Talk to children about sex to save them from incest

Incest is not a phenomenon restricted to slums anymore . It is also found in middle and upper class families. But not all cases are reported to the police due to shame associated with it. In 2011, the Mumbai police registered 219 rape offences, of which six were cases of incest.

"Most cases of child sexual abuse are committed by someone within the family: an uncle, a caretaker, a close relative or a family friend. The abuser could also be someone with whom the child interacts regularly, like a teacher or a watchman. A parent needs to establish a strong and open channel of communication with the child," says Suchismita Bose, director, The Foundation , which is involved in therapy as well as awareness programmes for child sexual abuse victims. "Most of the cases we receive pertain to incest. There are a lot of reasons why kids don't talk about abuse. There's fear of the abuser or fear that the family will be hurt. Also, there's no vocabulary; how does the child explain what has happened? This occurs because many parents don't teach their children about their private parts and our society usually associates shame or disgust with the topic."

Bose says that at times, kids are scared that their parents won't trust them or may get angry and so do not talk about abuse. "You need to teach a child that if someone is touching you inappropriately or if you're feeling uncomfortable, trust your instinct and talk about it, and that there's nothing to be ashamed of. Kids can be taught to say 'no' through games at home. If the abuser doesn't stop, the kid needs to be taught to run away and complain to someone trusted such as a parent. It may happen that a parent is busy, in which case the kid should be taught to keep finding someone trusted and talk about what has happened."

Kids aren't always confident of being heard by their family, so they should be given a feeling of being respected, say activists. A complicated area is where the abuser is someone close to the child and has been showering him with gifts and affection. The child then loves him and does not want to complain and be devoid of affection. "In such cases, the child may get upset about letting the person go and prefers abuse," says an activist.

In January 2010, a 42-year-old lab technician was arrested for confining his 14-year-old daughter at his Govandi home for five days and repeatedly raping her. Mohammed Chaudhary, the accused , had a diploma in medical laboratory technology and ran a testing centre in Bainganwadi. In a separate case, a 44-year-old man was held for raping his teenage daughter at their Govandi shanty for over two years. Shahbuddin Khan, the accused, managed to silence his wife and daughter with dire threats. The mother finally gathered courage and approached the police in February 2011.

Activists say there is a need to sensitize mothers as they are the first people whom a child approaches in a case of incest. "On January 2, we organized a workshop for mothers jointly with the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and the Savitribai Phule Gender Resource Centre on how to open a dialogue with daughters. It had games, chat shows and presentations to allow mothers and daughters to understand each other's perspectives, share insights , thoughts and feelings perhaps unexplored and unspoken," says Nandita Shah, co-director , Akshara. "Even in simple harassment cases, girls are made to feel that something must be wrong with them. A parent needs to understand what the girl is going through. In our awareness campaigns, we impart training on the way girls need to be supported."

Age-Related Info

18 months | Teach your child proper names for body parts

3-5 years | Teach your child about private parts and how to say no to sexual advances. Give straightforward answers about sex

5-8 years | Discuss safety away from home and the difference between comfortable touch and uncomfortable touch. Encourage your child to talk about scary experiences

8-12 years | Stress personal safety. Start to discuss rules of sexual conduct expected by the family

13-18 years | Stress personal safety. Discuss rape, date rape, sexually transmitted diseases, and unintended pregnancy

Similar Threads: