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Updated: February 13, 2012 02:06 IST

Parents also have role in creating safe environment

Lavanya. M
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Lois J. Engelbrecht
The Hindu Lois J. Engelbrecht

The child is often expected to protect himself/herself from sexual abuse. But many cases of abuse can be prevented if the adults too take up the responsibility of ensuring a safe environment for the child, says Lois J. Engelbrecht, founder of the Centre for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse.

“Often when I go to regular schools and ask teachers what will you tell a girl who says that an uncle touched her. They often say ‘we tell her to stay away from the uncle.' When I pose the same question in a special school, they say that they will talk to the uncle. But the latter is what should be done in the case of every child,” she says. Ms. Engelbrecht has helped create systems of prevention and response in various Asian countries.

Brushed under the carpet

While a large number of child abuse cases are brushed under the carpet, the ones that are reported are not assessed and dealt with in the right manner. Ms. Engelbrecht is in the city to train people on using the ‘traumagenic dynamic framework' when treating minor and adolescent female victims. “The way every child responds to the situation is different, and these need to be assessed for effective treatment,” she says. Traumatic sexualisation, stigmatisation, betrayal and powerlessness are the four dynamics used to assess children in this method.

“Often in the case of female victims, stigmatisation is the biggest issue. In the case of boys, they often ask themselves if they are homosexual since they have been abused by men. Many male-survivors continue to manifest the behaviour, and become offenders themselves,” says Ms. Engelbrecht. But it is not only the victim who should be treated, since it is equally important to deal with the family, the immediate community and the culture, she emphasises.

While effective assessment and treatment models of survivors are absent in the country, there is an even bigger lacuna of sexuality education. “Schools do not speak openly to children on how to protect themselves and parents are embarrassed to discuss anything even minutely related to this topic their own child,” she says.

Sexuality education, however, is an integral part of understanding one's identity, just the way health and nutrition is, she adds. At what age should this start? “When we start teaching children the names of various body parts such as eyes, ears and hands, they should also be taught about their private body parts,” she says. A better communication should be developed between the mother and a child, and as the child matures so does the rules of protection.

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