We’re blind to the pervasive abuse that children all around us are subject to, says Shiny Kirupa
Bangalore, January 30, 2018: “Beauty is often associated with sexual abuse and myths prevail that only girls get abused. But that’s not the reality,” says Dr. Ashwini NV, psychologist and director of MukthaFoundation. “Every child, whether a boy or a girl, undergoes some level of abuse. Sexual abuse takes place inside homes, in schools, in streets and elsewhere. Spreading awareness and educating both parents and children is vital,” she says.
The World Health Organization says that boys are the victims of beatings and physical punishment more often than girls. Ashwini says that abuse in any form, physical or verbal, big or small, is a social evil.
Psychologist and director of training and research at Muktha, Dr.Shailaja Shastri says that without parental support a child would not be able to protect himself. “Teachers and parents should have an open discussion about such issues with their kids.”
“Most abusers or perpetrators are often known and trusted adults,” explains Dr.Ashwini. The United Nations Children’s Fund says that “Close to 300 million children aged 2 to 4 worldwide experience violent discipline by their caregivers on a regular basis.” The psychologists say that most often parents ignore their children’s complaints, which later turns out to be early warnings of abuse.
Dr.Ashwini says that parent’s behaviour has an impact on the child’s mental health. Parents changing clothes in front of their children and fathers moving around the house half-clothed have a mental impact.
Often inappropriate engagement with toys is seen as an outcome of anger and fear. The anger is often manifested through texts and drawings. Due to psychological trauma that a child undergoes, it chooses to remain secretive about everything. Psychology calls it “selectively mute”. They dislike their own bodies and stop taking care of their appearance. They skip meals and stop bathing. Much of the child’s anger expresses itself in self-hurt, whether biting knuckles, hitting walls or staying hungry. Parents should not neglect unexplained bruises on a child’s body.
The National Center for Victims of Crime, a U.S. non-profit organization, warns “Child sexual abuse may cause a wide variety of emotional and behavioural problems that make it difficult even for adult survivors to discuss their victimisation because of the trauma, shame, and grief associated with the crime.”
Parents should create space and freedom at home for their children to express their suffering, says Dr.Ashwini who also advises teachers to be keen and observant of children’s behavioural changes. She explains the way children should be taught with “response based narrative therapies which focus on retaliation and responding to a crime rather than being passive victims.” She says victims should turn into survivors and survivors into ones who thrive against all odds.
Sowmya Srinivasan, a storyteller and an ardent advocate of creative arts as a tool for learning in children and founder member of Bangalore Story Telling Society, says that mental wellness can be promoted in children by using stories in which the characters undergo certain difficulties.
Dr.Sherin P Antony, a clinical psychologist and a practising ‘play therapist’ says that verbal expression is very limited among children today. Play Therapy helps communicate with children easier and the very word “play” excites children so much. The method involves children playing with non-living and living things like puppets, miniatures, plants, clay, musical instruments. The trainers create conversations between the objects and the children which is an open, interactive and lively conversation.
She says schools should take up this initiative of play therapy which tackles psychological problems of children of the 4-14 age group.“This is an important vehicle to identify, know and accept oneself,” explains Dr. Anthony.