Child Sexual Abuse: A Silent Scourge

Child Sexual Abuse: A Silent Scourge

In 2007 when the Indian government released a study conducted over 125,000 children across India, the results shocked many. According to the study almost 53% children had been subjected to sexual abuse. While over 20% of those interviewed were subjected to severe forms of abuse, majority of the survivors, almost 57%, were boys. Yes, Boys!

Shocking revelations from the report acted as an eye opener for many. A rather hush-hush topic, was brought to center stage and forced the government to pass the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) in 2012. Child sexual abuse (CSA) –occurs when children are forced to take part in sexual activities. This does not have to be physical contact, and it can happen online. The biggest problem, however, is sometimes the child does not understand what is happening to them is abuse.

The numbers are however under-reported as CSA is a taboo topic in India and faces resistance from various stakeholders. Parents and teachers do not react to such problems. On top of that, a lot of children are embarrassed to talk about what happened, while many do not know if what is happening to them is not as the abuser is often a person the child knows.

It is clear that the government has been unsuccessful in preventing such events. The POCSO Act 2012 does punish the abusers but the cases have not declined since.

Some NGO’s like CHILDLINE India Foundation (CIF) , which was instrumental in drafting the POCSO Act, work directly with children to raise awareness about the problem. They face everyday a challenging issue both in form as well as in substance. How does one tell a seven-year old child what sexual abuse is without taking away their innocence?

CHILDLINE combines thoroughly adapted content and trained volunteers to go to school to explain what CSA is.

CIF’s Program targets school children in the age group of 7-12 years. Children are taught about safe touch, unsafe touch and personal safety rules through a story telling exercise. The entertaining stories are designed to be age appropriate and are enacted out, by trained and certified lady volunteers. Hidden in the stories are the concepts of safe/unsafe touch and personal safety rules. The
stories have been specially developed in consultation with child psychologists. Following the story session, each child gets a set of “Labels” to affix on their books that reinforce the message to the child.

Till date, CHILDLINE has reached out to over 250,000 children through 913 schools in Mumbai. But with children making up 39% of the 1.21 billion in our country, a lot of work has to be done.

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