November 19 is earmarked as the World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse, but it is not just on that day alone that one must fight against this heinous crime - we must fight it every day.

We say ‘No' to tasteless greens, veggies on our plate, to more homework, to surprise tests, when asked to clean our rooms or switch off the television. But what we really have to learn to say a firm ‘NO' is to sexual abuse.

Child sexual abuse is a major problem the world over, and India is no exception. Everybody needs to be aware of this problem and how to address it. World Day Against Child Sexual Abuse falls on November 19 every year.

“The statistics are quite frightening” says Mr. Vinodh Reddy, a Chennnai-based activist, highlighting the occurrence of such incidents almost every day. “It is usually inflicted upon by someone who is in a trustful relationship with the child, be it an uncle, van driver, caretaker or even a senior in school. So the children get confused. Anyone could be a potential abuser,” he warns. But sadly, this will ultimately result in the child losing the ability to trust people.

What you should know

Children are easy targets because they are physically less stronger, innocent and complying, making them vulnerable to abusers. “Sexual abuse need not necessarily be physical. It could be psychological, verbal or even visual,” says Kirthi of Elaan, an organisation working towards the prevention of CSA.

But how do you know if you are being sexually abused? “Trust your instinct,” she says. “If you are feeling scared or uncomfortable with the way you are being hugged, kissed, spoken to…then it's better to get away from it. And most importantly, do not keep it to yourself. Inform a parent or teacher.”

Even if you are confused about a certain incident, discuss it with an elder you trust and try to understand if it was right or wrong. In case you feel you are being abused and are in no position to fight back, try to run or it would also help to scream and attract attention to yourself and your abuser. Remember, it is NOT okay for anybody to touch you, talk to you about things you are uncomfortable with. It is also equally important for the adult to know how to handle such a situation. It must not be brushed aside.

It is up to the parents to teach children the difference between a good touch and a bad touch, what to do if anybody breaks this touch rule and also help them mentally cope with it. As for you, after such an incident, you must understand that it was in no way your fault, so stop blaming and hating yourself. Treat the incident as a lesson and try to move on. You should also be careful to not treat this incident as a reason to distrust everyone you meet.

With growing cases of child sexual abuse, it's time you learnt to say ‘No' and prove that children are not easy targets.

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Forewarned is forearmed

It is only through awareness can this long tradition of silence and denial be broken. That these things do happen is apparent in the news reports you read everyday.

Some reports:

A 16-year-old girl was abused by her step-father. After years of being victimised she complained to authorities who took action and now she is in a safe place, and is able to continue with her studies.

In another case, a 15-year-old girl, who lived with her mother on Egmore Railway station platfrom, was raped by a relative.

A six-year-old girl travelling to school in an auto – an auto she went in everyday to school – was molested by the autodriver.

There are cases of young girls being lured by dreams and promises of acting in movies. But what happens in reality is that they are abused.

…Case histories are endless.

Compiled from various news reports

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Sometimes the world around you is not what it seems. There could be danger lurking. This information is not to frighten you, but to create in you an awareness of what is happening. November 19 is World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse. Find out more about this day and learn to protect yourself and your friends.

For parents and teachers

Talk to children about the different kinds of touching. Teach them that there are three kinds of touches.

‘Safe Touch’ are those touches that are experienced by the receiver (child) as warm, caring, nurturing, and supportive. They do not diminish the receiver and do not take from the receiver. All persons need to receive this kind of touch.

‘Unsafe Touch’ are those that hurt the receiver, that make the receiver feel bad, that inflict pain or that seem to disregard the receivers (child's) feelings. It is usually very clear that the child does not want this kind of touch, which is experienced by the child as manipulative, coercive, abusive, and frightening.

‘Confusing Touch’ are those which make the receiver feel uncomfortable, uneasy, confused, or unsure. The receiver experiences confusion and conflicting feelings about the touch and/or about the person who does the touching. The intent of the adult may be unclear, the touch may be unfamiliar. There are times when this kind of attention "feels good" but is also frightening, such as a touch that is sexually stimulating, being asked to keep the experience a secret or being given undue intimate attention in front of others. Thus, the attention or touch that "feels good" is not always good or safe.

Create awareness

In 2000, the Women's World Summit Foundation launched the World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse to be commemorated on November 19 every year. This is a day marked to create awareness and build a culture of preventing child abuse — emotional, physical and sexual — and violence against children. It is organised in synergy with the anniversary date of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (November 20).

Child abuse, especially sexual abuse, is a universal and alarming problem and increased attention and efficient protection skills and prevention measures are necessary at every level — family, school, community, national and international.

It is necessary for the Government and non governmental organisations to play an active role in the promotion of and respect for the Rights of the Child and contribute to the prevention of child abuse.

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Important rules

It is NOT OK to touch someone else's private body parts

It is NOT OK for someone to touch his or her own private body parts in front of you.

It is NOT OK for someone to ask you to touch his or her private body parts.

It is NOT OK for someone to take photos or videos of you with your clothes off.

It is NOT OK for someone to show you photos or videos of people without their clothes on.

Input from