Given the known history of child abuse I realized that when it comes to abuse, you have to be vigilant enough to not eliminate anyone as a prospect abuser. In today’s times kids come across so many people during their daily routine that you can never be sure about your kids safety. Though it is not advisable to turn into a maniac worrying about or suspecting every other person as a possible abuser, yet an effective way of dealing with this situation is to prepare your child to react against any such advances and make sure that if any such act of unwanted physical advances occurs your kid immediately comes up to you and tells you.
Since Nik started his play school, I was always wondering how I could prepare my little one against sexual abuse. Taking cue from one of the most impactful shows aired on a national television hosted by a bollywood superstar a couple of years back, I started talking to my kid about the very sensitive and private parts of his body which nobody was allowed to touch. These body parts were (a)lips/mouth, (b) chest, (c) the bottom (you tell your kid the potty place) and (d) the crotchet area (this is the ‘susu’ place) . Ideally I would want that no one should even hold my kids hands but given the nature of group activities that might be taken up in school I kept that for a later point of time. I called these four parts the ‘Secret Parts’.
The second step was telling my son that if anybody tried to touch these body parts of his, he should immediately react as “Don’t Touch Me! I will tell my Mamma!” and that he should come and tell his Mamma. Mamma would then scold the person.
The third step was reinstating the above two points whenever my son was at the risk of being alone with a person. This I started with his car pool driver. Because my son is dropped home the last, there was a time window when he is alone in the car pool with the driver. So I took this as the first opportunity of telling my son that if the car pool driver uncle tries to touch his ‘Secret Parts’, he should react very angrily and say, “Don’t Touch Me! I will tell my Mamma!”. For a couple of days I asked him specifically if the car pool driver had tried to touch him in his ‘Secret Places’. One day when I asked him the same question, he replied by saying that “ I know mamma that driver uncle should not touch me at My Secret Places. If he does so I will come and tell you.”Another day I observed that an assistant had been added to the car pool. I again repeated the same conversation with my son.
We as parents have to realise that our kids are exposed to many people at multiple places, communication is the only thing that will help our kids to reach out to us and make us aware of any untoward experiences they may have been subject to. Reiteration is the only way our kids will know that touching by a known or unknown person is an issue to be reported to parents.
‘Good Touch’ or ‘Bad Touch’ is not an inborn instinct; this instinct like other life skills has to be developed and we parents have a significant role in developing this instinct in our kid.
So, once I realized that my son now understood what exactly I meant by someone touching him in his ‘Secret Parts’, I began to re-iterate the same whenever there was an instance of him being alone with my driver, the domestic help, the school attendant (specially the one who takes them to the Toilet) or a neighbor. I did not forget to put forth this warning when we were on a family tour visiting various temples in Rajasthan. We were travelling in a twelve seater Tempo Traveller and son threw a fit that he did not want to get down the vehicle. The driver offered to baby-sit which my son happily agreed to. I just pulled him in an embrace and whispered into his ear, “Don’t forget what Mamma told you. If uncle tries to touch you in your ‘Secret Parts’ tell him – Don’t Touch me. I will tell Mamma. And you ought to tell Mamma. Ok?” My son nodded and suddenly felt uncomfortable. He suddenly wanted to go with us; I was more than happy about him being with us rather than being alone with the driver in the vehicle.
On the same journey, next day, again my son seemed tired and said that he did not want to accompany us out of the bus. Given that the driver had excused himself to attend the nature’s call, I repeated the same things to my son not in a whisper but in a normal voice. My Mother-in-law heard it and asked me to take up this conversation some other time. This was not the place to talk such things to a kid. This brings me to the last step that you ensure you don’t miss out on. Don’t be deterred by what anyone else says. This is about your kids’ safety. No place is wrong or inappropriate to talk about your kids’ safety to her/him. Take a stand and do not miss on any opportunity to reinstate the idea of personal security to your kid.
Let’s look at this in this manner. The abusers who have in various cases turned out to be people as trusted as family and relatives take the child into extreme confidence and convince them to not tell anyone about their “FUN THING”/ “SECRET”. So if confidence is the primary aspect here, why not let our children have utmost confidence in us – their parents. I am sure that is the case for a gamut of things already. Let’s also include the issue of “Secret Parts” and “Good touch & Bad Touch” to this list.