Sunjula Daniel, a Woman Of Worth staff member shares her perspective in this very relatable point of view of a mother.
I first saw 5-year old Sushmitha looking through our compound gate. She didn’t say a word – just kept looking. I began to feel uncomfortable and guilty as I avoided her for a good twenty minutes and then I gave in and we invited her home. She was thrilled and rushed in without telling her parents who it appears were migrant construction labourers working nearby. The girl was smart, well-behaved and highly observant. I enjoyed her broken Tamil and her drama to illustrate how her mother and her brother would do things. She was so cute! She would come home everyday. When she wasn’t at our place, I would see her just roaming the street, chatting with much older men and women, whiling away time.
It is sad that we live in an era that feels like our kids are walking in the wild with predators lurking in the shadows.
She had both parents and a little brother. She also had food, shelter and enough clothes. But did she have safety? Each time I saw her, I kept asking myself “Is she safe? Will she be ok on these streets? What if something untoward happens? What if she is abused? Will she know? Will she ask for help? And if she does, will she be helped? Or will she be shushed?”
Sushmitha and her family have now left our neighbourhood. I often think of her and wonder if she is safe. It’s sad that I worry over her. It is sad that we live in an era that feels like our kids are walking in the wild with predators lurking in the shadows. It is sad that it is possible for a child so cute and lively to be abused!
Childhood is sweet and tender. Let’s give our children a safe childhood. Let’s keep our eyes open for child sexual abuse. Let’s end it.
#endChildSexualAbuse #EndRape #FearlessProject
[su_box title=”About the author” style=”soft” box_color=”#f3f3f3″ title_color=”#000000″ radius=”5″]Sunjula Daniel is Operations Manager at WOW and a mother who is passionate about changing the world. [/su_box]
- Why is safety awareness against sexual abuse among children important?
Sadly, kids are the easiest and the softest targets. That they are innocent and naïve hardly matters. It’s the only reason why kids should know the boundaries that cannot be crossed. They also need to know how to not let anyone cross that boundary.
- Does our “Fearless project” resonate with you on some level? If yes, how?
Yes it most certainly does! In fact, I love that the Fearless Project is also about prevention as much as it’s about recovery. Our country needs to learn how to keep our children safe. We need to learn to create an impenetrable fence all around them. We need to raise our kids with love and not with fear, impalement or shame.
- How did you overcome the trauma of abuse? What aspects were most difficult to heal? What aspects made the healing process difficult?
It was a process.
I think overnight healing is only temporary healing and so, I’m rather glad my healing took time.One by one, the layers of hurt got peeled off and eventually, withered. I don’t think there’s a set formula to overcome the trauma of being victimized but over time I’ve gotten to understand that we all go through the same stages – feeling of uncleanness, self blame, living in denial and finally, confrontation. Let me break it down a bit more.
- Feeling of uncleanness – as kids, we understand that we’ve been violated even though we may not know the words to use to articulate our feelings. With this understanding comes the feeling on uncleanness.
- Self blame – thoughts like – “I invited trouble” or “it’s because I’m not pretty enough” or “it’s because I’m ugly” constantly resonate in the head. Add to it, our society conditions us to think that it’s always the girls’ fault.
- Denial – this is when we start thinking that ‘the act’ never happened and then we graduate to think that it happened but it wasn’t as big a deal as we’re making out to be.
Mind you, all this is still about ‘ME’. In the sense that up until now I haven’t even started thinking about how the perpetrator has been in the wrong! That’s the worst part about the ordeal. The perpetrator goes on to live his life normally and the victim gets stuck in time.
When I did start thinking about the person responsible for this, the part that hurt the most was the broken trust. To be able to trust another man was a task! It felt like no one deserves to be trusted, like no one’s trust worthy.
It took a lot of time, a lot of friends and a lot of love to overcome these doubts and questions.
- What is your advice to children who have faced abuse?
Don’t hide it from anyone. Don’t hide it from yourself either. Talk about it, shed tears, vent….basically, address it and give yourself the dignity of words.You don’t necessarily need to address it in a recurrent manner but address it in a way that helps you get over it without having to rue about it over and over again.Learn to let go. Learn to forgive. It’s a process that will be worth your while.
- How important is it for Student campuses to ensure both awareness, precautions and a safety mandate against child sexual abuse?
Apart from teaching our kids to excel in life we need to teach them to be safe as well!
Campuses are where our personalities form and develop and so, it should be an environment for growth! It shouldn’t be stifling or terrifying instead it should be encouraging and gratifying. If sexual predators wander around in our campuses, it’s the slow death of life!
- What word of advice would you have for parents and teachers in bringing awareness on child sexual abuse?
