They are precious, safeguard them...

SPEAK OUT

They are precious, safeguard them...

The irony in our society is that a porn star is accepted and even revered as a celebrity. But, a rape victim is stigmatised, castigated and treated without any empathy or respect. Fearing that kind of treatment, a rape victim’s lips are sealed and in that silence, they remain tormented, internalising the deep pain and fear.


But some victims of rape, assault and abuse seek justice; so they report the incident to their family members, police or law authorities. The crime becomes more horrific when it involves young children, who do not even know the concept of rape or abuse.


When Vani Mittal (she insisted on using her real name), as a young girl of nine, went to her cousin’s house for a sleepover, the cousin’s grandfather sexually abused her. If one reads the poem penned by Vani after the incident, one can get a clear picture of the heinous crime and the devastation it caused to a young girl’s mind and spirit.

Excerpts:

A few steps back, if I go, I see the plain, bright bitter truth rushing  towards meknowing not whom to convey it came cutting through the void of my mindHow the fire flayed, dark demon had caged me in his hands and put ‘it’ on my palm all I wished for, was a gift Vani, who hails from a small town called Hisar in Haryana, is now 19 years old and pursuing her bachelor’s degree in English from a University in Rajasthan. She says, “I was very little and couldn’t figure out what had happened to me. But I felt a deep disgust and hatred, and I cried and cried...But the concern in all this is that I was too afraid to tell my mother or anybody else about the incident because I feared that it might backfire or the relations between families would be hampered. I was just too timid and frightened.
 
But, two years later, when the same crime was perpetrated on my sister by the same man, it triggered courage in me to go forth and tell my mother. By then, my sister had already told her about the horrid act. And that's when it came out in the open – but those two years of silence were hell for me. I wallowed in self-blame and self-pity, and I was breaking into bits and pieces inside”.  Cases like that of Vani prove that rapists/sex maniacs are generally not strangers and often involve people known to the victims, such as family members, caregivers or acquaintances. Because it is so, it leaves the child in great trauma as their ‘trust’ at the core level is shattered and the sense of safety is disrupted. When something so insensitive happens in ‘homes’ - where one is supposed to feel safe - it can be truly traumatic.

Educating children on what sexual violence and abuse is and equipping them with safety measures is the responsibility of parents and guardians, because, practically speaking, it is impossible to be right next to the child always. Since every child - girl or boy - is susceptible to sexual violence, all children need to be protected.

First, parents and guardians must believe that sexual assault and rapes are crimes and also that the law requires such cases to be reported in order to take action against the culprits.
 
Children should be taught that they have to talk about ‘anything’ that affects them. If anybody violates their comfort and safety, it should be immediately told. n If someone asks them to keep a secret about anything they did, they must surely share that with parents, close family members or siblings.

Children should be assured that saying “no” to anything they feel uncomfortable about is fine. It is not bad manners. They must be guided to not get enticed or coerced with gifts.

Children must be told not to hug, kiss or sit on anyone’s lap, even if it is a close family friend or relative. Physical boundaries need to be taught. 

Teach children that their bodies belong only to them and that it is nobody else’s business to touch or fondle them. Children need to be taught the actual words and names for body parts or else it will become a challenge for them to explain in case of abuse or assault.   Indicators of abuse Abrupt changes in personality and performance at school.  Unexplained fear about a person or a place.  Physical signs like bruises, scratches, soreness around private parts.   Parental role in teaching children the sanctity of sex and moral living is of utmost importance. Being forewarned is being forearmed in today’s world, where rape and sexual abuse have become so rampant.

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