TAMIL NADU

Focus on plight of mentally retarded

Staff Reporter

Experts for educating them on bodily changes

TIRUCHI: Mentally retarded individuals may end up being sexually abused or exhibit inappropriate sexual behaviour. It is essential to educate them about bodily changes, and differences in the gender and normal gender activities, speakers explained at a recent programme on `Sexual Abuse and Management of Sexual Problems of Mentally Challenged' organised jointly by Intact Special School, Bishop Heber College, and Andavan Arts and Science College.

Karuna Ebenezer, Principal of Intact Special School; Swarnakumari of St. Joseph's College; Godwin Prem Singh of Bishop Heber College; and Sevagaperumal of Srimad Andavan Arts and Science College, among others, addressed the programme.

Mentally retarded individuals passed through the same sequential stages of development such as infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, middle age and old age; but they may not learn to express the sexual feelings properly owing to a lack of social opportunities to learn, inadequate or no exposure to training in meeting sexual needs and due to poor intellectual abilities reflected in a lack of understanding of the consequences of their behaviours, they said.

Common sexual problems were: masturbation / undressing in public places, over-affectionate or over-aggressive behaviour, excessive hugging or kissing, constantly touching or clinging to others, unwanted pregnancy, and homosexual behaviour. The signs or sexual abuse were difficulty in walking or sitting; torn, stained or bloodstained underclothing; pain or itching in genital area; and bruises or bleeding in genital or anal area.

Sexual abuse also reflected in venereal disease, pregnancy, difficulty in sleeping or sudden and frequent nightmares, avoidance of a previously trusted and well-liked person, unexplained stomach aches or change in eating habits, fear of being left alone, bed-wetting, delinquency or running away, and refusal to undress to bathe or to be bathed.

Solutions

They have offered the following suggestions for managing the problem: making the mentally retarded people to understand the bodily changes, teaching them to keep their genital organs clean, preparing them for bodily changes and sexual feelings, sterlisation after medical consultation or rehabilitation, and teaching them to shout at times of sexual abuse.

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