Monday, 28 May 2007

Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse

How can we, as a part of society, do to make sure that we do not inadvertently allow the horror of child sexual abuse to live on undeterred?

Following are some guidelines, as put forward by TULIR:

Role of the Community

  • Know. Learning more about child rights and child sexual abuse can help you ensure the safety of children in your family, your neighborhood and your community
  • Talk. Talk to your colleagues, friends, relatives and family about the problem. Help break the silence around child sexual abuse.
  • Observe. Be alert to the behavioral and physical indicators of sexual abuse in children. Don't just hear children's voices, Listen to them.
  • Help. If you suspect a child of being abused, assist the child. Seek assistance from Tulir-CPHCSA.
  • Advocate. Ask your child's school to incorporate personal safety curriculum and to implement a school child protection policy.
  • Contact. Tulir-CPHCSA can organize talks/workshops for your school, organization or community.
  • Involve. Volunteer your time and resources to organizations working against child sexual abuse.

And the first step towards helping curb this evil, is acceptance. As long as people believe that this is something that happens only to lower castes, or in the western countries, nothing can be done, as this is a phantom that hides in the shroud of lies created by the taboo attached to sex itself, along with the respect and reputation of the family that hangs in the balance.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Abuse victims often become abusers

[This article was originally published on page 6 of Pretoria News on May 17, 2007]

NOTE: The title of the article was misleading. Most abuse victims do NOT become abusers. However, the content of the article has useful information on the effects of child abuse.

A United State psychiatrist has compared child abuse to oppression, saying that when people are abused, they can turn into abusers.

Using South Africa as an example, Dr Bessel van der Kolk, said those who are oppressed could become oppressors.

Van der Kolk was speaking about the effects of childhood trauma on the general functioning of children during the eighth annual conference of the South African Professional Society on the Abuse of Children underway in Pretoria.

Most cases of alcohol and drug abuse, depression and suicide attempts can be prevented if a child is kept safe from abuse.

Van der Kolk said people who were not subjected to abuse as children were less likely to suffer major emotional problems later on in life.

"When we resolve a childhood trauma, we often resolve the depression," Van der Kolk said.

According to him trauma has a lot to do with the victim's sense of being alone.

Traumatised children hate weakness, especially in themselves, he said, and often traumatised youngsters would behave violently towards other children. People hurt other people because they themselves were hurt, Van der Kolk said.

He also emphasised the importance of social support. If a child felt safe, he or she could start talking about, and dealing with, his or her trauma.

In cases where a mother tried to defend the child before he or she was abused - by, for example, going to the police - the victim would usually do "okay".

"But what we are seeing more and more often in townships are a lot of desperate and frightened women depending on an abusive boyfriend to support her and her child. She is too scared to take action against this boyfriend.

"This child is not protected before or after abuse. Such a child does very badly," Van der Kolk said.

A child who received the necessary support after a trauma would not continue reliving the fears associated with their experience.

Their ability to imagine how things can be different and better is very important in the healing process, Van der Kolk said.

"However, one must first acknowledge the child's reactions to the trauma and explain that his experience of fear makes sense," he said.

He added that physically abused children were usually less psychologically "damaged" than sexually abused children.

This was because sexual abuse created confusion, especially about love, pain, pleasure and guilt.

"A traumatised child feels defenceless. We have to make the kid feel good before we can plunge into the darkness of his or her trauma," he said.

- Hanti Otto

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Harmonious homes no guarantee


Social ills: Harmonious families no guarantee
13 May, 2007

Kota Kinabalu: A harmonious family does not guarantee that its members are not involved in social ills, a social scientist said here Saturday.

Prof. Dr Abd Hadi Zakaria. from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Universiti Malaya, said based on his research conducted in Johor in 1999, youths from harmonious families also indulged in anti-social activities like incest, drug abuse, alcohol consumption and pornography.

"Almost all the incest cases that we studied occurred in harmonious families where family members were close and cordial," he said.

He said the family members involved conducted their "in-house" activities together like watching pornographic films, while in the case of incest it was usually consensual.

Prof. Abd Hadi had earlier presented a paper entitled "Research on Adolescents and Youths" at a seminar and workshop on current social issues research, jointly organised by the Social Institute of Malaysia under the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, and Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).

He said the research in Johor was sponsored by the Johor Family Foundation and was conducted via questionnaires involving 1,300 respondents.

The target group was youths under 18, including students, and from various family backgrounds.

