Honestly, the fact that child sex abuse (CSA) is spreading its fangs with alacrity was not something that I was aware of till I attended the pre-launch of Payal Shah Karwa’s book “The Bad Touch” on Saturday the 5th. The event was real; it was disturbing; it was motivating. I walked in after the discussion had moved beyond the introductory phase and the speakers were pulling out anecdotes from their experience of dealing with the victims.
The first thing that registered in me is the simplicity with which one of the panelists explained why the victims of CSA often become the perpetrators and they are later haunted by the guilt and shame associate with the act. According to Pooja Taparia (Founder & CEO of Arpan), a child has to be sensitized enough to know whether she is receiving a playful cuddle or is it some menacing design in disguise. And that’s clearly not easy. Kids don’t have the vocabulary to explain what he/ she experienced. ‘No’, ‘Stop’ and ‘I will tell’ are the catchphrases that could be taught to the kids as a first step towards self-defense.
Sometimes, it takes years to teach a child how to sense danger in the touch. That’s precisely what Pooja posited as I firmed up my seat for more such observations. Situational trauma at times is so overwhelming for the children that they tend to restrain themselves from letting the secret out and inform their parents. In such cases, as she pointed out, parents should look for signs. Reluctance to go out; play with other kids; erratic eating habit; and frequent urinary and stomach infections are some of the signs.”
On this note, the author Payal Shah Karwa affirmed how dreadful superstitious practices encourage people to have incest to ward off ill luck and make fortune smile on them. Now you see, it’s not always the liftman or the watchman who are the usual suspects, but even someone from the family is a potential perpetrator.
Harish Iyer, an Equal Rights Activist, cited some real-life cases that came as an eye-opener for the motley crowd attending the session. For him, it’s our duty to intervene whenever we see something wrong happening with children. Being a renowned rebel in his own way, Harish urged the audience to come out of their comfort zone and protest any form of physical abuse.
As the discussion steered towards introducing sex education in schools and the detractors trying to stonewall the initiative, Pooja did some tough talking. Much to our dismay, the truth was served. Political entities and religious groups have been opposing education pertaining to CSA as immoral and against our cultural values. Quite befuddled by the fact that their noble attempt is facing resistance from all quarters, she emphasized that parents themselves are not comfortable about explaining the issue to their children. Hence, they don’t want their kids to know anything about it.
Suggestions made a beeline before the speakers. Someone rightly pointed out that having a curriculum on child safety is not enough and the teachers have to be equipped well enough to impart the education to the children. One of them proposed to invite doctors for conducting sex education classes for the children, if teachers are not competent enough to take up the challenge.
The session did bring us face-to-face with some uncomfortable truths and I am looking forward to read “The Bad Touch”, which is a collection of true stories of CSA survivors. I won’t hold you any longer. You can now think and motivate others to think of ways to combat this demon.