Couple of months ago I attended a workshop on Child Sexual Abuse at VMJ’s play school. I found it very helpful and informative. Sharing it here so more and more people can benefit and save their children from getting harmed.
It was an interactive session and the counselor went about in a question answer way which actually helped us understand her point better. Therefore, my suggestion is to not just read the text but to actually take a minute to think about the answer to the questions and then continue reading to get the most out of it.
Here we go –
A) What is sex and what is sexuality? (Yes, we all think we know the answer, but please try putting it in words)
B) What do you understand by child sexual curiosity?
C) Identify signs of sexual curiosity in children aged 2-4 years.
The private parts in our body pertain to sex. Remember all forms that we fill in for various reasons have a column ‘sex’. Understanding of one’s own private parts and the differences between girls and boys is termed sexuality. Its also the attraction and curiosity towards the other sex.
Its important to teach your child about his/her body completely like we teach them other things.
All kids engage in some sort of sexual play which is absolutely normal and stems from their natural curiosity. Games like Doctor-doctor, playing family etc have been played since generations and allow them to touch each other and know how someone else’s touch feels in the safe disguise of a game. Its normal if its spontaneous, unplanned and voluntary, if its happening between kids who are close in age, if the kids who are playing such games are easily and happily distracted and diverted in other games and activities.
However, if the child has been planning to play these games, or plays with kids much older or younger than him or doesn’t want to play other games then a parent might need to observe the child for more clues.
A) What do you understand by child sexual abuse?
B) What behaviours/actions/ conversation by the adult with kids of age 2-4 years will be termed as child sexual abuse?
Most people think that child sexual abuse can only happen when a child is touched, but in fact any action, words, or gesture that make the child feel uncomfortable about his private parts constitute child sexual abuse. Actions such as touching, looking, talking, showing inappropriate content, or making the child touch himself or another person etc are all CSA.
The first reaction of parents after knowing that their child was being sexually abused is “Why didn’t he/she tell me?”
Its unfair to expect a child to come and tell us when something inappropriate happens around or with them. Most of us have been in uncomfortable situations at some or the other point in time and most times we don’t share it with our families because we feel uncomfortable. When despite being adults we find it difficult to talk about such incidents, how can a child talk about it. Moreover, most parents don’t know how to teach kids about bad touch and so the kids don’t even have words to explain such activities. As a parent its our responsibility to teach them about their body, their sexuality and educate them about bad touch; and to give them words to express themselves in any situation.
List tricks that you think an abuser, whether stranger or a trusted person uses to allure kids aged 2-4 years for possible sexual abuse.
– Luring with sweets and toys
– Gaining their affection and confidence by playing and spending lot of time with them
– Letting them do things that parents control, such as watching TV, playing games on phone, eating ice cream in winters
– Play secret keeping games
– Isolating them from parents on pretext of playing or going out or letting the parents go out while they baby sit
– Giving in to all demands of the kids whether they are right or wrong
– Being more interested in spending time with the child alone than with the parents or all of them together
List behavioral and physical signs which you think a sexually abused child will display.
– The child becomes quiet and withdrawn
– Frequent mood swings
– Avoiding or disliking a particular place or person
– The child stops playing with his friends
– Avoiding physical contact, like hugging and kissing, with parents
– Reluctance to undress (kids usually are very flamboyant and don’t like wearing clothes. If your child suddenly doesn’t like to take off his clothes even at bath time your radar should turn on)
– Disturbed sleep/ nightmares
– Sudden anger and aggression
– Loss of appetite
– Drastic changes in school performance
– Drawing with bizarre things (eg. a child usually makes a man stick figure by making a circle for head and sticks for the torso, hands and legs. If a child starts drawing the stick figure including the private parts it means he is getting inappropriate exposure and we need to find out more about it)
– The child starts using new names for his private parts
– The child regresses to outgrown behaviour like bed wetting, thumb sucking etc.
* Pain and discomfort in private areas
Activity 5: Identify appropriate and inappropriate sexual behaviors in the following case studies:
Case Study 1: Harish and Sapna are 3 year old kids in your playschool. they like each other a lot and want to spend all their time in the preschool together. They hold hands, hug and have even been seen kiss each other on the cheeks and lips.