Relentlessly and consistently pursue the cause please. I know the results are far too few but you are impacting generations to come. Your work is not a drop in an ocean. It’s like yeast making its way through the toughest situations.Don’t for a moment be under the assumption that sexual abuse cannot take place in our home. It has and it will continue to, unless we remain vigilant.
- Teachers and Parents sometimes say that it may be harmful or unnecessary to give too much information about sex too early in life. What is your comment?
How much is too much? And honestly, we live in a day and age where the world is at our finger tips – quite literally! If we are not the source of information to our kids, someone else will be. Perhaps even someone who’s less trustworthy. Is that a gamble worth playing?
- What advice do you have for parents and teachers who are helping children overcome the trauma of abuse?
It’s not the end of the world and your kids need to know that. At the same time, they need to know that you understand what they’ve been through and it doesn’t change your relationship with them.They need to be surrounded by better men/women who are proof that there are good human beings in their world too.They need to be encouraged with words of appreciation and validation.They need to be taught to forgive. But they also need to see you confront the perpetrators.
- What is your message to the world on Child Sexual Abuse?
It exists and maybe right in our own backyards. Let’s not run away from the fact. But let’s face it with hope and love.
[su_box title=”About the author” style=”soft” box_color=”#f3f3f3″ title_color=”#000000″ radius=”5″]Cindrella Prakash is not only a survivor of child sexual abuse but an overcomer in every sense of the word. She currently lives in Mumbai with her husband Asher Joe. For more on her incredible journey follow the link: http://www.satyamevjayate.in/watch-the-episodes/child-sexual-abuse/survivors-speak.aspx.[/su_box]
We have heard about the incidents involving women and children being molested and probably momentarily dwelt on it and maybe (if you’re like me) gotten misty eyed over it. I don’t plan on quoting statistics to you nor do I want to get technical by defining abuse and all it’s horrific offshoots.
My heart and gut clenches every time I think of a child getting hurt by an adult who should have protected him or her. It’s an abuse of power, of responsibility and of position. It’s not okay! As a mother to three precious little ones, I consider, as my primary calling and responsibility, their safety and well being. I do realise though that in many cases where abuse has occurred children have been handed over with love to those whom parents have trusted implicitly, in order that the parents could make ends meet and provide a better home and future for their family. So then, the question arises as to what can be done to make life safer for these children who have to stay at daycare or a crèche or at a relative’s house while their parents support and provide for them? For one, the child has to be taught by their parents to protect their body from a predator. Predators both known and unknown considering, scarily enough, that a lot of times the abuser is someone known to the child. Parents being the primary caregivers and nurturers have every reason to educate their children and create a safe space of communication between them which will be a fall back in the event of any harm coming to the child. More importantly there has to exist a cordial relationship between parents and school teachers who spend the most time with the children outside of home. Also important is the cooperation that parents need to offer the school authorities when they attempt to bring in additional safety measures for their students rather than criticising or working at cross purposes to them. The most crucial factor though, would be for parents to not be caught up in the rut of societal pressure which could cause them to sweep incidents like this under the rug rather than dealing with it head on. Easier said than done right in our conservative and often times judgemental society? But think about this, if I stand up to deal with my child’s hurt, pain, questions and memories then i can do far more good for that little human than giving him or her the world. Just by believing them, holding them close and playing a part in their healing without any judgement could radically change their lives. Abuse leaves scars. An aware, caring and involved parent can make those scars fade dramatically. I urge all you mummas and daddas out there, no matter how old or young your kids are. Listen to your children, observe them for behavioural changes, monitor who they play with and stay abreast of their lives. You can be that MVP in your child’s life. It’s never too late. Start now! #fearlessproject #stayaware
We will all agree that safety of women and children is a huge concern in our country today. We agonize over the safety of our children and even of ourselves. Fear does have a crippling effect on life and the decisions we take every day. Yet, we seldom stop to consider how to eliminate these fears so we can live free. When we happen to switch on the television and hear about a horrible incident of rape or child abuse in an institution we fill ourselves with more fear. Have you stopped to think if this fear is healthy or rational? If fear is our only response to issues of safety we are to be pitied.
Fear as a response to safety issues can have damaging consequences. Fear will cause us to live in a constant state of anxiousness or paranoia. I remember the time in 2012 when the horror of the rape incident in Delhi shook us all. The immediate response was to shut ourselves in and tell our daughters to not go out late. Some daughters and wives had their parents and husbands pull them out of jobs with late night shifts. If we all locked ourselves in would the world become a safe place? Is this the kind of safety we want? Or do we want to change the meaning of the word ‘safe’ by working towards ensuring safety of our women and children in public spaces, campuses, at work and at home without curtailing their everyday normal movements?
