November 23, 2007

Guard the innocents A Correspondent

Posted On Friday, November 23, 2007
Recent incidents on abuse of children in our suburbs has prompted residents to issue a wake-up call against child abuse

The recent incident where the bus driver of a reputed school in Powai molested four school children has sent shock waves among both parents and teachers. The school did take action, but this has not healed the scars this incident has left on innocent minds.

Also, a recent survey by the Mumbai Parents Teachers Association shows over the past two years, sexual abuse of school children has increased by 20 per cent of which five per cent of the accused have been bus drivers.
The figures tally with the Central Government figures which point out that India has the dubious distinction of having the world's largest number of sexually abused children with a child below 16 years raped every 155 minutes, a child below 10 every 13th hour, and one in every 10 children sexually abused at any point in time. These figures resoundingly break the silence that surrounds sexual abuse of children and perpetuates the evil.
In view of these incidents, many institutions in the eastern suburbs tied up with psychologists in an attempt to prevent such crimes on the occasion of the International Day for Prevention of Child Abuse.
"It is time we acknowledged the problem and did something about it," says Dr Preethi Menon, a Mulund-based paediatric psychiatrist dealing with child sexual abuse. Sexual abuse can take several forms - from verbal, visual, tactile, exhibitionist and pornographic offences and fondling to anything that sexually stimulates the offender.
The strategy of the offender can vary from tricking, luring, forcing and pressuring to threatening the victim. According to Dr Menon, it is an abuse of power and a violation of the child's right to a normal and trusting relationship.
The issue is that prevention can be focussed at three levels. At the primary level, the focus can be on removing the causes, strengthening the child's competence to recognise and react, increasing parental awareness, strengthening social vigilance, and bringing in effective and punitive penal policy. At the secondary level, the emphasis should be on early detection, quick intervention and provision of a supportive environment in schools and families.
Tertiary intervention should involve coordination among the police, courts, counsellors, doctors and social workers.It is the children of the lower socio-economic strata who suffer the maximum.
Says Sonali Jaiswal, a resident of Mulund, "Often we come across victims of child abuse. In such cases we must draw attention of those who can provide aid. I once reported such a matter to the NGO Arpan.
(It works towards this cause in Mumbai by conducting teacher-training programmes in schools and awareness talks amongst parents and individuals).They gave her proper attention and gave psychiatric treatment to her."
Says Pooja Taparia, director, Arpan, "The parents should teach their child personal safety just like they teach them how to cross the road or to stay away from fire. The parents should ensure a good rapport with your child so that chances are high that the child might report abuse. Most children don't talk about it.
They are confused and do not know how to speak about it. The problem is neither the schools nor the parents acknowledge the seriousness of the problem."