Amid growing cases of sexual harassment of young adults and children in the country, parents are consistently striving to teach kids about staying vigilant, trusting their gut feeling, and understanding good touch from bad. Just like how we teach them to steer clear of hot stoves and utensils and to always look both ways before crossing the street, it is important to harp on staying vigilant against sexual predators.
Unfortunately, not every family broaches this topic with their kids. Our society sees talking about topics on sexuality, sex, consent, molestation, and safety as taboo.
It is only the diligence and initiative of parents that can protect children from sexual abuse. This conversation is of utmost significance for the child's safety and security. It also gives them confidence in their parents, that they have their backs in the most difficult or unpleasant of situations. In fact, The Government of India enacted the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 to protect Children from Offences of Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, and pornography with due regard for safeguarding the interest and well-being of children.
Here are compelling reasons why prioritising the safeguarding of children from sexual abuse and enhancing awareness is of paramount importance:
Mitigating Lifelong Physical and Psychological Trauma: Child sexual abuse can inflict severe and enduring harm on a child's physical, emotional, and psychological health. It can lead to trauma, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even suicidal tendencies. By shielding children from sexual abuse, we can avert these profound consequences.
Preserving the Sanctity of Childhood: Every child has the right to experience a secure and nurturing childhood. Sexual abuse erodes their innocence and shatters their capacity to trust others. By safeguarding children from sexual abuse, we ensure their entitlement to a positive and wholesome development during this vulnerable phase of life.
Fostering Empowerment and Self-Esteem: Shielding children from sexual abuse and imparting knowledge about their rights and personal boundaries empowers them and enhances their self-esteem. They learn to recognize and repel inappropriate advances and comprehend that their body belongs solely to them. This equips them to assert their boundaries and shield themselves.
Preventing Future Abuse: Educating children, parents, caregivers, and communities about the signs of child sexual abuse and how to report it can preclude future incidents. By heightening awareness, we establish a culture that refuses to tolerate or overlook child sexual abuse, resulting in heightened vigilance and intervention when necessary.
Reinforcing Protective Systems: Heightened awareness about child sexual abuse contributes to improved protective policies, legislation, and systems that aid victims and hold perpetrators accountable. It can also enhance training for professionals working with children, including educators, healthcare providers, and social workers, enabling them to identify signs of abuse and respond appropriately.
Encouraging Disclosure and Seeking Aid: Empowered and informed children are more likely to disclose instances of abuse, seek assistance, and access the support they require. Increased awareness fosters an environment that encourages candid communication, shields victims, and precludes further abuse.
Confronting Societal Taboos and Stigma: Raising awareness about child sexual abuse dismantles societal taboos and diminishes the stigma tied to openly discussing this matter. It inspires survivors to step forward, pursue justice, and access appropriate support services devoid of fear of disgrace or blame.
To elevate awareness about child sexual abuse, various stakeholders—parents, schools, community organizations, governments, and NGOs—must collaborate. This might entail implementing comprehensive sexual education programs, providing training on identifying and addressing child sexual abuse, and establishing reporting mechanisms and support systems for victims and their families.