8 years of womensweb

Bloggers Against Child Sexual Abuse

Posted: May 28, 2012

The child sexual abuse awareness campaign by bloggers is an illustration of the growing use of social media for social causes.

By Team CSAAM

Bloggers and friends, Kiran Manral and Monika Manchanda were returning from the Lavasa Women’s Drive 2011 when they got to discussing how many instances of child sexual abuse (CSA) one hears about and how it is mainly hushed up. Being established bloggers with a fair following, they thought it would be a good initiative to do something on the blogosphere about CSA.

The beginning of online activism

The team was not planned ahead and in fact not everybody in the team knew one another to start with. It comprised mainly people who knew each other through the blogosphere and Twitter.

Due to the intensity of the work and the hours it called for, Team CSAAM members Iya Bhatia Malhotra, Monika, Kiran, Boo* and Sunayana Roy spent large chunks of each day coordinating and thrashing out the details, all over email, chat and Twitter. Three live in three different parts of India while two others live in other time zones, so some serious coordination was called for, especially in the first year when they had no idea of what to expect; but to their satisfaction, they “worked well and bonded quickly”, says Boo.

In 2012 they were joined by several other committed ‘online activists’, most notably Supriya, Radha, The Mad Momma*, Chandhana and Deepti Menon, who kept the momentum going as the programme widened its scope and reach.

Thinking over what motivated the team, Kiran notes, “I was concerned primarily as a parent of a son, given the misconception most people have that sons don’t need to be watched over as carefully as daughters when the stats show that girls and boys are abused equally; boys more so because there is a laxity when supervising their interactions with other adults.

If even one child is safer for the effort we put in, it will be more than worth it.

Says The Mad Momma, “Having been at the receiving end of CSA I realised I was turning into a paranoid mother. Being a part of this team and working for this cause has taught me to be alert and aware, while taking the edge of the hysteria off. If even one child is safer for the effort we put in, it will be more than worth it.

Supriya adds, “I stayed for 5 years in a girl’s hostel. We discussed a lot of personal stuff, but CSA was even then considered a taboo topic. With the CSAAM campaign, we have succeeded to some extent in getting people to acknowledge the elephant in the room. For quite a few of of us (especially those who were lucky enough never to have faced CSA, like me), it was only something which happened in the lower strata of society, in socially backward areas. CSAAM has made us all aware that it can happen to anyone, notwithstanding background or education of the perpetrator.

Our goal: To start with raising awareness

Harnessing personal social networks for initiatives like CSAAM is not an easy proposition. Sunayana frankly states, “We have received a lot of determined stonewalling from friends and even larger amounts of private encouragement from others who were not willing to discuss this in public. Whether it’s in the left-handed compliments of trolls making our posts trend or open handholding from other online friends and acquaintances, we have seen the discussions spread – which was the goal.

All team members are clear in that they did not set out to lay down any ‘rules’. “We wanted to discuss something we have all experienced and fear,” says Monika. The first year was a public outpouring of personal incidents. The second year has been more strategy-oriented, as the initiative focused on prevention and coping strategies.

CSAAM 2012 also saw the programme go offline with a CSAAM workshop organized by NGO Arpan at Inorbit Mall, Malad, Mumbai, where the average weekend mall visitor was sensitized to how rampant CSA is.

‘Online’ as a viable medium?

The team agrees that there is no such thing as a limited reach. A subject like CSA or violence against women (VAW) affects people across socio-economic levels. If anything, the subject definitely needs discussion given that most people tend to dismiss CSA as something that ‘doesn’t happen to people like us’.

Iya explains, “It is important that parents of both boys and girls understand the relevance of these discussions. The reach might seem limited in terms of it being an effort that is primarily limited to the online space, but with the first offline workshop held this year, we hope to take this further and reach out to more people offline.

It is important that parents of both boys and girls understand the relevance of these discussions.

CSA-related videos sourced and created by WebTV.in provided added impetus to the initiative in April 2012. They feature simple factsheets as well as survivor testimonials and advice from a counsellor, a therapist, a lawyer and even actor Ranvir Shorey, speaking up as a concerned father. They also add punch to the free downloadable CSA Workshop Kit, another new feature introduced this year.

Going forward, Team CSAAM would like to do more with the CSAAM App. Created as a contribution to CSAAM 2012 by Fliplog, it is available for free download from iTunes at
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/csa-awareness/id513616154?ls=1&mt=8.

It essentially brings together everything related to the initiative, collating tweets, posts and resources. Users can doodle their feelings about CSA and share them via the app.

Looking to the future, Team CSAAM is currently taking stock from lessons learnt this year and the last, looking to make newer, more streamlined plans for the future.

*Blog pseudonyms

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  1. Congratulations on being a featured Blogger of the day, on the front page

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