A study conducted by the Ministry of Women and Children Development has concluded that 53 per cent of children in India have admitted to being victims of child sexual abuse (CSA). These are only the number of reported cases. If we were to take into account all the instances that get brushed under the carpet, the numbers will be even more startling. As the world is observing Child Sexual Abuse Awareness month this April, here is a lowdown on the efforts of two women who have been spreading awareness and fighting CSA in their own ways.
Decoding The Bad Touch
In the midst of all the noise regarding CSA, lies a voice that aims at educating mothers on how they can protect their children from this heinous social evil. The Bad Touch, a book authored by Santacruz-resident Payal Shah Karwa, chronicles the life and trauma of ‘thrivers’ such as Harrish Iyer and Anurag Kashyap, amongst others. Through the book, Payal aims to inspire other ‘thrivers’, as it is a positive book with inspiring stories. The other objective of the book is to create awareness about CSA amongst parents and guardians, especially mothers, and equip them with sufficient information to fight it out.
Speaking about the book, Payal says, “A mother spends the maximum time with her child. Hence, it is absolutely imperative that she is well-informed about this issue and educated on how she can protect her children. I first heard of CSA during a conversation with Harrish, when we were colleagues, way back in 2006. Since then, the thought stayed with me and when I thought of writing a book, this was the natural choice. Developing the book began three years back and since then it has been a very emotional journey for me. The reason I chose ‘thrivers’ such as Harrish and Anurag is to highlight that boys as much as girls may be a victim of CSA.”
In case a parent senses signs of abuse, The Bad Touch actually lists out the dos and don’ts to be followed. “Never question the child as to why they did not share this earlier. Assure and reassure the child that they are safe and the bad phase is over. Never confront the perpetrator in front of the child. A perpetrator never stops at just one child, he will move on from one child to the next and the next, unless caught. So, please get legal recourse if you see an instance of abuse,” shares Karwa from the experiences she has garnered while researching for her book.
Bridging the gap
As far as CSA is concerned, the focus is slowly shifting from awareness to action. This is evident in the intense activity that is witnessed on www.csaawarenessmonth.com, Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month (CSAAM) site, created by Goregaon-resident Kiran Manral to inform and educate people about CSA.
An erstwhile journalist, Manral is today an active blogger–one who has been listed in Labnol’s list of India’s top blogs. Speaking about her association with the cause, Manral says, “The issue has always been high on my list of priorities. The enormity of the situation, however, hit me when I set out on a drive with some fellow bloggers, most of whom are dear friends today. Each of us had a story to share about survivors of child sexual abuse we knew. In May 2011, the idea of Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month (CSAAM), the platform that I manage, was born.”
As the mother to an adolescent son, Manral’s challenge is to ensure that he understands the difference between exploration and sexual abuse. “I try to engage him in conversation about his school day to understand who he has been in contact with, to gently explain the significance of older boys in school suddenly trying to befriend him. I ensure he is never left unattended in the company of strangers or even the house help,” elaborates Manral.
Through the platform of CSAAM, Manral and her team communicate with parents, caregivers and survivors of abuse. Very often, survivors are unable to overcome the shame. The intention is to form a support structure for such people so that they can eventually let go of their trauma and live a complete life. She says that it is indeed an uphill task to get over this head-in-the-sand approach towards the issue. Kiran advices, “Ensure your child is educated about the body parts and is able to communicate well. With all the resources available online, ensure you read well about the topic. Like we teach our children about road safety and fire safety, body safety should be a natural extension of education.”