Mentioned below is an article that I was published in Free Press Journal. Thanks to my friend Ketan.
Child Sexual Abuse : A REALITY THAT OUR MINDS ARE CLOSED TO
Innocence is a virtue that children are naturally endowed with. But what if it is violated? What if they grow older than their age? What if they have known and seen much more pain and trauma in their childhood than what some people do in an entire lifetime. Such is the issue of Child Sexual abuse, where children make friends with darkness and silence, sometimes forever.
I have been through it, but today have put it in my past and moved forward. Today I speak of it openly and brazenly embrace the many truths that were lost in the ebb of silence. I was just in primary school when I was sexually abused. The abuser was a close male relative of mine. He used to give me a bath often. My family didn’t object, as they didn’t think there was anything objectionable in someone giving me a bath at that age. And one of these days when we were naked in the bathroom, he demanded that we have oral sex. I refused, and wanted to run away, he gagged me and then what followed was 11 years of continuous mental, physical and sexual abuse, from the age of 7 till 18.
Dipika Lal, a documentary film maker, directed a film on the issue of child sexual abuse, aptly titled “Speak Up! It’s Not Your Fault”. This student graduate film of hers touched upon the issue of Child Sexual Abuse in depth and also won the best student documentary award at the Kashish International Film Festival. The documentary featured her speaking about the trauma that she went through as a child. The perpetrator was her tutor. He was respected and no one suspected that he could be involved in this ghastly crime. He would touch and ‘feel’ her inappropriately often under the pretext of teaching. She was too small to understand what was happening. She didn’t complain to anybody.
Nicholas (name changed) was raised by a single mother. His father expired in a car accident, when he was very young. He also lost his little brother to the same accident. His mother appeared to have coped up psychologically from this huge trauma, but this was far from the truth. Nicholas is 23 now, and his mother still treats him like he used to treat his toddler brother. She has been giving him a bath every day as one would a young child, from the age of 10. Nicholas faced serious issues with respect to relations. He feels overtly sexual towards woman and at times gets panic attacks and suicidal thoughts due to his incestuous feelings towards his mother. Both mother and son underwent counseling to deal with the issue.
We are just 3 examples of people who have now come to terms with the issue of child sexual abuse and have managed to put our past in the past and move forward. We don’t mind sharing our stories as we have dealt with the monsters of our past and understood the importance of sharing. Deepika, Nicholas and I are confident individuals who are now successful in our own right and understand that sharing is perhaps the only way to create awareness. Until then, such issues will always be considered a myth. Or as something that happens in “their” house, but never could happen in “ours”. It is important that people who can speak up, speak up for the cause. Those willing to share their stories should do so, so that this myth of child sexual abuse being an alien phenomenon could be washed by the realm of reality. Child sexual abuse is not restricted to any class, caste, creed or gender. It is a myth that child sexual abuse is more common in low income groups and that the girl child needs to be protected, whereas the boy can take care of himself. More often, child sexual abuse is about power play as much as it is about sadistic sexual pleasures. The abuse needn’t always be physical or painful; even verbal (erotic blabber) and visual abuse (exposing ones private parts or showing porn to a child) is tantamount to child sexual abuse.
Chandni Parekh, a social psychologist is involved in designing modules and conducting workshops that ensure that the child is educated about sexuality. She accentuates the need for trained counselors to help affected children deal with the trauma. Speaking specifically about the lack of psychological support systems she says “Most schools grapple with not knowing how exactly to deal with a child sexual abuse case. Many counselors too feel ill-equipped to work with such issues since their Master's programme does not really address trauma work. Several schools are unaware of the NGOs that work on the issue of CSA in their city or of the bunch of psychologists in Bombay that started an intensive study circle to specialise in trauma healing.”
Besides trauma healing, being a survivor myself, I understand that had I been aware of what was happening to me and my body I would have been able to muster the courage to say a firm “NO” earlier and save myself more years of youth. But I had no sex education in school until I joined college and was taught reproductive biology, as is the case with many children.
Chandni agrees with the need for sex education. She asserts “If we continue to disallow sexuality education by withholding information about sex and the possibility of sexual abuse, as well as information about reproduction and disease, we put all children at risk. Refusing to talk about sex does not mean that children are safe, that nothing bad will happen to them. Only by opening up the discussion about sex, and beginning to talk to children from a young age will we ever be able to protect them from abuse. Ultimately, it will only be when sex and sexual abuse are commonplace topics of conversation will perpetrators be held accountable. Only then will our society ever truly be able to prevent one of the most traumatic things that a human being can experience.”
Indeed, there are some secrets that are best hushed in the closets or under the carpet. Sex abuse isn’t one of those. There is an urgency to give up our myopic views about sex and Speak Up. How many cases of child sexual abuse would it take for us to realize that closets are most comfortable, but not one of the safest places to be in…
Let’s break the silence and speak up!
For more information on child sexual abuse, and how you could protect/ counsel your child, please visit www.arpan.org.in
read the article here