Bangalore: How to watch out for child sexual abuse

Abuse is far more common than one would like to believe.

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Bangalore: How to watch out for child sexual abuse


More than 53% children reportedly faced one or more forms of sexual abuse and 50% of the abusers are persons known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility, a study by the ministry of women and child development pointed out.

“Any activity with a child which is for sexual gratification of another person is child sexual abuse (CSA),” defined Dr Shaibya Saldanha, a gynaecologist with 22 years of experience in dealing with victims of CSA and the co-founder of Enfold, a trust that works to deal with this issue through education.

“Doctors do not get trained on child abuse in any medical college in India,” confessed Kushi Kushalappa, a coordinator of Enfold. Kushalappa, who has over seven years of experience in counseling explained how this becomes a problem. “Unless professionals, whether doctors or police, know how to extract critical information from children without putting words into the child’s mouth or compromising on legal requirements, legal remedy becomes distant.”

“We all want to give our children a safe world. But we haven’t. Let us at least warn them against it,” suggested Dr Vyjayanthi, a consultant in MS Ramaiah hospital, who also works with the Child Protection Unit there. As a psychiatrist who deals with victims traumatised by abuse, she confessed that abuse happens in a social context.

“In India, we take extreme liberty to touch, pinch, hug, carry and kiss children. As adults, we must respect the fact that even children don’t like being touched. We are putting children in vulnerable situations,” Kushalappa said.

What children need is to have one or two adults, whether at home, school or the community, whom they trust and are comfortable with. It’s a myth that talking to them about abuse will scare them.

When a child says ‘I don’t want to go in that van’, parents should have the patience to get the child to come out with the reason. It can be as stupid the discomfort in the seat or it could be that the conductor makes the child sit on his lap, said Kushalappa.

The way little children are abused is unbelievable. Doctors agree that it’s important to tell children that what happened is no fault of theirs, even if they agreed to act.

“Blaming the children for not reporting immediately or for having cooperated with the abuse during the period of silence shows that the problem is not understood by well-meaning caregivers.

Doubting that abuse happened or that the alleged abuser actually abused will lead to a secondary trauma in the child”, added Dr Vyjayanthi.

Lamenting the sorry state, Kushalappa said: “The situation however is changing with all these stakeholders changing their views and doing a good job in handling such sensitive cases.”

What parents should do
Teach children about personal safety just as you do about kidnappers and robbers

If you suspect a change in the social behaviour of the child (suddenly becomes introvert, fearful or violent, unexplained avoidance of certain people or places), in personal grooming (dresses up to look unattractive or too covered) or in eating habits, talk to the child in a comfortable environment

Ask leading questions to understand how they feel

When the child speaks out, show that you believe

Make your child understand that it was not his/her fault

Pocso Act

The Act provides for the establishment of special courts for trial of offences covered in it

Offences covered include penetrative and aggravated penetrative sexual assault, sexual and aggravated sexual assault, sexual harassment and using a child for pornographic purposes

It also recognises attempt to commit these offenses

Burden of proof shifts to the accused

The statement of the child to be recorded at the residence of the child or at the place of his choice, preferably by a woman police officer not below the rank of sub-inspector                            

No child can be detained in the police station in the night for any reason.

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