Rise in sex crimes against minors
NEW DELHI: The 16-year-old boy, sexually abused in a south Delhi school, reported it and filed a case. Children generally take time to get to this stage. Psychiatrists and counsellors say most kids report only after a "long relationship". Small children, especially, take time to understand that what they are going through constitutes abuse. They also say such cases are coming to them more frequently.
"It is usually in retrospect that a child understands his or her situation," says psychiatrist Avdesh Sharma. That, along with the fact that the child doesn't possess, what Sharma calls, the "vocabulary" to describe his experience, makes the detection and prevention of child sex abuse particularly tricky. In fact, in the initial stages, a child may even misinterpret the abuser's intentions and "feel special" making both excessive attachment to and refusal to interact with an individual possible indicators to abuse.
"Abuse in institutions was always there but I find it has increased and not just because it is reported more now," observes Sharma. Among young kids, abuse of boys and girls is practically equivalent. It is only after adolescence, when boys tend to become more aggressive, that the number of cases of boys being abused start dropping significantly. However, in many cases, it's when the kids grow up that they understand and report the abuse.
It's instinct that protects younger children. Organizations working to prevent child sex abuse teach kids to trust their instincts. Chennai-based NGO Tulir had launched an audio book on "safe" and "unsafe touch" in 2009. If a touch, a picture or being corralled into a secluded corner makes a child uncomfortable, he or she should get away "no matter who the person doing it may be". "Children as small as six or seven years old know instinctively," says Sharma and older kids, exposed to contemporary media are more aware anyway. "Older kids shouldn't allow anyone to violate their personal space." Meetings after school hours or in secluded areas are an absolute no-no.
Children may wait to report but there are still signs parents could look out for. School counsellor Astha Bajaj says that victims of any kind of abuse tend to withdraw, stay away from school, be inattentive in class and make frequent trips to clinics or restrooms. "They will generally have low self-esteem and may react aggressively even to innocuous teasing," says Bajaj.
Parents often have to entrust the care of the kids to outsiders. In case of pre-teens and teens, if they have adults they can talk to, it will go a long way to keep them safe. "The child may not be able to talk to the parents but if he talks to peers he may not get the right information. Friends may even make fun of him," says Sharma. Plus, pre-teens and teens will have issues of sexuality of their own to deal with.
Finally, the abusers also need help. Bajaj says that most abusers would have been abused themselves. Sharma says, "If you don't help them - beyond what the law is doing -- they'll repeat it."