“I don’t remember much about that day but a few things have stayed with me, like the sound of rain hitting my window. My parents were attending a marriage and left me with my cousin, Devansh. It wasn’t the first time that they had called someone over to give me company as I was an only child. Devansh bhaiya was 8 years older than me and didn’t talk much. He never explained to me why the games we played involved me getting naked or why I couldn’t tell my parents about it. He never showed me the same love when we were with other people. I was confused but I did whatever he asked me to. It used to hurt sometimes and the pain made me cry sometimes but I never told anyone about our secret games. I wish I had.”
As defined by the World Health Organization, child sexual abuse is the involvement of a child in sexual activity that they do not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society. The statement released by the Louis-Georges Arsenault, UNICEF Representative to India, stated that one in three children in India face child sexual abuse at a young age. Thus, for a country wherein most children become aware about their abuse after watching episodes of Satyamev Jayate, child sexual abuse is a big concern of social injustice. In an overwhelming majority of cases, the abuser (almost always male) is someone who is known to the child and the family.
Although provisions like Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 have been introduced in India with the aim to protect children from sexual abuse, harassment and pornography, cases which involves manipulating or blackmailing the child, with or without injury, go unnoticed. In India, while more than 7,200 children are subject to sexual assault in a year, more such cases go unreported and remain unspoken about due to lack of discourse about such issues in families and attachment of shame and victim blaming. But would things be different if our children are brought up in a culture that teaches them about good touch-bad touch since childhood instead of one that teaches to obey their elders and log kya kahenge?
According to a research, it was found that pedophiles find it much harder to abuse those children who are already aware of abuse. Thus, talking to children openly about the issue of abuse early and often can prevent them from being subjected to one or talk about it if they are victim. From breaking the taboo related to sex to sensitization, cooperation from medical experts and police personnel and addressing the abuse and the trauma related to it, each one of us needs to take a step towards protecting every innocent’s childhood. It is true that despite our greatest efforts, not every child can be protected or have the strength to scream, but every word of reassurance, away from fear, anger and sadness, will help create a safe environment.