Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Empowering our kids - CSAAM April 2012


        " Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month – CSAAM – is an annual awareness programme organised by a voluntary collective of bloggers and social networkers. It aims to break the deafening silence that surrounds this taboo topic in India. It targets parents, teachers and caregivers of children of both sexes and all ages, offering vital information on CSA, including an online collection of CSA-related resources. It gives a voice to victims and offers hope to those who are still struggling with the after-effects of CSA. "

I quote the above from the CSA blog which you can visit for several heart wrenching stories about first hand experiences people have been brave and extremely kind to share, to give insights into the minds of obnoxious perverts, insights into how they have put the past behind them and emerged stronger persons, insights into their learnings from their experiences and thus providing very valuable resources for all of us to learn from and hope to protect our children from the ugly headed monster named 'Child Sexual Abuse'. Also included on the website are live twitter discussions, personal views, very good practical tips by several bloggers on broaching the subject with kids of different age groups in the process empowering them to be able to protect themselves from abuse. Make sure you do check out the invaluable resource for yourself and your kids.

As for my personal guidelines on the matter for my kids, who are 7 and 4-1/2, have been generally about their over all safety. There have been some which need to be emphasized specifically in the Sexual Abuse context but most of them, given their age, are important like I said in the overall saftey sense and can be extended to 'Sexual Safety' as they get older and spend more and more time away from me.

- The first rule of the thumb that we follow when we go out in a crowded place like a fair or amusement park or a mall is to write down my and my husband's phone number on a piece of paper and put it in their pockets. Even though both of them are old enough to remember the numbers but nervousness and anxiety on being lost may make them forget. Also as much as I emphasize on maintaining a cool demeanor and definitely not cry if they don't see us around (I am not sure whether they will actually follow through if such a thing was to happen, but I do repeat it everytime we are at such a place), I tell them to not look for the nearest person in a uniform but I tell them its much safer to find a family with kids and approach the mom/dad with the number and request them to call us from their phone. I explicitly tell them that not very good people could be disguised as men/women in uniform and may be actually kidnappers who can take them away. Personally, I root for the 'Hansel and Gretel' approach to make kids very fearful of strangers even if that makes them uncomfortable because I believe at their age its better to be very scared of people and things that may be dangerous for them rather than being sorry later.

- In a circumstance where suppose they were to be cornered by a bad person, I have explained to them to be very wary of not going out an exit/door. As long as they are in a crowded place and the person tries to touch them on any of their private parts (which I explain from time to time is their chest and their bottom), they are to shout out loud. If the person tries to convince them to follow him/her to be able to reach us (parents), they are to stay there and demand for us to be called right
where they are and not follow the person in the hope of finding us. I have explained that a genuine security officer would have means (like a walkie talkie) to get his message to the concerned authorities who would arrange for us to be called where they are.

- Like I mentioned in the point above, I do talk to them about their private parts being private and are not to be touched by anyone except themsleves, us, their parents and in case of Chica, if absolutely unavoidable by a friend's mom if she is at her friend's place. When at school, right now at Chica's pre-school, we have been told that the teachers are not allowed to touch the kids after they are done pooping. They tell the kids to do the best they can to clean themselves and in case
of an accident or if a situation demands adult intervention, they are to call the parents. In a way, its good to be concerned about the young kids' sexual safety. However at her pre-school back in India, there used to be lady helpers to help with the kids' ablutions, I used to have a conversation every so often with her to tell me immediately if she felt uncomfortable when a helper helped her with that. I talk to Niño about bullies in general and the steps he needs to follow if they bully him in any way. The first step for him is to shout back loudly if a child tries to hit him or touch him at an inappropriate place and to threaten telling an adult. That generally is enough for young children to make them back off. In case of a repitition of that behavior, they are to inform the nearest trusted adult and then me when they reach home.

- A few weeks back, it so happened that Niño had a couple of sleepovers in quick succession at two of his very good friends' places, not planned, but it so happened that we were there for a potluck, got really late, made the kids sleep - younger ones on beds, older ones on comforters on the floor and then when it was time to leave, thought it would be hard to lug the older ones and so left them sleeping there and picked them up in the morning (everyone stays in the same complex). While
Niño had not gathered the courage earlier to sleep over at a friend's place himself, but this gave him the nerve he needed to be able to do that. And he started asking for a sleep over again and again and again. I am still not very comfortable with the idea and dodged the issue a few times he asked for it. But now at an age where he needs a perfect answer to why something is or is not being given to him when he asks for it, I knew I had to discuss with him my thoughts on the matter. Which is when I told him that when he still wakes up at night, even if it is rarely, crying because his leg is paining or his throat is hurting, I know exactly what to do about it. Would he know what to do about it if I was not around. That was enough to make him realize I was right. I proceeded to say, careful not to take names of any friends lest he develop feelings of distrust, he was still young to be able to protect himself if someone was to behave inappropriately with him while he was still in his sleep. The thought was enough for him to mull over and he didn't question me about who the somebody could be.

These are some of my thoughts and conversations I have with my children. Please feel free to add your own and share with other parents to be able to empower our children to stand up for themselves strongly when the situation demands, to share their feelings of discomfort if they ever encounter them, to never be ashamed to seek help and to know that they do need help in the first place. And once again do be sure to check out the CSA website.

Do you have a story to tell?  Tips to share? A video, a link, an ebook? As a parent, as an adult, as a child? All requests for anonymity are honored.

Bring your experience and your expertise to this awareness initiative via

1. Blog posts with the logo (you can copy the image above), linkback to the CSA blog, with the words “CSAAM April 2012” in the title
2. Twitter posts or links to @CSAawareness, tagged “#CSAAM”
3. FB notes linking to our Facebook page
4. Emails to csa.awareness.april@gmail.com
5. Or just simply show support by displaying the Picsquare badge on your site/page/profile.


dipali said...

It is a scary scenario! Your guidelines make good sense!
It is, however, disturbing to know that a child can have a toilet accident and not be cleaned up at once by a competent care-giver in school:( If the parent takes a long time getting there it can be very distressing to the poor child:(
And yet, in the light of CSA, perhaps it is the lesser of two evils:(

Neera said...

I know Dipali ..my first reaction was shock too. I mean to think of it what has the world come to. There must have been a horrific incident somewhere for the rule to be brought into place.

However the kids are close to 5 year olds and likely to do an okay job until a parent reaches to help them.

CSA Awareness said...

Thanks for this post, Neera. It is heartening to read about your frank (and age-apropriate) conversations with the kids. Knowing the specifics of your explanation is very helpful to other parents who are wondering how to discuss these tricky topics.

Neera said...

Thank you CSA ..I am glad if they help any parents broach the topic with their kids because that's how I learn too. Its such a good thing with the internet and initiatives like yours where we can discuss and get to know of different ideas of parents from around the world and use them for everybody's betterment.