Again, we tend to assume that abusers are often strangers not known to us. But statistics all over the world say otherwise. Abusers of women and children are usually people known to them at work, at school, in our campuses and at home. We teach our children not to talk to strangers but have we talked to them about saying No to unsafe advances of family members or neighbours? Abuse can scar a person for life. And fear is not the answer to safety.
Recently while talking to a few college going students, I was stunned to hear them say that safety is one of the biggest hindrances to them pursuing their dreams. I am not here condoning lack of caution in any way. We need to be wise and take precautions that will ensure our safety. But not at the cost of fear that cripples us from living life to the fullest.
Safety is my right. When I feel safe I don’t want anyone to think that they are doing me a favour. My safety does not depend just on me doing the right thing. It also depends on how the environment I am in responds to my need for safety. In other words, the community of people I live with, mingle with and interact with on a daily basis are as responsible as I am for my safety and the safety of my fellow humans.
WOW’s Girl Arise campaign was launched to raise the bar on women’s safety in campuses, work places, at home and in public spaces. Again, one cannot ensure the safety of women and children by just empowering and bringing awareness to women. If men stand aloof and pretend like this is of no concern of theirs, we will never have a safe world. Men and women together need to work on making this world a safer place for women and children.
Statistics says that 53% of children in India have faced some form of sexual abuse. Another myth to dispel is that abuse happens only to girl children. Boys face abuse too. There is a huge population of children in our country who are sold into brothels or exploited by the porn industry. We need to buck up and respond if we believe that children are our future.
The #Fearlessproject is an attempt to equip student campuses and learning centers to be safe places of learning. By equipping teachers, trainers, management staff and more, we hope to contribute towards ensuring safety for students. Our training courses will not only equip campuses to ensure safety of students but will also help educators identify signs of abuse in a child and reach out for appropriate help.
Fear may be our immediate reaction to unsafe situations. But let not fear be the only solution to safety. #LiveFearless!
This month at WOW we engaged with the parents and schools on the topic of bullying. We spoke to teachers and trained them on how to handle issues of bullying on campus. Our communications and design teams created posters that schools can use to educate students on appropriate behaviour and promote zero tolerance towards bullying. This is an essential topic to discuss in every campus.
When we talk about bullying on campuses, we usually associate the issue with bullying that happens among students. But we need to begin to recognize the fact thatsometimes the bully could be the teacher.
When a teacher has unrealistic expectations from a student and resorts to name-calling or when a teacher displays bias towards a certain student and is unreasonable, the victims of bullying are the students who feel overpowered and helpless. Verbal abuse by teachers leave deep scars on young minds. In the name of discipline, a teacher can easily cross the line without intending to. Here is a painful story we received from a student who feels such intense pain and is trying to understand how someone who is supposed to be building her up is actually tearing her apart. We urge you to use this platform to start discussions on bullying at various levels – on campuses, at work, and even at home.
– Kavitha Emmanuel
From the Girl Whose Face is Not Looking Good
Yesterday was a good day: I made it to class on time and I was responsive during class. I had put in a lot of effort to study and prepare for the class and I could see it pay off. My day could not have started better. I am a learner, a true geek at heart. I pay attention, I make notes, I love to listen to interesting lectures. The classroom is my playground.
The professors and teachers have a heart to impart knowledge and see us succeed. I like when they speak on topics like personality development and improving life skills like healthy social conduct or professional ethics. I believe that they are the farmers who cultivate our minds to be the leaders of tomorrow.
As a responsible and proactive student, raised and taught by the sharp minds of our faculty, I approached my class mentor and teacher about final exam dates. Her response as she looked into my zit ridden face made me question everything I had come to love about college. Instead of the dates, I was told: Stop concentrating on your exams and first clear your skin. You can write many exams but for now you concentrate on your skin. It’s not at all looking good. It’s not good at all.
I am a determined young woman who does not let my acne bother me. I’ve lived with it since fifth standard and it’s a part of me – the confident, beautiful, and talented me. Acne has never stopped me from doing what I want to do. So, I pushed onwards and respectfully told my teacher that my acne does not bother me, but exams do and that I’d like to know the dates. As the conversation continued to transpire with a large audience in the lobby, my teacher did not hesitate to verbalize her emotions and opinions: But we have to look at you and it’s not at all good. A few of my classmates who stood nearby piped in to support the teacher’s opinion that I lack the interest to care for my skin.
Much has been talked about bullying on campuses and more has been discussed about the recent suicide of the 9th standard boy who was a victim of bullying. I see the actions of my teacher as demeaning, reckless and careless, providing backing and support to those who might use it to bully. It might not have sounded as mockery, but it had the same effect.
As a mentor who needs to lead and build trust, she failed and I do not want to have another conversation with her. I have lost all ability to muster up any respect for her.
Dear Ms. D, how can I learn anything from someone who lost face with her student?
The girl whose face remains beautifully confident!