Most parents warn their children about talking to strangers or accepting sweets from strangers,
but force the child to say hello to a shopkeeper or the neighbor, who is also a stranger to him. This leaves the child extremely confused. Further, often a parent will even force the child to kiss an aunt he has never seen before, thereby teaching the child that it is alright for adults to force their attention on him. The child also learns that her body is not her own and she does not have the right to say no.
Nearly 75% of abuse cases involve relatives or servants or neighbours or a person known to the child.
You may believe that something like sexual abuse could not happen to your child. Certainly such abuse should not happen to any child. However, as in all matters of safety, constant vigilance and prevention are the best guarantees :-
- Don’t avoid the issue by believeing it couldn’t happen to your child. Confront the facts and find the right ways to protect your child.
- Never leave an infant alone with anyone unless a parent or grandparent is with her. Remember she can’t talk so you have to be extra cautious. Keep checking on the maid.
- Don’t demand or force a child to show physical affection in the form of kisses to you or anyone else. He must know that he has the right to say no.
- Take time to listen properly to your children especially when they make any remarks about servants, grown ups and older children. Always believe and trust what your child tells you.
- Never engage a maid without reliable references.
- Never engage a man servant to look after a little girl or even a little boy for that matter.
- Never let a change in behaviour such as a reluctance to be with a particular person, pass without finding out the reason.
- Give your children plenty of hugs and kisses. Lots of genuine loving can help a child to distinguish between that and a false kind.
- Spend time with your children getting to know about their day, their perceptions of people and situations – not through question and answer but through casual sharing.
- Make a safety list – a list of safe people to ask for help from, a list of safe houses to go to, a list of safe telephone numbers to call.
- Make contingency plans with the school (if you can’t reach in time to pick the child up) .
- Don’t rely on devices or supervision alone, to keep your child safe. Teach them the skills they need so that they are able to look after themselves. Start early.
- Play what if games (what would you do if a monkey came to the door? Ans. If you don’t know the monkey don’t let him in!) & build up to serious hypothetical what if discussions.
- Teach your children to:-
- Avoid going anywhere with anybody (however well known) without coming to tell you or your spouse.
- Walk, not talk. If a stranger speak to her, she should pretend she hasn’t heard and must keep walking.
- Not to answer the door on his own.
- Not to play in deserted or dark places.
- Not to go out alone after dark.
- Never accept money, sweets or a gift without your knowing.
- Never go with anyone who says Mummy or Papa sent them to bring her home, without checking on the phone first. You could also set up a secret family code word to be used in such situations and the child must not reveal that word to anyone. In case of emergency she is to go only with the person who knows the secret word.
- Not to keep secrets of a kiss, hug or touch even if an older person asks him to.
- If anyone tries to touch or kiss her in a way she doesn’t like, promise her that you won’t get angry if she says ‘No’ as loudly as she can.
Teach a child that her body belongs to her. Follow this up with giving her choices in food, Clothes, etc so as to make her feel that she has a right to her own judgement and opinions.
Signs of abuse you should watch for
- a redness or soreness in the genital area
- a sudden occupation with their own body especially the private parts.
- a sudden change in behaviour.
- a disinclination to stay with a person sudden or otherwise.
- a tendency towards nightmares.
If you think some signs are applicable
- immediately get professional help. Talk to your paediatrician and contact a child psychologist for help. For a list of helplines manned by professionals click here.
Never keep quiet or suppress such incidents, however well you may know the abuser. It could scar your child for life.