Thursday, April 28, 2011

CSAAM April 2011: Lesson for a parent

April is CSAA (Child Sexual Abuse Awarewness) month, an initiative by several bloggers to raise awareness about CSA. As I started reading other blogs about this topic, I initially thought I wouldn't have any stories or advices to share. But then those deep buried incidents started raising their head, the ones I brushed off thinking those were a part of being and growing up a girl. The ones where someone just groped through the back while trying to get into a DTC bus as a school kid or the ones where one leech would intentionally squeeze into you in a crowded bus. And numerous of incidents like those scared me and my sisters so much that we would wait for hours in a shadeless bus stop in summer afternoons for a less-crowded bus but would not dare to get into a crowded one.

Or the time, when that most trusted electrician would come to home and had that look in his eyes that made me just stay away as far as possible from him.

Or that tailor who once came to deliver some clothes and as soon as he realized that mom was not at home, tried to make the best possible use of that 30 sec that he had in the house.

Incidents like these are stuck away like some bad nightmare in a corner of memory. And as I grew up and had a family, I convinced myself that I can never be so vulnerable again.

And then, after having a kid, life came to a full circle. Whatever scared you, haunted you the most, you unknowingly try to protect your kid from that thing the most.

So, ever since Aayush started going to the baby sitter and then to the daycare, I made it a point to arrive unannounced at his baby sitter and daycare; asked endless questions to his teachers and day care providers. When he was old enough to start talking, asked him daily about what he did, whom he played with and what he played (I am always wary of those doctor-patient games)

Initially my husband brushed me off saying I was being too overprotective and that I need not worry because I had a boy. But now we all know how that myth is so not true. (For more information, see Monika's post here)

As Aayush started growing up, I made it a point to talk to him subtly about his body and how not to let anyone touch himself. Sure, I got responses like "Mommy, why would anyone touch me? They have their own butt and pee pee to touch"

But repetition has its effect. And now that he is four, he may not fully understand the reason, but he knows that at every bath time, I'll remind him not to let anyone except mommy and daddy touch him or make him feel uncomfortable in any way.

But then a few days back, some thing happened which shocked me and made me think at the same time.

He was playing with one of the kids in the neighborhood and I was just chatting with his friend's mom outside their house. This kid has an elder sibling too, who is about 2-3 years older than Aayush. After a few minutes, the 3 of them disappeared into the house.

They do that sometimes when one of them wants to get some water or a bat to play. However, after a few minutes, the kid who is Aayush's age came out but Aayush and the other kid did not. I asked his friend where they were and he said may be in the basement. I tried calling him from outside and he responded back "I am coming Mommy"

So I was convinced he is close by. He came running after a few minutes and handed me something in my hands. And it was his underwear and under shirt (baniyan)

I was shocked and dumb standing there. So I asked him "Why did you take your clothes off?" and he just ran to play with his friends saying "I don't know"

I came back home and talked to my husband about it and we decided we need to talk to him calmly about it and see what he has to say. So, after he came back and he was all settled, we made him sit down and asked him casually (I did not want him to get conscious): Aayush, why did you take off your clothes at your friend's house?"

And he said: Well, when we went inside, his brother said it is really hot and took his clothes off. and then he said I should too"

I asked him "Did he ask you to take off your underwear too?" To which he replied yes.

and did he touch you too?" Me asked

"No Mom !! You are silly !!" he said and then shrugged off as if he didn't want to talk about it anymore

And it got me all the more thinking about it.I know he is at a stage where kids are curious
He wants to know about and explore everything
And the more I make anything "taboo" for him, the more he'll try to get into it

so, this incident made me realize a lot of things: That it was time to start having some more serious conversations with him; Make him see the difference between the right and not so right and the potential harm in "not-so-right"

There is such a fine line between curiosity and exploitation that most often, kids do not even realize when they landed up on the other side of the line.
I have read so many stories and parents' views on this issue this month that it has been an eye opener for me. But as a parent, it helps to learn from others experience and advice and adapt it into your parenting style.

For me, the biggest takeaways from this month have been the realization that yes, this is a issue and I cannot afford to ignore it.

And it has to be a part of my parenting lessons for my kid.
And here's my two cents of advice on this issue:

a) Listen to your kid, actively listen. Don't just brush them off they are making it up or it is kids' talk. And try to listen between the lines - his emotions, his body language, his fears.

b) Talk, communicate to your kid about their daily activities. No, I am not asking to nag but just make it a part of your daily routine.

c) Assure them that they can talk to you about anything and everything without any fear. This will the biggest support you can give your kid.


Anonymous said...

Ohh that is certainly scary!!! to think of what kids can get into by exploring... phew... we can only educate them and pray!

Samvedna said...

At a young age they are innocently exploring..but with older people one has to be that extra careful