METRO PLUS

Is your school aware of Child Sexual Abuse?

It's their world Constant supervision and monitoring is the only way to check CSA Photo: Ashoke Chakrabarty  

At a PTA meeting, a parent points out that in the school's large parking area drivers often urinate on the walls. She suggests toilets should be provided for the drivers.

The principal is reluctant to provide an enclosed space in the car park where anything could happen. She is also uncomfortable with the fact that many of the cars have tinted windows. Her response is that the drivers have no business lingering in the parking area at all. They should drop the kids and leave.

In another school, bold, large posters announce, “This school knows about Child Sexual Abuse”. This warns potential offenders.

An auto driver regularly photographs a kid he picks up and drops at school. When questioned by school authorities he insists that it is because she reminds him of his daughter. The explanation is rejected and he is sacked.

A mom notices red marks around her six-year-old's thighs and private parts. The child's van driver seats her on his lap every day.

It turns out that the driver is a habitual offender and was sacked from his former job as a school bus driver. The principal is willing to file an FIR but the parents are not.

J ust acknowledging the possibility of child sexual abuse (CSA), rather than denying it outright, is the first step towards fighting the crime. And spreading awareness about it should be the next step.

“As schools are at the frontline of child protection and teachers are the first point of contact with children, they should be trained to read the signals of child abuse,” says Vidya Reddy of Tulir, Centre for the Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse, a Chennai-based NGO.

“Schools must have a code of conduct that establishes boundaries between adults and children,” she says.

Safeguards

In order to do this, schools must put safeguards in place. “Child protection policies create barriers for sex offenders and therefore every school should create a Child Sexual Abuse Policy that its staff understands and adheres to,” advises Vidya.

There also have to be regular presentations on sexual abuse for students and parents.

Often both the school authorities and parents are in denial about it. Teachers must have the backing of the school so that in case they suspect a child has been abused they are able to report it and be heard.

Constant supervision and monitoring in schools is the only way. The message to every potential offender should be, “You are being watched.”

If you need more information on this issue, visit www.tulir.org; www.childsexualabuseinindia.blogspot.com; www.tulirindia.blogspot.com; www.tinyurl.com/tulir-facebook; or follow them at www.twitter.com/

TulirAgainstCSA

(With inputs from

SOMA BASU in Madurai)

Some pro-active schools

EuroKids Tamil Nadu

Says Archana Dange, Master Franchisee, "We have child safety education and parent awareness programmes. Children are taught to keep safe from strangers; they are told the difference between comfortable and uncomfortable touches. We believe every child has a right to say no when someone makes them uncomfortable. We develop material that alerts parents to be wary of apparently safe situations in which children get caught with no ways of escape."

The material is available to any school that wishes to introduce child-safe curriculum in school. Call 09894040227 or mail archiean12@yahoo.com.

Adhyapana School, Madurai

Principal Aruna Visweswar says students and parents in her school attend regular orientation classes. "We tell them what can happen. Every child has the right to be safe, everywhere, all the time."

Lakshmi School, Madurai

Principal S. Jawahar says, "We continuously counsel our children on how to deal with strangers. We tell parents to be aware of the whereabouts of their children all the time. We explain the difference between a good touch and a bad one. We also tell them whom to approach if they feel threatened."



Aarti C. Rajaratnam, clinical psychologist and educational consultant, has worked extensively with CSA victims and helps schools with issues of CSA.

She shares some guidelines that schools can adopt to mitigate the crime.

  • Acknowledge that CSA can happen in elite schools as well as the government and corporation schools. Once the authorities acknowledge that, it becomes easier to handle the issue.
  • Conduct training programmes for teaching and non-teaching staff about CSA. Tell them specifically how to keep the campus safe for children. Train them to identify signs of abuse and to effectively report it to the authorities concerned. Teach staff not to sensationalise disclosure.
  • Educate children about their bodies and about good touch and bad touch. It is advisable to enlist professional help for the initial sessions. Children need this information long before their teens.
  • Appoint a school counsellor or a core group of teachers to handle the cases sensitively. Abused children sometimes present information in a piecemeal fashion to test an adult's response. School staff should be trained to detect possible abuse and respond to intentional and accidental disclosure by children.
  • Establish specific rules on adult-child proximity. Respecting the personal space of every child at all times helps reduce the incidence of CSA.
  • If a member of staff has been found to have abused a child terminate his/her services immediately
  • Reduce or monitor the “dark spaces” that every school has, such as parking lots, storerooms, bathrooms and space under staircases.
  • Supervise children at all times, especially those who leave school late or are the last on the bus.
  • Be supportive when children disclose abuse. They need steady emotional and often educational support during the phase of healing.