Dancing with joy is a father who goes around singing “mere ghar aayi ek nanhi pari” in the hospital corridor right outside the operation theatre because he is overjoyed that Maa Durga has blessed them with a baby girl.
As a parent, we assure the tiny creature of a cosseted childhood and pleasant life ahead. There are times when I really thank God for making me a mother of a girl child. A girl who is sensitive and resilient and there are also times, I feel there is an enormous amount of responsibility that comes with growing up girls and even boys for that matter.
World was never a safe place and the newspaper is a constant reminder. While I was flipping through the newspaper in the morning, news of rape is a common occurrence. I’m hard-skinned and normally tend to skip that part altogether because it makes me feel dizzy in the head. I don’t think talking about rape is talking about anything new. It happens in a society and we are almost inured to the occurrence of rape cases. So, when I re-read the headlines, the bitingly fearful facts come into my existence;
“A senior officer in the Delhi government’s Women and Child Development Department allegedly raped his friend’s 14-year-old daughter (now 17 years old).”
1) A Senior Officer
2) WCD employee
4) Friend’s daughter
These facts make me numb.
What would be the mindset of that officer, and the plight of the little girl who called him Uncle (Mama). I cannot even get to imagine the excruciating pain and the breach of trust, a 14-year-old had to deal with for the rest of her life.
Little girls get raped under the guise of the game, under the obligation to be a “good girl” and the predator is more often than not a known person with malafide intentions. “Shhhhh we will keep this a secret; your mother will really scold you if she gets to know” is how the little conscience is trapped into believing that the incident should not be reported.
The long-term impact of the lewd incident is lasting. It can lead to dysfunctional adjustment, promiscuity, suicidal attempts, psychological disorder or disarray. Survivors of child abuse, children who have been physically, sexually emotionally abused never get to lead a normal life. Their innocence has been strangled at a young age. Their right to be determined who they are, their self-confidence and their sense of self-worth are all gone for a toss.
Horrors of Child Sexual Assault
Despite several helpful, progressive reforms, sexual assault statistics reflect that assault is out there and pretty ugly. If you are living in a state of denial, here are some bare facts;
• Every 9 minutes, Child Protective Services agencies substantiated or found strong evidence for, a claim of child sex abuse.
• Adolescents aged 14‐17 are by far the most likely to be sexually victimised.
• Nearly one in six girls are sexually victimised.
• Over 80% of sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance.
• 82% of all juvenile sexual assault victims are female.
• Statistics on rape indicate that this connection normally results in most rape victims shying away from reporting such incidents due to obligatory or emotional pressures.
This area has remained an eyesore for many and no one wants to talk about it. Some things are better unsaid. As parents, you are the most important and trusted people to teach your children how to be safe in the world.
1) Encourage them to ask questions and feel comfortable bringing up topics and scenarios. Occasional role plays. Role-plays are the best way to understand the psyche of the child and the treatment they receive from the other person.
2) Keep the lines of communication open, your child will automatically be encouraged to approach you in their times of need. Games like - let’s share secrets, should be played among the family members.
3) Never trust anyone blindly with your child and this holds true for family and friends too.
4) Discourage sleepovers.
5) Enrolling in classes that will teach them self-defence.
6) Let children know that they have the right to forbid the wrong gestures, let them know that respect does not mean doing what those in authority tell them to do. Let them know, that protecting themselves from a bad touch is their right.
7) Shout, scream, snap back if you feel uncomfortable.
8) As a parent be more agile with your child’s change in expression or appetite.
9) As a parent don’t instil fear of things going wrong. Don’t be overprotective as your fear will transfer to the child.
A dear friend who is an Ex-Army Officer and DU Professor told me once that coming from a small village in Haryana her father always told her “Do haath uske, do haath tere- jaane na dena. Tod dena” This phrase stayed with me. Our girls are rock stars. Don’t ever make them feel otherwise.