Child Sexual Abuse is an extremely grave crime that our society faces and yet is hardly ever discussed on public platforms. A brilliantly framed article stating  how to fight the crime and perpetrators.

In the year 2001 the United States Marines began training in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program or MCAP, known to be one of the most effective and brutal forms of combat self defence. Its predecessor, the Linear Infighting Neural Override Engagement was not the ideal system, but none the less remained a potent form of self defence. Yet, Suzanne Marie Collins, a marine officer never got the chance as she became the victim of a brutal and cowardly rape and murder, perpetrated by Sedley Alley in a blitz attack. I myself practice Krav Maga, an Israeli Form of Combat Self Defence and I can tell you that self defence skills as the ultimate crime prevention weapon is a myth, packaged and sold by overzealous self defence instructors with little or no experience dealing with these cases. While I concede to the virtues of self defence, being a practitioner myself, I am also convinced it is just a small part of the overall solution, which is much more complex and demanding of our time and efforts.

child abuse1 300x211 Busting the Rape Myth  Fighting Child Sexual Abuse

Let us start with context. A child in its developing years is naturally curious, craves for attention and is generally involved in the process of understanding the world and the people within it. Therefore the child is susceptible to manipulation, a skill parents routinely use to teach values and condition the child into a respectable adult. On one hand, parents should unleash this child within the child and not force him or her into the confines of a room under the pretext of safety. Yet, on the other hand, the child has to be equipped with the skills necessary to fight sexual violence in his or her own way, lest this curiosity become a liability. On the other side of this context, lies a perpetrator who is a natural profiler, a man extremely adept at identifying the perfect victim, the perfect situation and in executing a brutal and unconscionable crime. But one should never forget, it is possible to fight back and where there is a threat, there is also an invitation for courage, strength and resilience.

For parents the first step is to understand what having a child and raising him or her means. We have to really shift our perspectives around parenting (refer to page 39 of the link) from the one which makes it a casual and mechanical affair following marriage, to that which requires selfless, dedication and sincerity. To this end, an elementary understanding of child psychology and developmental dynamics is necessary to ensure the child’s intellect, survival skills and learning abilities develop to their full potential. While children may be vulnerable, nature has built into them extraordinary survival skills and intelligence which we have to, as adults, nurture in them. One example of where we fall short as a society here is the way we confine the child in her formative years to activities indoors (be it on the pretext of exams or preparation for a talent show), whereas nature intends for children to be outdoors between the ages of 3 and 13 to develop good emotional quotient. 

John Douglas, in his book “Journey into Darkness” provides a seemingly simple solution, love. But it is easier said than done. However, he is convinced and experts agree that if a child feels loved and feels that his/her parents would support and stand by him/her no matter what, a sex offender would find it considerably more difficult to manipulate the child through the process of grooming.  A natural corollary to this solution is good communication. It is incumbent upon parents to convey constantly to the child, not just their unconditional love (notwithstanding performance at school), but also make it abundantly clear that the child can share anything with them without fear of being judged adversely.  The child should feel his or her needs are met by the parents at home, which in itself is a deterrent to the preferential child sex offender.

However for this communication framework to be firmly established, its not sufficient for parents just to be good listeners. Parents will also have to create the culture of conversation by being transparent and sharing information sought by the child in a way he or she can comprehend it. I have often seen in my work that children in a home involving tremendous marital conflict often grapple with a sense of poor self esteem because he or she feels responsible for causing the conflict. This misplaced assumption on the child’s part is the direct result of the parents never sitting the child down and explaining what is happening. In the absence of such forthrightness from the parents, the child too finds it difficult to open up. Potentially such a child would be the ideal victim of the child molestor.


