On Tuesday, Bangalore woke up to the news of a 15-year-old girl being allegedly drugged and gang-raped on the outskirts of the city. Ironically, the incident was reported on the day observed as ‘World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse.’

According to statistics compiled by the Karnataka State Child Protection Society (under the Directorate of Women and Child Development) between January 1 and August 31 this year, a whopping 193 cases have been reported under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act of 2012 in Karnataka alone.

However, those working in the field said much had to be done about the lack of awareness on the Act. Nagasimha G. Rao, associate director, the Child Rights Trust (CRT), complained that awareness levels were utterly inadequate. “Showing or involving a child in pornography, sexual harassment and several other forms of sexual offences also constitute forms of child abuse,” he said.

Mr. Rao also mentioned that child abuse is not limited to sexual harassment. “Scolding and neglecting the child, inappropriately touching him/her against the child’s will, making them work also are classified as abuse,” he added. Ignorance about the Act was proving detrimental as parents and other adults were not forthcoming in lodging complaints.

Taking this into account, the NGO, Enfold Trust recently launched a month-long campaign to raise awareness on ‘The role of the bystander in preventing child abuse’ . “Studies conducted worldwide reveal that the child abuser banks on the psychology of the bystander to continue undeterred. This leaves the child alone, mute and helpless in the hands of the predator, while the adults at home, on a bus, in a school, or in a park look away and remain silent,” a release announcing the campaign said.

Enfold Proactive Health Trust has planned a number of activities to engage children and adults in this initiative. Volunteers will visit nursing homes, hospitals and clinics of paediatricians to engage medical personnel and parents in recognizing and addressing the emotional, mental and physical health effects of child sexual abuse. A bilingual poster campaign is being run at schools, colleges, corporate houses and apartment complexes inviting creative ideas to be submitted.

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