The boogie man cometh… Protecting your children from child abuse

  • By Sanjay Akolkar

Jack was a normal 4 year old who simply loved school until one day suddenly he started showing signs of irritability. His mother shrugged it off as a tantrum but his behaviour just got worse. A child who was so happy and talkative suddenly withdrew into a shell and would complain of chronic stomach ache. Fearing a health problem looming his parents consulted a doctor only to be horrified at what their doctor discovered. Jack had been violated sexually. Close examination confirmed the doctor’s worse fears.

Which sick animal would do that? Jack’s parents were enraged and as they traced Jack’s whereabouts earlier they found that he had been seen entering Old man Fulton’s house several times in the past fortnight. Jack’s father filed a complaint and there was much rage and furore in the neighbourhood that a seemingly charming old man was actually a child abuser. Seeing Jack’s father’s bold move to have him arrested slowly other parents also came out in the open about previous attempts by Fulton on their children. This is just one snapshot of how safe our children are!

Child abuse or molestation would certainly figure tops in the horrific crimes list. Not that any other crime is ok. Just the very thought of a young innocent child being made subject of a sexual perversion is downright frightening and appalling to the senses. Let’s face it, the world is indeed becoming a dangerous place to live in everyday. Violence, rape, murder and mayhem are words which don’t even evoke strong reactions in us anymore. At least not until trouble comes a knocking on your front door. We often teach our children proverbs like - “Better safe than sorry” then let us today implement this to the T when it comes to the safety of our children.

Child molestation or sexual abuse is the repeated fondling or touching of a child’s genitalia by an adult. Sometimes it could also be a full-fledged sexual intercourse. While sometimes the marks of assault or sexual abuse are apparent there are times when there is no penetration due to lack of opportunity so the molester is content with kissing, petting or making the child indulge in oral sex. All these won’t leave any visible marks on the child but rest assured his/her mind can be scarred for life.
The child molester need not even have a history of crime behind him. They are the ones you are least likely to suspect - The gentle old man who organizes charities in your parish or that absolutely stunning lady who is a teacher in the kindergarten, a visiting uncle or teenage cousin. Well all these may not have a crime record but they certainly could be the very people you need to guard your children from.

Most small girls who showed signs of molestation normally didn’t think the advances untoward or sexual in nature. Obviously they couldn’t tell a sexual advance from a casual pat! This is precisely why the child molester picks on his victims, because they are too young to comprehend or understand what’s happening to them. Sometimes when teenagers hit puberty the excess hormones in them could cause them to hurt an innocent child. Such incidents do happen but are often overlooked by parents who think their child is just a tell tale.

Don’t wait for something drastic to happen:

  1. The “don’t talk to strangers” theory still holds true, doubly enforced.
  2. Talk to your child to get a rundown of events on a daily basis. You can ask him or her pointed questions about certain people whom you think could get a little feely and touchy with your child.
  3. Explain to your child that it is absolutely important for him/her to inform you if they are touched in the wrong place. Explain where the wrong place and equally importantly instruct them that under no circumstances are they to lie about someone touching them down there as your child could very innocently implicate an innocent person.
  4. Always keep a track of your child’s whereabouts. If you have hired help or a babysitter insist on proper identification and keep a record of it with the local police.
  5. Look for signs of sudden nervousness, irritability or discomfort in your child. Gently ask your child if someone has asked him/her not to tell. It is important for your child to trust only the parents as they are less likely to keep a child molester’s warning to ‘keep it a secret’ very seriously.