On Friday, police arrested a school principal in Jharkhand, for sexually assaulting a seven-year-old inside the school toilet. This is the second incident of child abuse in a week, where the perpetrator is a teacher. But schools aren’t the only places where child molesters scout free. It is ironic that while we train our children to stay wary of strangers, many abusers are known to us. They are among our relatives, family friends, shopkeepers, disguised as acquaintances. Also, most of the times they get away because parents and peers fail to report their crimes, out of the fear of social repercussions.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (2005) Personal Safety Survey, of all those who reported being victimised sexually before the age of 15 years, only 11.1 percent were victimised by a stranger.

Pedophiles know that their crimes will go unreported, as long as they do not cause the child any physical injury. They know social stigmas won’t let the survivors talk about openly.

If we look around most of us have come across or know of some such lecherous relatives, teacher or family friends who touch us or a friend or a cousin, inappropriately. Most of the times children refrain from reporting such incidences, because they feel it will make their parents angry, or they will not believe them. Such parents and family members not only risk the well-being of their own child, but they are endangering other children as well.

The day our child starts going to school or to play with friends, every parent becomes paranoid about his or her safety. They coach their children on how they should not accompany any stranger. They warn them that they should not accept any goodies from unknown people, or give them any sort of personal information. But such concerns become convoluted, the minute the child complains about a predator, personally known to the parents.

There is no point in educating children about sexual safety, if the parents and peers are reluctant to take action on their complaints.

And this is true especially in case of boys.

Parents do not want to admit that such a thing could happen to their boy. They keep quiet out of fear of social repercussions. This feeling of shame, that their ‘boy’ was sexually abused, is equally misguided as the feeling of a girl’s parents, that their child was assaulted because of her gender.

The predators use this to their benefit and go on molesting other children, without a shred of remorse.

Indian society is a very complex one. Our ideas of relationships and social obligations, sometimes make it difficult for many parents to go to the authorities with their complaints.

The least they can do in such cases is to confront the predator, in seclusion or in public. Parents need to stand by their children, and boycott such people from their social circle. This will have two effects. Firstly, it will discourage the predator.  And secondly (more important), it will boost the morale of the child. It is of utmost importance that the child knows his parents don’t blame him or her for the incident.

The school principal who molested a seven-year-old in Jharkhand had the temerity of justifying his actions. He reasoned that it wasn’t a big mistake as there was no intercourse.

Merely educating our children about molestation is not enough, until the general mentality and social stigma around this issue changes. Seems like the adults need to be educated as well, about what kind of behaviour is wrong or right.

Picture Credits: IndiaTimes

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Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are author’s own.

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