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An old school friend was sexually abusing a little boy right in front of me, and I called him out, because we should have zero tolerance for this.
We were a group of 10-12 people at a friend’s birthday party yesterday. There, I called someone a child molester. (That someone was an old school friend, but after yesterday’s episode I am not sure if I can still consider him one.)
There were two kids- one boy and a girl, their age not more than 5 years, present in the room. You know how kids are, they come and flock around wherever the adults are. And, it is a common thing for any adult to lovingly strike up a conversation with kids in such scenarios.
Most of us were happily chatting away with each other, when this person (Let’s call him PW) was trying to have a conversation with the little boy. His voice wasn’t stern or anything, he was laughing and holding the boy lovingly by his wrist. The boy was smiling too, but trying to free himself and flee, which is quite normal for kids to do. Although PW was sitting in front of me, it took me some time to realize what he was whispering to the kid. PW was asking him if he has a penis, and to show him if he has one. Before I could interrupt, the kid was successful in freeing himself and ran out of the room. PW started chatting with someone else. But, my mind kept processing what just happened.
After a while, a friend of mine from school came and took the vacant seat in front of me. That’s when I noticed that PW wasn’t in the room.
I knew the kids were playing outside, because one could hear their voices coming from the balcony. My friend’s sitting position was perfect for a clear view of the balcony. So, I asked him if PW was outside? His affirmative response bothered me. I excused myself and went out to check what was going on. PW was still busy convincing the little boy for sneak peek of his penis. When the kid refused, PW teased the boy saying, “you are a girl, you don’t have one”.
It is important to clarify here that kid wasn’t refusing verbally. He was refusing through his body language. A classic scenario of being uncomfortable and yet helpless. I should’ve asked PW there and then, but I couldn’t. There were few other people too, and I didn’t want to create a scene of any kind. I came inside- angry and disturbed.
Soon after, someone came in laughing and said out loud that the kid was trying to touch or had touched PW’s genitals. A few people thought it was hilarious. I sat there quietly, observing things and reactions. But, all I could think of was how kids copy us. How they observe adults and imitate their behaviour. I was thinking how easily PW taught that kid that trying to see/touch someone’s genitals is normal and funny. All in good humour, you see.
After that ‘tit-for-tat’ episode, when half of the people had left the room, PW came in and I accused him of being a child molester. A few others were present. I don’t know if they heard anything, because no body said a word. PW brushed aside my remark, with a ‘stop-bullshitting’ look on his face. But, I went on to tell him how his tiny gross behaviour could affect the child. How it could damage a child’s psychology forever.
PW didn’t buy any of my reasoning. He didn’t even feel he was wrong. No one else came to my rescue and told him he was not right in his conduct.
By definition, child molester is a strong term. It means one who sexually abuses a child, also called child molestation. And, child abuse is an activity which an adult or older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation. There is no exhaustive definition for child sexual abuse.
It includes a wide range of activities, all of which can be divided into touching and non touching activities. Touching activities include touching a child’s private parts, asking a child to touch an adult’s private parts, forced intercourse or oral intercourse with a child, encouraging a child to play sexual games. Non-touching activities include showing pornography to a child, intentionally exposing adult’s genitals in front of a child, inappropriately asking a child to undress or expose his/her genitals etc.
Sexual abuse/molestation whether intentional or unintentional could cause irreparable damage to a child. It can cause them depression, anxiety, long term psychological trauma, stress, physical injury, mental disturbance, urge to withdraw from school and society, inability to lead a healthy adult life and many more. Abuse can leave imprints in a child’s brain for ever, and shatter them permanently.
I felt PW’s behaviour had the propensity to be harmful to the kid. Children are delicate. We can never understand what goes into their mind fully. It is one thing to show them your love and affection, and another thing to impose yourself on them unintentionally. Interacting with kids maybe a small thing for the adults. We may not remember the interaction as vividly as a kid would. That’s why we should be cautious. We never know how our words and actions would affect them.
We should know that there exists a fine line between interacting with a kid and making them uncomfortable. No kid would tell us we are making them uncomfortable, even if we did. Because, they don’t know how to react in such scenarios. They are kids, it takes them a long time to realize that. But that shouldn’t be the defence for our behaviour. Our actions may cause irreparable damage to a kid, we must understand that and act accordingly. After all, a harm, however unintentional is still a harm.
A version of this was first published at the author’s blog.
Image source: unsplash
A woman who believes in lifting up other women. Runs on coffee, poetry, long walks, and tiramisu. Loves stand-up comedy, rerunning Friends, and making travel plans. Every year's one fix resolution is to read more...
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