BANGALORE : Violation of a child at Vibgyor High School has prompted mother and entrepreneur Deepa Kumar to start a website that addresses the issue of child sexual abuse (CSA) through animation.
As a mother, she was shaken by the incident and her response to what she believes is a social crisis was both emotional and pragmatic.
The website, www.howtotellyourchild.com, tries to make sense of the confusion surrounding caregivers and children when it comes to sexual abuse. She has tried to address the key question of communication that alerts a child to the possibility of abuse in unambiguous and yet less frightening terminology.
The video titled Child Safety Lesson on the website uses a benevolent pink dragon to talk about red flags a child can easily learn to recognise. Though it is simplistic and presupposes that the abuser will always be outside the circle of designated care givers and loved ones, it is a start.
It teaches children to be aware that private parts are private and anyone who talks about them, shows them or demands to see them, fondles them, seeks seclusion or holds and kisses a child without any regard for boundaries is a 'bad person' and must be stopped.
The battle, says Deepa, is to teach a child how to prevent abuse before it happens, when it is just in the 'See Alert' and 'Talk Alert' state. Before the child has been touched.
She also has issues with a popular TV show where a quick workshop tried to teach children about their "danger parts." 'There is a lot of negativity, fear, shame and stereotyping when it comes to teaching children about their bodies. It doesn't have to be this way," she says and to break that cycle with a positive imagery, she took the help of animation.
The problem with most messages about CSA, says she, is that they are directed at adults and speak their language.
"Sexual information comes either from porn or the texts in school books where diagrams of a uterus and travelling tadpoles try to teach children about reproduction. Parents should be able to talk to their children about their bodies without apprehension and awkwardness. The videos about puberty and other issues on my site give information in a practical way...not just in a scientific way. What all of us, parents and children, need is a unified terminology and code of understanding that instantly identifies inappropriate behaviour," says Deepa
She further adds that few hospitality professionals in hotels and restaurants or even attendants at schools know what a child's boundaries are.
They pick up children and kiss them. Adults who work around children should be asked to follow a code of conduct.
"The Vibgyor incident would not have happened if the boundaries had been firmly indicated to the staff. How did the child end up being alone with the abuser? How did the abuse go so far? Measures like raising boundary walls does not help when abuse is taking place within the walls. Yes, I do realise that abuse happens within homes too and most of the times, an abuser is someone a child trusts. And that is why encouraging adults to be a part of a Child Watch programme is very much on our agenda as is working with other organisations," she adds.