"If anti-social behaviour exists in harmonious families, what more in broken or turbulent families where the young members could also be involved in illegal racing, gangsterism and vandalism as had been found in many previous studies," said Abd Hadi.

"This means we have to rethink about our common views or assumptions that harmonious families produce good, responsible youths while broken families produce otherwise.

"So where we are now? What do we do? We need to study. We have to look for new approaches guided by other principles which will enable us to curb such unhealthy activities," he said, adding some social scientists also concurred with his new finding. - Bernama

[Source: ]

The scenario in India would surely be no different. Yeah. The big question. What do we do? We detest anti-socials, but many of them didn't really choose, in their right minds, to become what they became. They were victims themselves, and though it is not right to "justify" their conduct, we can try to imagine what horrendous effects sexual abuse can have on the psyche of a weak and impressionable kid. If we want children to grow up to become productive members of the society, actions have to be taken. The law-makers of our country have to realize that "curbing such unhealthy activities" in our "harmonious families"would require a transparent legal system, wherein a wronged child seeking justice gets it without all the hassles. Stringent and effective laws will act as a deterrant for further perpetration. I have already emphasized that one of the reasons sexual abuse of a child happens, especially at home within close family circles, is that the perpetrator knows very well he can get away with it. If strong action is taken against the accused in each and every case that is reported, the potential perpetrators will start thinking twice before royally fiesting on a child's body. The tag of crime will be associated with the act, and the perpetrators, most of whom don't even realize that it's a crime, will feel the guilt of doing something wrong and hesitate.

Writing is so easy I know. I know what a heinous task it is to convince the goverment to start thinking about it. The recent National Study on Child Abuse has thankfully caused some stir. At this point of time, effective lobbying by influential NGOs and social activists, authors, journalists and individuals like us should produce some effect. Let's go about doing our jobs. I, for one, will do mine.

Monday, 21 May 2007

CSA Workshop in Mumbai this June


Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is alarming, abhorrent and very often an unimaginable issue. But the reality of the situation is that it exists. Sadly victims exist in silence, and this is due to a host of factors, the most prominent one being the discomfort the topic generates if acknowledged.

It is upto us to take steps. Proactively responding in a timely and appropriate way, accepting that the problem exists, and then addressing it with caring and foresight will ensure that children truly keep their right be safe all the time.

We'd like to introduce The Workshop on Awareness and Responding to Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). It will impart a basic understanding of CSA by discussing the various aspects of the issue and their effects on children, families and society as a whole.

The detailed program held over ONE & HALF DAYS, has been conceived by TULIR, a Chennai-based NGO. It will lay a foundation of knowledge that participants can build on for further work on the subject of Child Protection, either in terms of policy, advocacy, or programming.

It will also provide information that will help participants (especially Counsellors, Therapists, Teachers) learn/enhance their skills to effectively, appropriately and professionally respond to cases of CSA.

What you can expect to achieve from this workshop:
An increased awareness of child sexual abuse - its dynamics, effects, strategies for prevention, and responses. Most importantly, an understanding that child sexual abuse is not only a problem for the victim, but is also a problem for the entire community.

Scope and Sequence of the Workshop

Ø Raising awareness and sensitivity to CSA
Ø Capacity building to respond effectively to CSA
Ø Introduction to Prevention of CSA through Personal Safety

Ø What is child sexual abuse
Ø Acts constituting child sexual abuse
Ø Characteristics of child sexual abuse
Ø Research statistics on child sexual abuse
Ø Preconditions to child sexual abuse
Ø Common effects and signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse
Ø Disclosure and responding to child sexual abuse
Ø Reporting and support system
Ø Prevention of CSA through Personal Safety Education

About the trainer
TULIR, Centre for the Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse is a Chennai-based NGO, ( committed to working against Child Sexual Abuse since 2004. The workshop will be facilitated by Vipin Thekkekalthil.

Vipin has a Masters in Social Work and has been actively involved in the development and programming of Tulir from its inception.

The Fees
A nominal fee of Rs 250/- per person, to cover costs on venue. The schedule and venue (possibly the second weekend of June/ Mumbai) will be decided once we have a reasonably-sized audience, and a confirmed number of participants. Fees can be paid after the schedule is fixed.

If you have any queries, please email Deepika (deepikadani@...), or Joan (huanita@...) Or call Joan on 9820375319.

If interested, do let us know as soon as possible. Also, please forward this mail to friends, colleagues, and any one whomay benefit from it.

