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'Parents' role important in handling child abuse'

Tuesday, April 22, 2014
By Mrinalini Khattar

Say doctors during a panel discussion on child sexual abuse held at the book launch of ‘A New Normal’

In the wake of Child Sexual Abuse Awareness, Podar Jumbo Kids, a pre-school in Parel under the Podar Education Network, hosted the book launch of ‘A New Normal’ on April 19, followed by a panel discussion that was aimed at busting the myths in our society surrounding such abuse. The board of panelists was made up of Swati Popat Vats - President of Podar Education Network and Director at Podar Jumbo Kids, Payal Shah Karwa, author of the recently-launched book titled ‘The Bad Touch’, Psychiatrist Dr. Avinash De Souza, senior inspector Shirish Sawant, Pooja Taparia, Founder & Chief of NGO, Arpan, and Persis Sidhva from 'Majlis'. Kiran Manral who is an author and founder of CSAAM, was the moderator.

The event which was essentially addressed to parents of children in the age group of 0-7 years, discussed how educating the child about his body and “good touch and bad touch” at an early age is the first and most uneasy step for the parent to take. Each panelist emphasised on the fact that honest and open communication with the child is vital to keep a check on their safety. Taparia said, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions and when they confide in you, trust them, thank them for telling you. Imagine how heartbreaking it is for the child if their parents didn’t believe them”. Vats explained as well, “Parents are yet not educated enough when it comes to child abuse. Many of them believe that their wards are well protected so it can never happen to them. They feel it happens only in the lower strata of the society. But research has clearly shown that this is a myth. Sexual abuse is not class or caste centric. It is prevalent everywhere”.

During the second half of the event, the new law – Protection Of Children From Sexual Offences Act was discussed.  Under this law, any person who knows of an incident involving sexual abuse has to report it. The offenders of this law are liable to punishment. The legal system comes to the aid of the child by not causing him and his family unnecessary trouble while reporting about the crime. Advocate Sidhwa says, “You don’t have to take your child to the police station. The statement can be recorded wherever the child feels comfortable. There is no interrogation either. There are special courts set up for this with women judges. Senior inspector Shirish Sawant added, “Now it is mandatory to appoint an officer to record the child’s statement. As far as possible, it should be recorded by a woman officer who is not in uniform”.

Vats summed it up in her last few words, “Very young children are the most susceptible group because they thrive on touch. Pedophiles understand the fact that kids cannot articulate their thoughts. Therefore, they can be exploited easily. Parents and schools have to teach children the right words and terms so that they understand when their dignity is being flouted”. The event brought together representatives of law, government, NGOs, and other institutions as a stern reminder to keep schools and parents on their toes regarding incidents like these.

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