Be sensitive and try to help them out

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VOICES OF CONCERN: Society as a whole should fight the crime.
VOICES OF CONCERN: Society as a whole should fight the crime.

How schools and teachers can play a key role in the fight against child sexual abuse. (This is the concluding part of a series, the first instalment of which was featured last week).

Schools have a key role to play in the fight against child sexual abuse. Teachers are empathetic toward abused children, but fear and lack of knowledge of the issue may make them hesitant about reporting the abuse. Although teachers are required to report suspected child abuse, lack of adequate training hinders the teachers' ability to detect all types of abuse. It may especially impair their ability to recognise sexual abuse, since most victims show no obvious external signs.

Teacher's response

A teacher's emotional response to the issue of child sexual abuse also can affect his or her tendency to report it. Because many people find it difficult to comprehend that anyone would sexually victimise children, there is a tendency to deny that the problem exists.Abused children sometimes present information in a piecemeal fashion to test an adult's response to what they share. Therefore, it is vital for teachers and other school personnel to be provided with training not only in detecting possible abuse but also in responding to intentional and accidental disclosure by children.

Effective tool

Educating children about how to protect themselves from being sexually abused through school-based prevention programmes would be an effective tool to fight against child sexual abuse. In order to protect children, educators and parents need to know what works.

A few tips

Tips for responding to a child who directly discloses abuse: Do not express shock
or disgust
Give support and
Let the child know you
believe him/her and that
he/she did the right
thing by telling
Determine the child's
need for safety
Do not interrogate the
child. Again, you do not
need to know all of the
details of the abuse to be
supportive. Leave the
investigation to someone
better qualified to handle it.
Make the report!

Is healing possible?

Healing from child sexual abuse is possible. Their lives will be forever changed. Some children want to talk about the abuse and deal with it soon after it happened. Others may choose to go on with their childhood and deal with it at a later time. What can I do if a child has been sexually abused? How should I respond? What should I say?

What to do

Believe the child Even if the offender is a trusted family friend or a close neighbour or a relative, parents should not disbelieve a child when the latter narrates an experience of sexual abuse. Children rarely lie about sexual abuse. Always remain in control Always look in control, even if you are shaken from within. A child, especially a sexually abused one, draws her energies from supporting parents. Remove the guiltNever interrogate the child as to why he or she was hiding the fact for so long. There is no point in adding to the child's feeling of guilt. Behave normallyParents tend to get very overprotective after the incident. This does not help. Stick to the normal caring behaviour and do not confuse the child with extraordinary concern. Work towards making the child self-reliant. Help the child to express Encourage the child to express her inner feelings. Discourage the child from brooding too long about it, or relentlessly discussing it, but give her the chance to vent her feelings about the traumatic incident. Get a professional involvedThe child is bound to experience certain behavioural difficulties, which only a professional can handle. Get a professional at the earliest, before the child is derailed. They will also feel reassured that there is another adult to take charge and help in this situation. Professional counselling along with psychiatric help will help in dealing with the trauma.

What not to do

Do not panic or overreact when the child talks about the experience. Children need help and support to make it through this difficult time. Do not pressurise the child to talk or avoid talking about the abuse. Allow the child to talk at her or his own pace. Forcing information can be harmful. Silencing the child will not help her or him to forget. Do not confront the offender in the child's presence. The stress may be harmful. This is a job for the authorities. Don't blame the child. Sexual abuse is never the child's fault.

Prevent abuse

Children need to be protected from sexual abuse, and there is an urgent need to teach children about sexual abuse in order to increase their awareness, coping skills and equip them with appropriate safety information and support at every stage of their development. Although even the best-educated child cannot always avoid sexual abuse, children who are well prepared will be more likely to reveal if abuse has occurred. This is a child's best defence.Moreover, there is an urgent need to educate the community about child sexual abuse. For this intensive awareness generation within the community to alter the attitude of people is necessary. Moreover, the knowledge of the risk and consequences of sexual abuse in children needs to be disseminated in order to curb the spread of this evil existing in society.MARY VENUS JOSEPH

Rajagiri College of Social Sciences



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