooooong time!

5:11 am  
Blogger m. said...

@ekalavya: hi! yeah.. sometimes laws can be brainless. the concept of making one rigid rule irrespective of circumstances is ridiculous, but what choice do we have? maybe since kids are concerned, its better to be paranoid and safe rather than liberal and unsafe? :-)

7:12 am  
Blogger Addy said...

I agree about being warned about not talking to strangers but then aren't a lot of child abuse cases also cases of incest and aren't a lot of perpetrators od Child Abuse close relatives of the child.
"Don't talk to strangers" falls flat!

8:56 pm  
Blogger Woodworm said...

Well, Whats with the silence?

Waiting for posts....

11:11 pm  
Blogger Indu M said...

Where art thou? :-)

1:25 am  
Blogger m. said...

hullo. thanks for the wake up call :-)
sorting out my spinning world... hopefully ill crawl back soon!

3:54 am  
Blogger Manasa said...

Very informative and crisp!

Even if one is aware of these the problem comes with dealing with such kind of issues. Your blog is great in this aspect.

I agree that each of us should put in our bit to prevent this.

3:28 am  

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