Keep the faith,
Alifya, Deepika, Joan

Every moment is a second chance.

(Source : )

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Our Endangered Species

By Andrew Vachss

Originally published in PARADE, March 29, 1998

Years ago, I was in the middle of a hotly contested trial, representing an infant who had been so tortured that the testifying pediatric expert said the baby actually appeared "suicidal" even at such a young age. One of the opposing attorneys argued for the return of the child, saying his client was the "natural mother" and had certain rights. There was nothing "natural" about the "mothering" this baby boy had received. He would have been better off in a P.O.W. camp. And I began to reflect on how even biology has failed some children, how our human species no longer practiced the lessons of our predecessors. I wondered, even then, if it was too late for us. I do not believe it is—but I do believe we are running out of time.

Although we all believe our human species to be the highest point on the evolutionary scale, there is one critical area in which we have failed to evolve, one area in which we do not represent an improvement upon our predecessors. And this is a failure so fundamental, so critical, that our long-term survival is at stake. Ultimately, it poses a greater threat than war, poverty, hunger, crime, racism and tribalism—even of the genocidal variety—combined.

That fundamental failure is this: We are not protecting and preserving our own. Our notion of the human "family" as the safeguard of our species has not evolved. Instead, it has gone in the opposite direction—it has devolved.

It has devolved to the extent that we tolerate unprotective, even violently abusive parents. It has devolved to the extent that we tolerate predators within a child's circle of trust—in schools, in clubs, within religious organizations. It has devolved to extent that abusers, even when they have been identified, are permitted further opportunities to prey. It has devolved to the extent that we insist on the "rehabilitative potential" of those who viciously injure and/or sexually assault their own children. And it has devolved to the extent that we permit convicted predators of children to be released and walk among us.

One distinguishing characteristic of highly evolved species is a long period of postnatal helplessness, when offspring are not able to fend for themselves. Another characteristic is pack behavior, a collectiveness which requires that all activity be geared to the ultimate survival of the group.

Among other mammals, nonprotective parents are considered defective by other pack members. Not only will they decrease the pack's numbers through direct attacks on their own young, but they also cannot be relied upon to guard the offspring of others while pack members forage, hunt or gather. And so they are expelled. Likewise, predators within a species are not tolerated. They are banished, avoided or killed. These are not moral judgements; they are biologically driven and, among all species but our own, compelling.

Human animals, by contrast, have tolerated—even tacitly condoned—the nonprotector and the predator, leading to an escalation of the rape, murder and torture of our children. Rather than making their survival, and the survival of our species, an unquestioned priority, we watch indifferently while the evolution of cruelty continues. Much of it comes from the individual family itself; all of it from the human family as a whole.

Instead of blaming the "destruction of the family" for every social ill and evil, we need to face the fact that this is a self-inflicted wound. The "family" is self-destructing—destroying itself from within by its failure to nurture and value its offspring. What are "family values" anyway? Unless and until the ultimate "family value" is protection of our children, such a term deserves no respect.

We cannot continue to tolerate those who prey upon our children—the future of our species. Evolution is a race, a relay race, with the baton passed from generation to generation. The competition is between those who value children as the seedlings of our species and those who value them as vassals and victims.

We are not winning this race. And we cannot, unless and until we change our priorities and our conduct. All the pious rhetoric on the planet will not save one child. And while we endlessly debate the "right" of pedophiles to post kiddie porn on the Internet, our species moves farther away from its biological roots.

We must take the abuse of a child as an offense against (and threat to) our survival. And we must replicate the conduct of our animal ancestors and respond as they did—or fail to do so and vanish as some of them did. Forever.

Why It Takes A Whole Village To Rape A Child

A classic illustration of devolution is our laws against incest. What is the difference between sex with a child of another and a child of one's own? We all know—and the data prove—the truth. When a male (note: I do not say a "man") has sex with a neighbor's child, prison is a likely possibility. But should such a creature have sex with his own child, we euphemistically deem it "family dysfunction" and call in the therapists.

Incest laws were enacted to prevent the birth of biogenetic defectives. But why do such laws apply to children? Children do not have the biological capacity to reproduce. Laws prohibiting sex or marriage between closely related adults protect the species. But incest prohibition as to children has no such value.

Simply put, we as a nation consider children to be the property of their parents. And we provide a special immunity to sex offenders who grow their own victims. Which is more destructive to our species: the random sexual assault of a child or the sexual assault of a child by the very individual whom all laws command to protect that child? What is the moral, social or ethical justification from distinguishing sexual assault by blood relationship of the victim to the perpetrator? We can come to but one conclusion: The laws against incest exist not to protect children but to protect predators.

