Beware of child abuse

People don’t want to talk about it, they think it’s bad and their child should never know, says Vinaita Sivakumar, a playback singer from the Tamil film industry. “They think child abuse is not for them,” she adds.

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When a child is raped or molested it is treated as mere news. No one realises that this could happen to their child too, not just outside, but within their own homes that they believe are safe, says Reni Auxilla, a Coimbatore-based entrepreneur and educationalist. Both are members of the Chennai-based NGO, ‘We Seed,’ and victims of child abuse as well.

To sensitise mothers and anganwadi helpers on child abuse, the Rotary Club of Tiruchirapalli Elite, RI District 3000, partnered with We Seed to organise a workshop titled Young Seed to address issues related to child abuse and psychological trauma, preventive measures, medical awareness and basic rights ensured by Indian laws for child safety. As part of this venture, regular group discussions, individual counselling, parent counselling are organised.

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Reni Auxilla and Vinaita Sivakumar addressing a session.

“They are the future and we must protect them. It is painful to see how anybody could hurt these tiny beings, who thought we were celebrating a birthday when we were lighting candles to mourn the brutal killing of children in a school in Pakistan,” said Rtn Zameer Pasha, the chief guest.

It is difficult to abuse or trick a child who has been educated about sex-abuse.

Addressing 200 mothers and anganwadi helpers on preventive measures, Auxilla said, “Abusers are people the child knows and trusts, 30 percent are close family members, 60 percent are extended family or people known to the family and only 10 percent are strangers.”

So who should you trust your children with? “Nobody,” came her answer. Confessions recorded by abusers revealed either a careless attitude of the parents or their refusal to believe the child. “It is difficult to abuse or trick a child who has been educated about sex-abuse,” says Vinaita, who regretted that “my mother never spoke to me about it.”

We will talk about this at home, at school and to every mother we meet.

The discussion session that followed the workshop proved the discomfiture of parents to grapple the issue. Not a single mother seated in the room was willing to engage in a conversation about the difference between the good touch and the bad touch. “How do I say it, it’s shameful,” said a parent. “Until and unless you talk to your child about it, these powerpoint presentations and videos are of no use,” explained the playback singer. The anganwadi helpers, though, showed more spirit. “We will talk about this at home, at school and to every mother we meet,” said one of them.

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“Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act (POSCO) is something every parent should know. You may not be the victim but if you have the knowledge you can help somebody in need,” said Reni Auxilla. “Child abuse is not confined to the sex of the child or sexual assault. It’s a wider region that needs repair. I remember calling my child an erumamadu (a lazy buffalo in Tamil) for being slow with her work. When she realised at a later point I was calling her names, she was upset that I compared her to an ugly animal. That was also abuse,” she recalled.

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