As a parent, we always try our best to prepare our kids against abuse sexual predators and molesters. We talk to them about appropriate vs. inappropriate touch, we practice role plays, we give them strategies as to what to do in those situations and we pray hard that nothing such would ever happen to our beloved kid.
But what if someday the unthinkable, unspeakable does happen. What if your kid comes and tells you that he was touched in a way he didn’t feel comfortable. Or what if you yourself have a gut feeling that something is possibly going on with your child, or a friend’s kid or someone in family you know. How do you react? What actions do you take? Who do you talk to? Do you talk to your child or confront the person in question?
In this blog, let’s try to answer the above questions.
Child abuse is a heinous crime that often goes unnoticed, undetected and unpunished. Specially in a country like ours a lot of people try to hide it even if they get to know about it. If you are a parent, a teacher, a neighbor, a family member or even a stranger who get to know about something like this, it’s your moral and civic responsibility to act on it. The following are some things we can & should do if we suspect child abuse for our kid or any other kid we know.
- Try to identity the signs before you talk to the child
If you think a child is victim to abuse, try to look for signs as proof to know for sure. You might notice some behavioral, physical or verbal cues. Seeming frightened, sudden thumb sucking, refusing to take a bath or refusing to eat, sleep disturbance or nightmares etc can be some behavioral cues. Bleeding or bruising of genital area, broken bones etc are some physical and very evident physical signs. Sudden silence, talking too less or talking too adult for their age are some verbal cues.
- Talk to the child
Make sure to talk to the child in a non-threatening way to make sure the kid opens up to you. Pick a place where the child might feel comfortable talking about it.
Make sure you don’t sound in any way that you are blaming the child in any ways. Do not sound too serious or too scared yourself. In no case get emotional or outburst during the conversation.
Sometimes the child might be made to feel by the abuser that he is enjoying it, thus asking questions like “Is someone hurting you?” might not get answers. You need to make sure you ask direct questions such as “Did someone touch you / your privates?” This will work well if you in past have been having ongoing conversation about appropriate and inappropriate touch with your child (Refer the blog Let’s talk “Appropriate vs. Inappropriate touch”)
Be patient if your child doesn’t open up at one go. Keep reassuring your child that whatever the matter is, you are there with them to protect them.
- Report It
Specially if the child is your kid or someone closely associated with you can be emotionally draining. But its absolutely necessary to protect someone who is too young to protect themselves.
The first step of reporting is to file an FIR with police and let them begin their investigation. But its always better to get an independent body working in area of child welfare on board to help with the process & counselling. A national helpline number 1098 setup by Childline Foundation (http://www.childlineindia.org.in/) has volunteers in all major cities in India and are associated with over 700 NGOs and with the police department of India too.
- Follow up
Considering the country we live in, the investigation & conviction might not move very fast. Regularly following up with the agency or police station handling the case might be required. Also make sure to keep supporting the child to make sure the child is out of the trauma soon. If required take the child for a professional counselling.
Even for yourself, if you are a parent or closely related to the child, seek professional help. Reporting a child abuse & following it up is not easy, but don’t give up & remember the intention behind your actions. Keep strong!!
Child Sexual Abuse and Law – http://www.childlineindia.org.in/Child-Sexual-Abuse-and-Law
Arpan – Mumbai based Child Welfare Agency – http://arpan.org.in/
Bosco – Bangaluru based Child Welfare Agency – http://boscoban.org/
Rahi – Delhi based Child Welfare Agency – http://www.rahifoundation.org/
El – Shaddai Goa based Child Welfare Agency – http://www.childrescue.net/
Tulir – Chennai based Child Welfare Agency – http://tulir.org/
Save the Children – All India Agency – https://www.savethechildren.in/