Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Child sexual abuse

“According to a 2007 study by Indian government of nearly 12, 500 children from across India, 53% of children both boys and girls equally were victims of sexual abuse. The report found out that 31% of the sexual assaults were by an uncle or neighbor. Also over 70% of children had never spoken to anyone of what was done to them.” 

"Understanding and challenging Child sexual abuse"
The above statistics of child sexual abuse is alarming and at the same time scary because at this age, children don’t really know what is happening to them or what to do when their relative (someone who is trusted in the family) or an elderly person touches them inappropriately? To bridge the gap of not knowing ‘what is happening to them?’ to ‘what to do when they experience child sexual abuse’, we initiated ‘Sahas’ with an aim to build adolescent’s capacity towards understanding and thereby challenging child sexual abuse (which we see as form of gender based violence). But at the same time, it was necessary to go step by step wherein the adolescents learn about their identity, puberty, physical body changes- development of primary and secondary sexual organs – how they are affecting them and people around them, social and psychological aspects about growing up by engaging in a space where boys and girls can talk openly about these aspects and finally talking about child sexual abuse.

So here we are, after 5 week long engagement with adolescents at ‘My Perch’ in our last workshop “Understanding and challenging child sexual abuse”. The day began with the game of ‘Goat and fox’ followed by screening of ‘Komal’ a film on child sexual abuse by Childline.
Through a power point presentation, child sexual abuse was explained in detail along with the statistics to share the gravity of the issue and why it is important to report child sexual abuse. The participants who were usually noisy, giggling, talking (not that we don’t like this side of them) were silent and seemed focused on the discussion. Then the participants were invited to share if they had or seen sexual abuse happening in their community.

After deafening silence, a 13 years old participant shared experiences of child sexual abuse that included her friend being raped by her step-father and consequent incidences, at that time she didn’t know what had happened? She had asked her mom and also teacher but instead of telling her the truth, they asked her to keep her mouth shut.  With lot of courage and trust on the circle, she could share a very crucial part of life which was hidden from 3 years and had deep impact on her life. Since the workshop environment had become very intense and it was possible that some could take on her sharing, we shrugged it off by playing ‘passing the coin game. 

We then discussed ‘what to do if I experience sexual abuse or see it happening around me’. It is here, we emphasized on the reporting of child sexual abuse, informing about the experience to a trusted adult that could be parents, teacher, and elder siblings being the most important step.
Then we invited participants to prepare their personalized safety action plan which they could use in times of danger!!! It was simply beautiful to see how the participants were asking questions and taking efforts to make the plan.

Since this was our last workshop, we also introduced the concept of counseling day and our counselor on-board Radhika explained the importance and need of counseling. After the lunch break, we did a detailed feedback process with the participants by inviting them to write answers to the questions prepared on the basis of the sessions we had conducted throughout the intervention. Lot of things were happening at the same time like we wanted to click a group picture, however it was interesting to see the participants engrossed in writing answers as if there was some class test happening.
Feedback or class test ?
“This is amazing, I have never seen something like this happening in library this, no one is really making noise, all of them are sitting at different corners, they were so much into completing their answers, and they are opening their mouth only for the explanation of questions”, shares Kamya, founder at My Perch.

And I was thinking “Ahhh! We did it finally! What seemed impossible few months back had turned into beautiful reality. All my assumptions and things I have been hearing about children that don’t understand things, it will be difficult to explain concepts of gender and sexuality with them and for sure they can’t challenge gender based violence just washed away because 25 informed adolescents stood in front of me who were empowered enough to challenge any form of gender based violence”

Somebody has rightly said, “Only a child sees things with perfect clarity because it hasn’t developed all those filters which prevent us from seeing things that we don’t expect to see.”

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