Ask for a story to detect child sexual abuse
Can storytellers identify sexual abuse, harassment and disabilities in children? Shreya Biswas, a 49-year-old professional story teller is not a counsellor, but in her career she has encountered many cases where she was able to identify sexually abused children through storytelling.
BENGALURU: Can storytellers identify sexual abuse, harassment and disabilities in children? Shreya Biswas, a 49-year-old professional story teller is not a counsellor, but in her career she has encountered many cases where she was able to identify sexually abused children through storytelling.
About a year ago, a child told her that “an auto uncle plays with her” and “scratches her inner thigh”. Following this conversation, Shreya felt “disturbed” and then went on to approach over 30 private schools to talk about sexual abuse in children through storytelling. But Shreya says the schools she approached were not keen on the idea. As of today, Shreya goes to government schools at least once a week, engages in a casual storytelling session to understand issues such as bullying and learning disability.
When she finds out that a child has been a victim either of sexual abuse or bullying or faces learning disability, she direct him/her/them to professionals. Vikram Sridhar, a member of Bangalore Storytelling Society, does the same. “The child opens up because interactive storytelling requires questioning and observing a reaction to colours and situations,” says Vikram. In his case, a child told him that the best thing about his home is beer. This was because the child used to peep into look at his parents drinking beer at night.“I have observed that a troubled child usually replies late and has a late reaction to things,” he says. But then storytellers don’t address the problem, they just identify and alert the professionals.
For children who are sexually harassed, a conversation is needed to understand what they are going through, mainly because the child will not be able to differentiate between a good touch and a bad touch, she says. Most of the time, sexual abuse comes from people close to the family and the parents will always be on denial, says Shreya. “A different approach to the of conversation is needed and storytelling is a strong tool to bridge the communication gap and have a smooth conversation,” she adds.
Shreya also hosts storytelling sessions with parents and teachers to understand sexual harassment through story telling. She usually begins by asking the child about the happiest moment, a sad moment and a confused moment in repeated intervention, so that the child opens up. This approach has made her identify a bullied and child as well as sexually harassed children. But the journey has not been easy.“Storytelling is not a degree and it is has not been identified as a profession,” shares Shreya.
“There was once a time when I felt like giving up,” she adds. Shreya says that years ago when she was sharing stories with children at Spastic Society, she was mentally prepared to make it her last session.
But when a child, who was verbally disabled was keen to share a story along with other children, she felt inspired. She made him enact the story while she narrated. She established Katharangam, a storytelling platform in 2014 and ever since, there has been no thought on giving up.