Thursday, April 4, 2013

Keeping children safe

Lets start with a few data and statistics
* The global prevalence of child sexual abuse has been estimated at 19.7% for females and 7.9% for males, according to a 2009 study published in Clinical Psychology Review that examined 65 studies from 22 countries [Src: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_sexual_abuse ]
* Research suggests that about 53 per cent of Indian children report some degree of sexual abuse.[Src: http://csaawarenessmonth.com/about-2/ ]
* In UK, Nearly a quarter of young adults experienced sexual abuse during childhood [Src: http://www.nspcc.org.uk/Inform/resourcesforprofessionals/sexualabuse/statistics_wda87833.html ]
* In USA, a CDC research has estimated that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18. [Src: http://www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/child-sexual-abuse.aspx ]
* More than 30% of perpetrators are usually family members, e.g., fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins. Just 10% of perpetrators are strangers to the child.  (USA data) [Src: http://www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/child-sexual-abuse.aspx ]
As a reader, the above data may definitely surprise and shock you
And if you're a parent, you'll probably have a brow of concern all over your fore-head

So what is Child Sex Abuse?
Child sexual abuse or child molestation is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation. Forms of child sexual abuse include asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities (regardless of the outcome), indecent exposure to a child with intent to gratify their own sexual desires or to intimidate or groom the child, physical sexual contact with a child, or using a child to produce child pornography. [Src: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_sexual_abuse ]

OK, So why am I writing about it?
For 2 reasons:
(1) As a parent / responsible adult, it is your primary responsibility to be aware of "The Basics of Child Sex Abuse" and help prevent it to any child
(2) Someone I knew in college (years ago) was a victim of child sex abuse. During a vulnerable moment, he (Yes! it was a "HE") shared details of his past with me. And his story left a "deep impression" on my mind.
While in college - He was a handsome good-looking guy who was intelligent, smart, charming and had a great sense of humor. On the face of it, he appeared to be the "perfect guy" with all the right characteristics - But something told me (Call it instinct or insight) that "Everything was not really OK". It's not that I could put my finger on what it was - But there was just something about him.. After a few interactions, I recognized the following from his behavior:
    (i) He DID NOT TRUST girls / women
    (ii) He DID NOT RESPECT girls / women
    (iii) He seemed to have a personal agenda to HUMILIATE / GET-BACK at girls / women - at every opportunity! through words, rude behavior, inappropriate comments, humor, etc etc etc

So it was almost impossible for any girl / women to really interact / be-friend him!

So what's the point I'm really trying to make?
Just this - I think that one episode changed his thinking / life. I did re-connect with him a few years back. From our brief conversation, I learned that he was married, and was blessed with a baby girl. And yet! after a few moments of conversation I still sensed that "Deep within, not much had really changed"
    (i) He yet DID NOT really TRUST girls / women
    (ii) He yet DID NOT really RESPECT girls / women

If I had to connect the dots of his life, I think that one episode changed his life F-O-R-E-V-E-R

So as I read and understood more about the subject, I realized the following facts
1) Child Sex abuse is a world-wide issue / problem / challenge
2) It can happen to anyone - Boys or Girls, and at any age till you are officially an adult
3) It can happen to people from any economic background or social strata - Though I read that the propagators and victims are more from economically backward families, or really wealthy families
4) If one is a victim, it can change their thinking and life FOREVER! So better to SAFE than SORRY!

Now, what can parents do?
I think the role of parents  in prevention of child sex abuse varies according to the age of the child. But one thing is certain - Awareness is the starting point, and the key!

From Birth to 5 years, what can really make a difference
* Keep your children ALWAYS in safe quarters with people you COMPLETELY TRUST (In today's world, adults themselves aren't really safe, so children are definitely more vulnerable. It makes complete sense to do that LITTLE Extra to keep your children in a safe and protected environment)
* Observe and Listen to your children - especially if you see a change in behavior patterns (general or in front of a specific person)
* Let your child know that he / she can tell you anything - No matter what!

From 5 to 15 years, what can really make a difference
* Educate your children on the subject at home - Communicate in a way that they understand ; and continuously re-enforce the message regularly (Say once in 2-3 months)
* Schools / Teachers should introduce the subject as a part of school curriculum and educate children on the Basics, Do's and Don'ts
* Listen to your children - What they say and even what they don't say! (Actions speak louder than words)
* If you see / sense any warning signs, then probe further. It will be worth the effort. If nothing was amiss, it will give you peace of mind & a good night's sleep!
* Trust your instincts - On such issues, a mother's instincts are usually 100% RIGHT! 
* Let your child know that he / she can tell you anything - No matter what!
* If you can't deal with it / don't know how to deal with it - Ask for HELP!
* Continuously monitor and track your child's movements - You don't need to be their shadow, but they should know that you're around and accessible; and this is for their own safety
* Teach them what needs to be done if there are any danger signs (For e.g.: Shouting, Crying, Whom to call?, Running away, etc.)
* Enroll your children to a self-defense class. For Karate, etc.


Let's keep our children SAFE. 
Leave a comment to let me know your views on the subject, or any additional suggestions on what can be done to prevent it

To learn more, follow the Twitter handle @CSAawareness, and use the hashtag #CSAAM to share and learn more about this subject

Additional Recommended Readings
Protect your child from sexual abuse
Understanding child sexual abuse
Child sexual abuse
Child sexual abuse (Wikipedia)

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