Yes, our human race remains the only one that tolerates nonprotective parents and same-species predators. The incest laws make that point, written in the blood of innocents. This is the question about incest laws for every legislator in the land: Explain it or change it. And unless we, as a society, start asking that question, we will continue our "evolution" until we have lost our humanity.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Why Indeed!

It is a very pronounced human feature to make everything ordinary sound extraordinary and add those hyperboles. It is a good thing sometimes, as we might have something that needs special attention; something which gives us a common cause. But we should be cautious and think once to make sure that we are not blindly giving in to this newly found, ancient but acquired instinct.

So many things start with a ‘Why?’ And why are we here? Why is it that CSA needs special attention? I surely hope it isn’t because of the same reason that sex is given so much of importance, for then we would be no better than the perpetrators who are obsessed with it. It would amount to nothing more than indulgence. Why is discussing about child sexual abuse a different thing from discussing about sexual abuse in general?

There are at least two reasons for it being an issue that needs special attention. One reason is the fact that there is a difference when an adult faces, and when a child faces the abuse. It is common knowledge, how difficult it is even for adults to talk about sexual abuse, imagine the state of a young kid who thinks it is partially his/her fault that the abuse even happened. Since the victim has been dependent on his/her parents for most of the significant decisions of his/her life, it finally comes down to how they want to deal with the problem. Most of them would just want to refrain from taking a real decision; they just prefer to brush the dust under the doormat. And much worse are the cases where they themselves are the ones who have committed the act. In both the cases, the child has nowhere to go, and such incidents can have a life long impact on the development of the child’s conscience. The child goes through the insecurity of having no one to protect him/her. His/Her own parents betrayed their trust. So you can imagine the effect of that on their moral development.

The other fact that distinguishes CSA from sexual abuse is that, there hasn’t been much of an attempt on the part of the ‘responsible’ to do so. There has been a general tendency to shy away from the subject, to keep it under wraps. From vote banks to the rigid alignment to being conservative, there are many reasons for it. In context of the Indian society, anything related to sex will always be given a special processing, and more so to something that is even more uncommon. It is true that child sexual abuse is not a part of everyday life. And though it does require special attention, too much of it is given in a negative way, resulting from the kind of thinking mentioned. The comfortable path of believing that there is no problem is always much more preferred, than discussing it with to find a solution. Also, most of the people have their own feelings which they are guilty about, which make them find it difficult to face the issue openly, even though they would certainly want to from the inside.

Now, coming back to the important question and the one most eagerly discussed is the one that enquires about the psychology of the ‘criminal’, it is established that it would amount to doing a crime. The common inclination is always to picture a male being the only candidate for it and it is justified to some extent because that is the usual case. But to be prejudiced that men are the only predators is like giving an escape route and reducing the blame on the female perpetrators (even though they might be few in numbers). Most people when talking about or writing about CSA give the perpetrator a male form. To a great extent, they hide the general concept, and the basic reason.

Apart from others there certainly are two kinds of such person. One of them would be the closest who can be to a savage beast, who thinks only of pleasure; the kind of person who has not a developed enough thinking to think beyond the preliminary ‘yes and no’ in terms of pleasure and pain. There is no reason for them to think of the pain the victim is going to receive, which is why they will never give a second thought before even taking the victim’s life. Then there would be a different kind of person, who will think of his/her intentions being justified (like in the case of pedophiles). To them these are natural urges and hence do not find anything wrong with them. When they find themselves head on with the society which condemns their natural desires, they start justifying the act by saying that the victim provoked them or the victim was 13 going on 30. They just played along with the victim. Some of them have gone to the extent of forming associations all over the world trying to legalize adult-child relationships. As atrocious as it sounds, these people are quite vocal about their desires.

Now, considering the two facets of the problem mentioned, there is a common need of there being a platform, not only in the physical sense but also mentally, where it is possible for people to discuss even this delicate problem in an open way, though again it has to be with purpose of achieving an end. And also considering the kind of person guilty, mentioned later, it becomes even more important for there being more free space for expression and discussion, because it is quite possible that once the things come out in the open, they will be more aware of their own conscience. CSA is a sly crime where the perpetrator always operates in the dark and if we are to treat him/her without some openness we would be pushing them into the dark forever. He might never come out and continue with his/her disposition.