Have this conversation with your kids once every 6 months. That’s all you need to do.
In news media there are often stories of children facing sex abuse. We are all shocked, scared and worried about our kids safety after each case surfaces in media.
Child Sex Abuse is a reality and we can teach our children some basic safety rules for their protection. These rules are simple, easy to learn and even a four year old can learn to protect himself / herself effectively.
Most parents do not talk to their children about sex abuse. They are uncomfortable about talking about sex and feel unable to handle questions that will be asked by kids.
This talk with children is about SAFETY, not about SEX ! The way you teach kids to cross road, handle fire or work with knives; you can teach kids to be safe from UNSAFE TOUCH. It really is simple as you will know from the following discussion.
Myths about Child Sex Abuse(CSA)
There are a lot of misconceptions around this issues. Following is a collection of some:
MYTH 1 : CSA is a rare thing
Truth : about 15-20% adults report receiving some form of sex abuse as kids. This abuse ranges from inappropriate and repeated touching to penetrative sex. Abuse almost always starts with inappropriate talk and touch before pregressing to worse things.
MYTH 2 : CSA only happens in western countries
Truth : Scientific research has proved that CSA is prevalent in all cultures, languages, countries and religions. There are no countries where CSA is not reported. There are differences in legal age for consensual sex in various countries but CSA as defined by local law is found EVERYWHERE!
MYTH 3 : In India, CSA happens only in slums
Truth : Though children from lower socio-economic class are more vulnerable to CSA, it is by no means exclusive to that group. Kids from all levels of society are affected.
MYTH 4 : CSA happens only with girls
Truth : Till age of 12, boys and girls are equally affected. After adolescence girls are more affected than boys.
MYTH 5 : CSA happens with kids of troubled and broken families.
Truth : Though kids in troubled families are more likely to be abused, they are not the only ones. Kids from stable families are abused too ! Having an intact and untroubled family helps children to recover better from abuse but it does not protect them if they are not armed with the knowledge of UNSAFE TOUCH.
MYTH 6 : Abusers are social misfits and easily identifiable
Truth : almost all abusers look just like you and me. There is no definite way of identifying an abuser from looks alone. Many abusers are family men with children and respectable professions like doctors, priests, teachers, etc.
MYTH 7 : Abusers are always strangers to the kids
Truth : This is one of the most dangerous myth. 70% of abusers are directly related to the child. They are family members. Another 20% are well known to the family and have free access to kids, e.g. family friends, teachers, neighbours, etc.
Now that you know about the extent of CSA, lets take the next step to safeguard kids : educate them about UNSAFE TOUCH
Talking to kids
Whose job is it?
Any parent or teacher can do the job well. Women are often seen as more trustworthy by kids so a mother or a female relative / teacher can do the job well. If father participates in the session, authenticity increases a lot and kids like involving whole family. This improves their sense of confidence and safety.
Age of kids –
you can educate kids as young as 4 years !
There are only 2 parts of the talk –
Part 1 :
There are three areas of body that are “no touch” areas- chest/breast, bottom / buttocks / bums and area between legs. You must tell kids that nobody is allowed to touch them in these three areas.
Part 2 :
NO – GO- TELL principle. A handout for kids is here. You can print it and use it during training sessions. Please watch the video for details.
You will note that there is no mention of abuse / sex at all. We only talk about safe and unsafe touch. Children of all ages understand this language very well.
IF you are not parent of the kids participating in the session, then you must help the child identify a ” safe adult” and clearly communicate with the adult in front of the kid. Tell that adult that he/she is identified safe person by the child and it the child received inappropriate touch, the child will let the safe adult as soon as possible.
It is important to conduct this conversation in front of the child as it completes the loop of communication and safeguards the child.
Most Important Part : Repeat this talk with kids every six months as booster effect makes it very effective like vaccines.
Some kids will ask difficult questions. Some of them with answers are-
- Why do I need to know this? Ans – to help you stay safe from harmful people.
- What if other kids touch me in those three areas? Ans – other kids of your age and playmates can touch you while playing on the ground and is is usually okay. If any kids touches you there again and again then let me know.
- Any other question that you are uncomfortable to answer, you can safely tell the child that you can not answer that question straight away, but will give the answer when the child is a bit older. Children understand this age barrier very well as they are told all the time about things they can not do till a specific age e.g. – driving, marrying, buying a house, getting a job, etc.
Older children are often trapped by abusers by using blackmail. They are often shown / given sexually explicit material and later blackmailed into sex. This can be effectively prevented by having a trusting and reasonable relationship with your adolescent. If your kids are sure that you are a sensible person and will not give harsh punishment / dressing down for mistakes, they will confide in you and can not be blackmailed.
Please do not hesitate to conduct a session for your own kids and kids around you. You will be doing them a huge favor.
You can conduct this session in a school –
A lot of impact is generated when the whole school undertakes an exercise like this. Students talk among themselves about it and that really raises awareness to a great extent.
Some preparation can help you a lot –
- Fix a single day to conduct this session for the whole school. Each class teacher can devote just 15 minutes to conduct a session with her class.
- Send out a pamphlet with kids a week before the session. It should be short, multilingual ( for all parents to follow) and reassuring. I have prepared a sample that you can use.
- After the session is conducted, contact the safe person in front of the child and inform them that they are the chosen safe person by the child. This step is very important, please do not skip it. Even if you talk to just 3-5 parents everyday, your job will be done in a week or two.
- You should conduct this session at the END of each school term so that children remember it well and it becomes a part of your school’s culture.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need any further information.
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