We often tell our children to be wary of strangers, but we fail to warn them about the sexual predators who might be going scot-free within the safe confines of family and home. Parents fail to warn their kids against those who might come across as friendly neighbours, tuition teachers, or acquaintances and family friends, might be the big bad wolves who can harm them.
Keeping a child safe from abuse is every parent’s concern. With increasing initiatives in the society and schools about good touch and bad, parents too are talking to their kids about safety and sexual abuse. But most of the times, our guidelines to them are limited and in a way.
The danger is closer than we want to admit
While we warn our children about strangers offering them toys and sweets, we fail to warn them about being careful when around people known to them. According to a survey conducted by Save the Children, 94.8% of rape cases saw children being raped by someone they knew, not strangers.
We all have known or heard rumours about that uncle who would hug you longer than required. Or the elder cousin who would insist on picking and dropping you from school. These acquaintances misuse our trust easily. They tell children to dare not talk about what has happened between them. After all, he is daddy’s friend or mommy’s second cousin.
Parent’s lack of will to confront perpetrators who are relatives or acquaintances scars the child for life
Most cases of child sexual abuse go unreported in India. A reason for parents’ inhibition to report it, apart from shame and social reservation, is the washing of family’s dirty laundry in public, that it might lead to.
Let us say, that the sexual predator in a case is a male relative in his fifties, from the paternal side. Maybe, the perpetrator is the patriarch’s brother in law. The social repercussions, and traumatic consequences for the said sister are bound to conflict the parent. In fact, the patriarch might order or plead to the parent to bury the incident.
This scenario is one of many, which is a result of our complex family values and cultural hierarchy. Sadly, the child who survives the abuse, is the one who loses the most here.
Shed your notions for the sake of your child
Not being able to take any action and not teaching your child to be cautious are two different things. But they are the by-product of our inhibitions and complete refusal to accept the existence of abusers in our vicinity.
The neighbour, the cousin, the uncle or even the brother whom you might trust with your life, may prove to be dangerous to your child. The 7-year-old Pakistani girl, whose brutal rape and murder led to a nationwide outrage, went out with the accused because he was a neighbour. There are reports that he was let go after his first arrest on the victim family’s plea that ‘he could not be a culprit’.
His DNA sample not only matched to the sample found from the victim’s body, but also matches to samples taken from seven other minor girls who were abused and murdered earlier in the area, as per news reports.
There are numerous incidences where children lost their lives after being abused by people known to them.
This only goes on to prove that sexual predators don’t give two hoots for the trust you have in them. In fact, they might use this very trust and affection to harm your child.
Which is why it is essential to be vigilant and cautious. Condition them to report about any person who makes them feel uncomfortable, stranger or not.
However, take care to not break their trust as well. If a child tells you about any relative, friend or neighbour, who makes him/her uncomfortable, make sure to address the issue. The least you can do is to confront the abuser and make sure others know of his or her behaviour. You should make your child feel safe.
Picture Credits: IndiaTimes
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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own