Thirdly, the way we teach the child about his or her body is the most critical part of the whole puzzle. Our genital organs are the defining factors of our gender identity and yet, we are so deeply ashamed of them. Using words like “Penis” or “Vagina” often provokes an eerie silence in a conversation. We are so ashamed of them in fact that we have invented innumerable slang terms to describe these body parts, which in my opinion are even worse ways to describe realities associated with our body. When a child is conditioned to be ashamed of his or her genital organs, any activity involving them including acts of sexual violence will also be construed as deeply shameful and the child may therefore choose to remain silent about it. Alternatively, the child could even begin to see itself in poor light leading to a sustained vulnerability for further sexual abuse. Potentially this could translate into many challenges during adulthood including poor self image, inability to trust people or dangerous sexual lifestyles. Bottom line the child should know that no matter what happens, he or she will be heard, will never be blamed and it is never his or her fault.

In addition, holistic and meaningful sex education and safety lessons are the other parts of the solution. It is important the child knows what is a safe touch or an unsafe touch. This is more challenging than it sounds, because in a child’s mind a vaccination delivered through an injection could be construed as a bad touch or an unsafe touch, whereas someone touching his or her chest area would not constitute an unsafe or a bad touch. I strongly recommend consulting experts or expert materials on the topic of how to educate children on these aspects in the most effective way. Organisations like Tulir and Enfold Proactive Health Trust are veterans in this field and their people are among the best in fighting child sexual abuse. Reference is invited to their courses, websites and their work in general to better understand these measures.

Furthermore, as unpleasant as it sounds, parents need to discuss contingencies with the child. For example if the child gets lost in a mall, who should it approach for help? Should he or she find a man in a police uniform or approach any random person for assistance? If the child is being whisked away by someone it doesn’t know, shouting “help, this man is not my parent” is a lot more effective than screaming without a vocabulary. Impose certain rules where the child always checks in with you before it steps out and teach him or her take to pride in their bodies.

But what if the parent himself is the perpetrator? This is where the schools, the teachers, the neighbours, the parents of the child’s friends and classmates really need to step it up and take responsibility to undertake the measures discussed above. John Douglas in his works has often drawn attention to the existence of abuse, trauma and neglect in the childhoods of many of the serial sex offenders. We cannot deny that we as a society are stakeholders in the fight against child sexual abuse. Therefore, we as a society need to take collective responsibility for our kids.

We cannot, under the pretext of competition, begin looking at our children’s classmates as an adversary or a rival. Often times, children represent a range of symptoms indicative of child sexual abuse, ranging from oversexualised behaviour to a fall in performance at school. We cannot ignore the child simply because he or she doesn’t is not related to us by blood or through acquaintance or because he or she appears weird. Often times, I hear parents mocking the underperformer in their children’s class, whereas for all you know, the child could have a story to tell us.

Last but not the least, we have a duty to teach our kids to not just avoid becoming victims, but also avoid becoming abusers. It is the failure on this front, among others, that causes juveniles to perpetrate sexual violence upon children. That process begins with the lesson that they have to respect and protect their peers, as much as they wish to be respected and protected themselves. For further reading, I recommend “Journey into Darkness” by John Douglas. I also refer my readers to the work of organisations like Tulir, Enfold Proactive Health Trust, National Center for Missing Children and Corner House in the US of A.

What is stated above should, by no means be considered a complete treatise on effective crime prevention. After all, as one dwells deeper into the subject, one realises there is no “one size fits all” solution to prevent crimes involving sexual violence. My intention here is to provoke curiosity on the topic, so that parents will find local resource persons and more exhaustive materials to equip themselves and their children with the knowledge and skills necessary to mitigate risks and remain safe. However, let us be clear about one thing- that, for every criminal who is dedicated to perpetrating crimes against children, we are the first line of defence and we have a resolve to protect our kids, far stronger than the offender’s resolve to harm them. In this fight, we are stronger, more dedicated and better armed than him and we will stop at nothing to create a safer world for our kids. So I conclude with these words, no more fear and no more ignorance!

 

By Ashok G.V.

Also See:
Busting The Rape Myth: Child Rape and Stranger Danger
Busting the Rape Myth- Violence or Uncontrolled Lust?
The Pascal Mazurier Assault Case – Speaking for Suja

Image Source: Stop Child Sexual Abuse@facebook, By sarang [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, Stop Child Abuse@facebook

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