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I ve gone through a whole lot of survivor stories narrated by those who have been sexually abused as children. While it has angered and agonized me that despite of so much abuse taking place one we still like to believe that it happens to others, I also realize that the first step one can take to check it would be to start talking about it. The following are some inferences I ve drawn from the discussions going on. I am no expert but that does not stop me from putting my thoughts down for others to think and ponder about.
There are striking similarities in almost all survivor stories.
1. The abuser is usually known to the family someone considered above suspicion.
2. The person dares to abuse the child in the vicinity of his/her unsuspecting parents thereby confusing the child as to whether what was happening is wrong or not.
3. Most of the time the child does not inform parents of the treatment she/he is subjected to.
4. When she tries to convey the information she is hushed up and told that she/he would be criticized and blamed if the story was circulated among their circle of friends and relatives.
5. The child carries the scars of the abuse for years together developing a low self esteem and general distrust of those around.
While it is unfortunate that this should happen I feel that a few steps can be taken to prevent it from happening as well as to offer support to those who have been through the trauma of being sexually abused as children.
1. Firstly it is absolutely imperative for parents, particularly mothers to offer unconditional support to the child when she reports abuse. Remember the child has no one to turn to. The abuser could be your own husband, brother, brother in law, nephew, a friend of the family or a domestic help. They may malign your little girl and/or declare you mad. It does not matter what they say. Your child should be sure of getting your support come what may. And that makes a difference. Even if for reasons best known to her, a mother cannot openly support her child, there are umpteen other ways of indicating that she is with her.
2. As some survivors have pointed out, the child may even enjoy the abuser s company. Let this not put you off. It is a biologically proven fact that sex hormones are secreted and one does get attracted to the opposite sex. Were it not for it procreation would come to a standstill. There is no need to call the child names and treat her like a criminal. Very gently but firmly divert her attention to creative pursuits and tell her that whatever she feels is part of growing up and that she has to work on becoming a responsible member of society before anything else. For this, I am afraid parents need to believe it themselves and most of us don t. We rather believe that our child was at fault. Long back I read a Tamil novelette in which a young widow showed signs of restlessness and since widow remarriage was unheard of, her mother in law encourages her to learn music to divert herself. I was a college student myself but I was impressed by the consideration shown by the older woman. Very subtly dealt, the story conveyed the physical urge of a young widow as being normal.
3. I was wondering if it was medically possible for a girl who had not yet started her periods to get pregnant. I spoke to a doctor known to me and she said that it was definitely possible for the first ovule being released to get fertilized and result in pregnancy. It was not always necessary that the first few cycles be caused by hormones. She outlined the possibility of a sexually abused teenager to become victim of cervical cancer at a later stage. This, according to her has a long incubation period and may show up years later. She had herself treated rape victims as young as 7/8 years of age and the child is totally unaware of what had happened to her. She had to be coaxed with offers of ice-cream/chocolates etc. to get the story out of her. If parents do not support the child, I don t really know who will.
4. Finally let us all pledge to do our bit for the abused child. Kadmanivasi in her brilliant post recalls an incident of a class mate getting pregnant while in school and how well the school authorities dealt with it. This happened nearly 35 years ago when society was much more judgmental and uncompromising. Can we not show some consideration for the innocent child today? Were it not for society s attitude family members may be more open in seeking psychological help to deal with the problematic situation. Believe me, they need your support as much as the victim. If members of the civil society showed the world that they were willing to stand up for the victim such crimes would automatically come down.
5. In the seminar on teenage suicides a psychiatrist spoke of a case in which a teenager had slashed her wrists and tried to end her life. The reason? Sexual abuse by her professor and her inability to confidently seek help from those around her. Luckily she was saved. If we don t want young children following her example we ought to sensitize society in this regard and be prepared to support the unfortunate victim as and when the need arises.
The Hip Grandma lives in a small industrial town called Jamshedpur and despite all its
A very pertinent and useful post. The steps you have outlined are really helpful. More people should read this.I am going to share this post.
Shail:thanks. I truly felt that merely sympathizing with the survivors of sexual abuse was not enough. We need to think how they may be helped. Acknowledging abuse would be easy if society stood up in support.
Very wise and practical approach, HHG!
Thank you HHG. This is a post we would all do well to learn from.
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