• Saahas

Support a child survivor

If a child has faced abuse, here are some things to respond:

  • Listen to the child. It takes courage to speak up, so listen without judgment.

  • If you must ask questions, be sensitive about it and don't make the child feel cornered.

  • Reassure the child that they are not at fault or responsible.

  • Don't hug or kiss the child unless you ask her if he / she feels comfortable - you don't want the child feeling uncomfortable, again.

  • Gently find out all the facts and then try to ascertain what happened.

  • Ensure that you tell the child that he / she is safe, and that the person who did this to the child will NOT come in contact with the child. Take steps to ensure that this is done.

  • Provide the child with professional help and counselling, based on the degree of trauma.

  • If you are up to it, confront this person and press charges if you will. If you have your family's support do so. BUT, be mindful of your child's comfort, for legal systems may expect the child to speak up and present evidence repetitively, which may be traumatic.

Preventive Measures to Protect Children as Parents Education is one of the major elements that would help lessening the extent of perpetration of the offence. Sex education in schools, and guidance education at schools would guide children in the right direction, to be wary, and to refrain from going to the other side themselves. Differentiating a safe touch from an unsafe one, knowing what sex is, knowing that it is wrong for a relative to approach you for sex, and knowing that it is wrong to do the same; for starters are useful tips for children. The following information can help:

  • Safe touches are those that are experienced as warm, caring and nurturing. They are not hurtful or unsafe ones that come with an ulterior motive.

  • Unsafe touches are those that hurt, or cause pain, discomfort, unease or any feeling of awkwardness.

  • In-between or confusing touches are those that are unfamiliar, those that may seem nice but cause a feeling of discomfort.

  • It is wrong for another to touch one’s private parts - the only exceptions are either parent giving the child a bath, or a doctor examining the child in the parents' or a safe adult's presence.

  • It is wrong for one to touch his own private parts in front of a child, or to force a child to watch as one touches their own private parts. It is wrong for someone to take a child’s picture in the nude. It is wrong for a person to force a child to kiss, touch or to fondle any part of the body of another.

  • Every child’s consent matters. No means No. No one can violate that.

As parents, teachers and caregivers, it is important to remember these things:

  • Every child has a right to stay safe. It is not wrong to presume that every child is equally vulnerable, and hence needs to be educated on staying safe.

  • Talking to children from very early on, on their safety, and keeping all doors to communication open is vital for their safety and wellbeing.

  • Being alert constantly and avoiding any action or decision which is potentially dangerous for the child is vital.

  • Drive home the fact in the children that their body is private and nobody, just nobody can touch one’s private parts in any situation. If someone does, they should stop the person and come and tell the parent right away. This conversation has to start as early, maybe at the age of three.

  • Teach the child to say no to any person or anything that makes them uncomfortable or sense danger. Tell them, it is ok to say no to anyone at all and most certainly to strangers.

  • Tell the child to obey their instincts when she senses something amiss. If they think and feel that the situation is uncomfortable or the person is not doing something right, the child must get away at the earliest.

  • Encourage them to be assertive, to be bold and outspoken. If anyone does anything to him/her, which he/ she knows is not right, he/she must say so, first to the person who is doing it, and certainly to the parent. Teach them, especially when they are young to threaten the person with, “I will tell my mother…” This does help to scare off known people many a time.

  • Help them identify a person who they trust, someone besides the parent, someone to listen to them, if they are hurt, or scared or confused about anything. This is necessary for the times when the parents are not around. If neither of parent is available, she should report it to any grown up maybe a neighbour, a teacher, friend’s mother, anyone.

  • Most significantly, make it known that the child can come and tell the parent anything, anytime. As a parent, one must firmly put across that they would listen to the child no matter what has happened. Nothing compares to the sense of betrayal a child feels if the parents do not believe them.

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