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How To Tell Your Child About CSA

Entrepreneur and mother Deepa Kumar has issues with the blanket terminology that surrounds the issue of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). “To start with, I don’t quite agree with the distinction between a ‘good touch’ and a  ‘bad touch.’ If  there is a touch that a child needs to distinguish as good or bad, we are already in dangerous territory,” she opines and recalls how during a family vacation, when her daughters were asked by a member of the resort staff to ‘come and see something nice,” they refused because they have been taught to say, ‘No.’ Firmly and without apology.
As a mother, she was shaken however by the violation of a child within the premises of Bangalore’s Vibgyor High School. And her response to what she believes is a social crisis, was both emotional and pragmatic. She created a website, http://www.howtotellyourchild.com/ that tries to make sense of the confusion surrounding caregivers and children when it comes to sexual abuse. She has tried to address the key question of  communication that alerts a child to the possibility of abuse in unambiguous and yet less than frightening terminology.
Deepa has issues with a popular TV show where a quick workshop tried to teach children about their “danger parts.” ‘There is a lot of negativity, fear, shame and stereotyping when it comes to teaching children about their bodies. It doesn’t have to be this way,” she says and to break that cycle with a positive imagery, she took the help of animation. The video titled Child Safety Lesson on the website uses a benevolent pink dragon to talk about  red flags a child can easily learn to recognise. Though it   presupposes that the abuser will always be outside the circle of designated care givers and loved ones, it is a start. And teaches children to be aware that  private parts are private and anyone who talks about them, shows them or demands to see them, fondles them, seeks seclusion or holds and kisses a child without any regard for boundaries is a ‘bad person’ and must be stopped. The battle, says Deepa, is to teach a child how to prevent abuse before it happens, when it is just in the ‘See Alert’  and ‘Talk Alert’ state. Before the child has been touched.
The problem with most messages about CSA, says she, is that they are directed at adults and speak their language. “Sexual information comes either from porn or the texts in school books where diagrams of a uterus and travelling tadpoles try to teach children about reproduction. Parents should be able to talk to their children about their bodies without apprehension and awkwardness. The videos about puberty and other issues on my site give information in a practical way…not just in a scientific way. What all of us, parents and children need is a unified terminology and code of understanding that instantly identifies inappropriate behaviour, says Deepa and adds, “Few hospitality professionals in hotels and restaurants or even attendants at schools know what a child’s boundaries are. They pick up children and kiss them. Adults who work around children should be asked to follow a code of conduct. The Vibgyor incident would not have happened if the boundaries had been firmly indicated to the staff. How did the child end up being alone with the abuser? How did the abuse go so far? Measures like raising boundary walls does not help when abuse  is taking place within the walls. Yes, I do realise that abuse happens within homes too and most of the times, an abuser is someone a child trusts. And that is why  encouraging adults to be a part of a Child Watch programme, is very much on our agenda as is working with other organisations.”
images (4) with The New Indian Express  Reema Moudgil works for The New Indian Express, Bangalore, is the author of Perfect Eight, the editor of  Chicken Soup for the Soul-Indian Women, an artist, a former RJ and a mother. She dreams of a cottage of her own that opens to a garden and  where she can write more books, paint, listen to music and  just be.

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