A pertinent question I often ask myself is – how do I make a child understand prevention of abuse unless the child understands what exactly is sexual abuse?
Isn’t education the first step that should be taken before one delves deeper into the other facets of abuse? A very common topic among the women in I know is the questions that are coming from children- especially the girls.
- What are periods?
How does one get a baby?
- What is sex?
- Do we get a baby if we have sex?
We also wonder about the four letter abuses that flow freely especially among boys and a recent episode of an older child introducing a younger child to porn on the net. The mothers are mostly wondering how to make their daughters aware of the above questions without making it crass or scary or shocking or putting them off the entire concept. Also there is this matter of the dangers of older children giving a skewed or wrong perception to the younger children.
Sexual education in totality is a must. In my time it happened in class 10, but without prior and clear understanding to either us or the parents on what to expect out of the ‘residential seminar’ that was to happen in our final year at school. Most of us were, well, shocked and disbelieving. I would like to add it was all done very decently and in a matter of fact manner but at the same time, it was unexpected. Most of us had in fact never dwelled on the aspect of the process of sex until that time.
Then was different, and now, the age of understanding, conjecture and awareness has lowered. Which is why, it is even more important to have a step by step approach towards building awareness among children- boys & girls alike. But the difficult part is how does one approach the whole dreaded thing that hangs like a big cloud over us- the parents? I put together my thoughts that I gather from various reading I do and discussions that happen.
The basic premise is to start early and make the contents age appropriate as the child grows up.
Understanding the body parts- the names of different parts without euphemizing them.
Touch / Not Touch- teach the child on what parts can be touched and what cannot. A very simplistic presentation that teaches good, ok and bad touches linked here .
And another one that elaborates further.
I liked the approach used in this article to teach about various kinds of touches- http://www.goodtouchbadtouch.com/child-safety-at-home/talking-to-a-child-about-abuse "When teaching your child about sexual abuse, talk about 3 different types of touch: good touch, bad touch and sexual abuse touch. "Good touches" are those touches that make us feel happy, safe and loved and make us feel like a smile. Emphasize that most of the touch we get is good touch.
"Bad touches" are those touches that hurt us; they feel like an ouch. Some examples are kicking, hitting and .
"Sexual abuse touch" is defined as "forced or tricked touch of private body parts." The key words are forced and tricked. A force is when someone makes you do something you don't want to do or don't understand. A trick is when someone lies to you, fools you, pretends or calls something a game, that really isn't a game, so they can touch your private body parts or have you touch theirs. Explain that sexual abuse is confusing because it doesn't necessarily hurt; the touch can feel good. And that is confusing to children. Use the words "sexual abuse" to eliminate unnecessary confusion."
Keeping lines of communication on sexual education open- Rather than stopping at good/ bad touch, it is important that parents keep the communication lines open as the children grow. Make contents of sexual education age appropriate. And encourage kids to talk to parents rather than seek half baked knowledge from friends. A comprehensive article on sex education linked here- http://www.avert.org/sex-education.htm.
I would specifically emphasize the following from this article in terms of contents
a) Sexual development & reproduction- the physical and emotional changes associated with puberty and sexual reproduction, including fertilisation and conception, as well as sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.
b)Contraception & birth control - what contraceptives there are, how they work, how people use them, how they decide what to use or not, and how they can be obtained.
c)Relationships- what kinds of relationships there are, love and commitment, marriage and partnership and the law relating to sexual behaviour and relationships as well as the range of religious and cultural views on sex and sexuality and sexual diversity.
Beware of “don’t tell anyone”- Fear or shame make kids hide stuff from parents. At all times, parents should train or program their kids to talk to parents if something or someone made them uncomfortable and especially if they have been told - don’t tell anyone or I will….Parents should take active interest in the child’s life, friend circle, books they read, sites they surf and overall- what are they discussing about these days.
Prevention Better than Cure- As a parent, we need to be vigilant. Never leave kids unattended in taxis, or send them alone with the servant/ driver. Apart from that, we also need to remember that most often, abuse happens by people well known to the children and parents. There are cases of relatives or friends calling home when they are fully aware that the child is alone. Parents have to find a way to ensure safety of latchkey kids. Use technology, use self checks- call home frequently, and make sure your circle knows that you are a vigilant parent.
Believe in the child- Most important to establish trust and be on the child’s side when he or she reports anything to you.
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