Case Study 2: Ranjan is a 4 year old boy in your class. he is confident, interactive and loves to play outdoors. However, when in the playground, you have seen him hide behind swings and trees with other boys of his class, take off his shorts and fondle his own as well as other child’s genitals. the boys appear to giggle when doing this but Ranjan sometimes forces the other boys into this ‘game’.
Case study 3: Lata is a 3 and a half year old girl in your class. She stays to herself and is rather quiet as compared to other kids. However, she shows great affection to the male attendant of the class. She likes to be only with him and has been repeatedly seen to touch his crotch and ‘suck’ on pencils and pens in an inappropriate way frequently.
Case study 1: This is a normal case of 2 kids of same age liking and playing with each other
Case study 2: This case needs further exploration as there’s only one thing that seems out of place (of him sometimes forcing the other boys). everything else looks good
Case study 3: This definitely is a case of the girl being sexually abused
In addition to the activities, here are some other key takeaways:
– Abuser is usually someone close to the child. Must watch this video
– Most times the child and the family trust the abuser enough to leave the child alone with him/her
– The child doesn’t know he’s being abused
– The child fears he’ll lose love and trust of the abuser if he tells his parents about the abuse
– The child doesn’t know how to express the abuse in words
– Sometimes the child is abused so frequently that he starts taking it as a normal activity
– When the child does tell about the abuse, most times parents brush it off, refuse to trust the child or blame the child for over imagining things
– The child will not talk about abuse until you speak to the child about it
The CSA cycle:
The abuser identifies the target ——> Trust building ——> Isloating the target ——-> Sexualizing relationship ———> Maintaining control (secrecy & threat)
How we can protect our children from CSA:
– Teach children well about their bodies. Like you teach them names for various body parts, make sure you teach them the correct names for their private parts too. It becomes easier to tell something when you have the right name for it.
– Give them ownership of their body – ‘my body is mine’.
– Introduce the idea of ‘privacy’ as early as you can.. such as you need privacy when you go to the bathroom, when you change clothes etc.
– Tell them about good secrets and bad secrets. The secrets that they share with mummy and papa and their friends are good secrets, while the secrets any other elder asks them to keep are bad secrets.
– Don’t force affection on kids, its okay to say no. There are times when our child doesn’t want to hug or kiss a relative or family friend and we insist they do. When we force our children they learn that whether they like it or not they should do things that make the elders happy, and this makes it easy for the abuser to have his/her way.
– Practice No-Go-Tell….. when there anything that makes the child uncomfortable, the child should shout NO as loud as possible, then run away from that place and tell his parent. Appoint one or at the maximum both parents with whom the child can share anything and everything. Don’t just say’ You can share with anyone, we are all there for you’.
There were a few cases shared during the course of the workshop.
The counselor shared that a boy had come to her who was badly abused because of negligence. Her mother had re-married and the step father used to stay home when the boy came back from school. The step father used to watch porn most times during the day and did not care for the boy’s presence. This resulted in the boy watching the porn with him and witnessing his step father masturbate at times. This affected the boy a great deal and his behaviour and grades at school suffered to an extent that the teachers suggested the mother to get a psychological evaluation done. In this case the child was not touched or spoken to. The child was not made to do anything yet it is a major case of sexual abuse.
In another case, a mother shared that some time back her 4 year old son shared that one sweeper took a pic of his private parts when he was peeing in the school bathroom. He mentioned it casually when she was asking him if he is able to manage with the zipper of his school shorts. Needless to say she was horrified and got hyper. Her reaction scared her son and he refused to say anything else on the matter. She then calmed herself down and gently tried to probe more. The son shared that it happened only once and told her the day it happened. She then took the complaint to the Principal who wanted her son to identify the culprit from the entire staff. She refused to get her son involved ( a move very much appreciated by the counselor) and got the sweeper fired following the daily roaster.
When anything happens to our child, the best thing to do is to not show that its a big deal, because that scares children. The right approach is to get as much information as possible by sounding casual and showing lot of confidence in our kids. Never ever tell the child that he might have misunderstood or imagined these things… a child will never lie about being sexually abused. Support the child and protect him from further damage.
Hope all kids stay safe!