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Jyothika’s movie Ponmagal Vandhal is enough proof that kids are being sexually harassed everywhere. It’s up to us to be careful.
*Spoilers alert for those who haven’t watched the movie
For years, we have been reading stories of child sexual abuse. We read that some minor girl somewhere was raped. We are astonished, we feel hopeless, we feel pity. But now is not the time to sigh and move on to the next article in the newspaper. Now is the time to act. At least for our own children.
Jyothika ma’am in Ponmagal Vandhal brilliantly portrays a survivor. This movie is enough proof that ‘kids’ are being harassed everywhere. They look like me, they look you, they look like everyone else. They don’t carry a tag of “survivor” on their head. So, it could be anyone. It could be kids from our own family.
They don’t know what it is called. They don’t know why he is touching them and what he gets out of it. They don’t know why he threatened to kill them if they revealed it to anyone. Or worse even, he might be bribing them with chocolates or cookies or toys, to keep their mouths shut.
Talk to your kids. About everything possible.
If we directly ask a kid if she was touched inappropriately, she will be terrified. She won’t say anything. We must first tell them what is good touch and what is not. Then they would know that what happened to them or what is happening to them is wrong. Only then, they’ll tell you who did it and what they did.
Two things matter here – making them realise that what happened to them is a heinous crime and secondly, making them trust you with it.
Assaulters go to the extent of intoxicating or drugging kids, keeping them locked in rooms or hitting them, only to keep their mouths shut. It takes an unmatchable level of trust, for any child, to tell you what happened.
As a preventive measure, we must limit kids from unwanted interactions.
~ Keep an eye on how much time a grown-up is preferring to spend with your kid.
~ Don’t send kids out or leave them alone, even for 10 minutes, with people who act extra-caring and people who volunteer intensely to babysit.
~ Avoid people who are requesting to be left alone with the kid. If anybody wants to spend time with your kid, let that be in your presence.
~ That relative who is pestering you to send the kid to their house? Ask if you can also come along with the kid.
~ That neighbour who wants all the kids to play at their house or backyard? Suggest that you’ll accompany the kid, so that you can have a chat while they play.
~ That friend who wants to take your kid out to the shop? Suggest them to buy things for your kids and bring them home.
If you get negative responses in any of these cases, avoid that person strictly.
All this surely seems rude and disrespectful. But please be mindful that in most of the child abuse cases, the kid KNOWS the convict. They are among the friend circle or in the same neighborhood or in the family.
More than anything, spend time with your kids. Make sure that you talk to them atleast half an hour a day. Preferably before they go to bed.
Kids generally have a tendency to tell you what happened in that whole day. If they tell you that they met some uncle/ aunty/ bhaiyya/ whatever, ask them where they went and what they did. Ask them if they were comfortable with that person. Make sure they tell you everything in detail. When you get the slightest doubt, keep that person at bay. Please don’t wait for the trouble to escalate.
Just like how survivors don’t have tags on their heads, abusers too don’t. So, we can’t take that chance with ANYONE. That person may be the most trustworthy one in your life. But if you sense the tiniest of problems, avoid them. All this seems new and quite odd for Indian society, but we have to take these steps for the future of our kids.
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