#She Speaks Up

Silence Of The Lambs: Can We Stop Excusing Pedophilic Actions As Playful Behaviour?

child sex abuse, Dalai Lama Kissing Minor Boy On Lips
The recent incident of the Spiritual leader sticking out his tongue and asking a young boy to suck his tongue has left me thinking if this can even be referred to as playful behaviour? Are you even normal, if you do not find it gross, weird, strange, abusive, sexualised, erotic, extremely alarming, or a red flag when it is done to a child?

Are you even normal if you do not find this disgusting and inexcusable? Are you even normal if you do not find it inarguably inappropriate and indefensible? Maybe this has a cultural justification which most of us would like to discard but spare a moment and refer to the staggering statistics on child sexual abuse in India and worldwide. Child sex abuse is a widespread problem.

Why the rampant child sex abuse in India must be addressed?

In India, a prodigious percentage of 53.22 children reported having faced one or more forms of sexual abuse.21.90% of child respondents reported facing severe forms of sexual abuse and 50.76% other forms of sexual abuse. 50% of abuses are persons known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility.

According to the US-based National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), about two million cases of child sexual abuse are reported every year in India. A survey conducted by the National Center for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) cited that one out of every five girls is sexually abused. There is growing evidence that the roots of chronic mental problems lie in childhood experiences. We can’t deny the fact that it is not happening.

It is happening, and it is happening around us.

Studies of childhood sexual abuse, define childhood based on an age range that may extend well into adolescence. Nearly all paedophiles are male and around two third of their victims are girls. The children who are victims of incestuous relationships are the worst hit. Brother-sister incest is reported as being five times more common than the next most common pattern stepfather-daughter incest.

In the autobiography of Protima Bedi-Time Pass, Pooja Bedi, her daughter explicitly mentioned how she went into a vortex of gloom when her mother’s boyfriend asked for sexual favours. For her growing up was like dodging a certain amount of hell. There are a number of crazy incidents, which might seem ludicrous to say the least but imagine what impact they would leave on a child’s psyche. The predators could be hiding in the closet. They could be people you blindly trust. They could take advantage under the guise of the game and would leave the child with catastrophic consequences. Something they have to tangle up with for the rest of their life.

The impact of sexual abuse can range from mild effects to very severe ones. Typically, children who experience the most serious types of abuse; abuse involving family members and high degrees of physical force exhibit behaviour problems ranging from separation anxiety to post-traumatic stress disorder, and multiple behavioural, mental and social disorders. Victims of child abuse may withdraw from school and social activities and exhibit various learning and behavioural problems.

The responsibility to empower children lies in the hands of parents. Equip them with knowledge of good touch and bad touch. Let children know that they have the right to forbid the wrong gestures, and let them know that respect does not mean doing what elders ask them to do. No one is allowed to touch them on the lips, private parts, butt, and chest. It is considered a red flag. If someone does something inappropriate not with them but in front of them is also considered a red flag. Watching pornography in front of children or compelling them to watch it is a red flag.

Most importantly, develop a strong communication channel with your children. Encourage them to ask questions and talk about their experiences. Explain the importance of reporting abuse. Give them the confidence this is not a hopeless pursuit and by no means they are at fault if someone tries to cross the line. At a time when they feel uncomfortable, they should be told to clamour for help and try to run out of the situation. In a world where there are wolves, we have little lambs to take care of. This proclivity to provide a safe environment where peaches ripen into perfect orange gold is the core of healthy parenting and a secure society.

Views expressed by the author are their own.

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