Sexual abuse of children like many other things in Pakistan is another taboo that we just don’t talk about. A lot of the times parents don’t teach their children things that might help them out in difficult situations that could have been avoided. It’s high time that we do our part in creating awareness because the statistics are extremely horrifying.
These aren’t foolproof ways that eradicate sexual abuse in children completely but the most important thing abusers manipulate are a child’s innocence and naivety which is why providing them with the required knowledge is extremely essential.
1. It’s important to keep an eye on everyone, even people you know and trust because most of the time abusers are not strangers but friends or family
It is a common thing for abusers to gain the trust of parents of the child to be able to have easy access of their victim. 90% of the time the abuser is NOT a stranger but someone the child knows.
2. Minimize any situation where a child has to be alone with an adult that isn’t you
Always prefer group situations; don’t leave your child alone with anyone, and by anyone we mean ANYONE (Quran teacher, tutor, uncle, cousin, caregiver, driver, maid, servant etc.). Reducing any one-on-one situations has been known to decrease the risk.
3. Talk to your children/younger siblings; get to know the people in their lives
You need to know who they’re spending time with at school or outside. Talk openly and make them comfortable so that they feel like they can tell you anything.
4. Teach your children about boundaries and personal space
Let them know that don’t have to hug anyone if they don’t feel comfortable. Make sure they know that they have power over their bodies and nobody has the right to touch them even if it’s a family member.
5. Let people know that your child’s boundaries need to be respected and they shouldn’t be hugged or kissed unless the child permits it
If anyone tries to coerce them in front of you by saying ‘aray beta main toh tumharay abbu ki tarha hun’ or some other nonsense. Just let these people know to leave the child be if he or she is uncomfortable. Don’t let anyone make your kids sit in their laps. This will also teach your children about the concept of consent and they’ll recognize that it’s okay to say ‘no’.
6. Teach children about their body parts
Children in Pakistan often have no knowledge of what their body parts are, and they obviously don’t know anything of the opposite sex which may be more dangerous than we realize . Being able to identify body parts helps children in being able express and explain themselves. Teach them that there are certain private parts that nobody should touch or see.
7. Signs of abuse will not always be prominent so you need to know what to look out for
Don’t think there will be obvious signs always in case of abuse. You’ve to also know what to watch out for, both physically and behaviorally. Here are some of the signs that you should be vigilant about.
8. Your kids should know that they won’t get in trouble if they talk to you
Perpetrators have their own ways of making sure the victim ‘keeps the secret’. Make sure you’re close enough to your child for him or her to confide in you. Often children feel scared telling their parents or guardians about their abuse because they have been told by the abuser that it will get them in trouble.
9. Trust your instincts if you feel something bad is happening to your child
If you have a weird feeling about someone, look into it and don’t ignore it as a silly thought. Our gut feeling is often there for a reason.
10. Doctors should only be able to examine your child with you present
And your kids should know this too.
11. Have a code word or secret phrase with your kids that they can use in emergencies
In case the child is unable to publicly say anything, have a simple discreet phrase that a child can use to let you know they’re in a situation they would like to get out of.
12. Teach the children that these rules apply for everyone: people they know, friends, family and even other children
Because remember, anyone can be an abuser.
13. Understand that the statistics are a reality, you simple cannot trust anyone with your child
About 2,410 girls and 1,729 boys were reportedly sexually abused in 2016.
Be vigilant, for the sake of your children.
Cover image via: AAP Image/Lukas Coch