Sunday, April 10, 2011

On CSA- a brief note


Sexual abuse is insidious, pervasive, and can lurk in the most unexpected corners. As a young child, I never understood why my mother was so particular about never leaving my sister and I alone with male cousins or uncles. If we were staying at my aunt's house, my aunt would be very much there. My sister and I were never ever abused by a family member
As students using public transport in Delhi, we lived with unwanted touches and pinches and gropes, which were sickening but impersonal. Catcalls on the road were also ignored, although most annoying.

Unfortunately, I could not offer the same protection to my own girls. On separate occasions, we had to leave each of our teenage daughters with friends, as they had important school exams to deal with and we had to leave town for a few days, and the couple we left them with were close friends of ours. It was only much much later that we learned from the girls that they had both been groped by the man in question. I was horror struck. The episodes had not occurred while the girls were staying with them, but in a far more daring and insidious fashion. On one occasion we had all been sitting in our friend's front garden, when our daughter offered to make coffee for all of us- given that we had all been very close the girls were quite familiar with my friend's kitchen. A while later the man excused himself- we didn't think twice about it, thinking that he needed to use the washroom. Many years later our daughter told us that he went into the kitchen, tried to fondle her breasts and told her that he loved her. I cannot imagine how shocked and upset the child was. The saddest thing was that she kept this to herself, not even confiding in her own sister till much later, when a similar incident occurred with her sister, with the same man.

By the time we got to know about it, these people had left our town, and our girls were much older, no-nonsense women. It still saddens me immensely to think of these episodes.

The number of people I have met who have been pawed at or groped by their own uncles or grand-uncles is legion. I wonder how we can protect our children without making them totally paranoid about the possibility of abuse. Young boys are also not immune to sexual abuse. In The God of Small Things the entire tragedy was, to my mind, almost directly caused by the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man molesting Estha, and frightening him even more because the child had told him where he lived.

How do we successfully protect our children's innocence without making them fundamentally suspicious of everyone?
It's a question to which I still have no answers.

Edited to add: After reading several heart-breaking posts over this month, the one thing that comes through is that parents' need to listen to their children so that children feel that they can share anything and everything with them, confident in the knowledge that their parents will love them and cherish them and protect them, come what may. Goofy Mumma made a very valuable statement in her post here :one cannot be friends with both the victim and the perpetrator.
As parents we have to be prepared to make that choice, and cut out known perpetrators from our lives, whatever the cost, in order to provide the least bit of justice to our children.

21 comments:

starry eyed said...

What I'm getting from reading all the survivor stories, is that often CSA is perpetrated on the child in his/her OWN home or in homes of trusted family and friends by well-known adults and teenagers. Even sometimes, with the parent or sibling right in the next room, the pedophiles have brazenly struck. And so it's ironical that we parents get freaked out about strangers or our kids' outings away from home.

So trying to protect the child by keeping him or her home and with the parents as much as possible doesn't work to keep them safe, at all. It's awareness and empowerment and the child's confidence in his/her parents that's a better strategy.

dipali said...

Yes, brazen is the word.

'It's awareness and empowerment and the child's confidence in his/her parents that's a better strategy'.

Absolutely, Starry.

Indian in NZ said...

Yes Dipali, agree with Starry. Talk about it with your children and let them know that they have to report any such things immediately to you doesn't matter who the perpetrator is. Sometimes the child may think its a one off incident and not that important to worry your parents about. I keep talking to my children about how important it is not to keep secrets from me and I keep praying that they never have to face it.
Also we have to teach them what to do at that time when/if they find themselves in these sick situations

Passionate Goof said...

I am shocked by what I am reading on the CSAA blog. Its scary really. And how to maintain a balance, being safe without being paranoid, is something even i am trying to figure out. Its a scary world out there really.

And the cheek of that man to misbehave with your daughters. He should be buried alive. Good thing the girls stayed strong, and have turned out to be smart, bold women.

Sue said...

I bet the girls would love to go hand out some punishment to the man today. Wish I could join them.

My mother kept me safe while I was around her but she couldn't keep me around her. So, yes, confidence and awareness.

Rohini said...

The number of these sickos is just frightening. They seem to be everywhere :(

UmaS said...

Oh dear....both the girls didnt share it with you ??? Its heart-breaking to hear a story from a mother abt her daughters. I dont know how u handled - I am totally getting shattered here, as a mother of two teenagers.

CSA Awareness said...

Thanks for your account, Dipali. It is important to know the parents' perspectives as well. *hugs*

B o o. said...

Communication is the key! True. But I still have no answers as to why I did nt tell my mom in spite of being very open to her about everything under the sun. Why children feel such a shame when they are abused I wonder!

SUR NOTES said...

Dipali: For me the important thing is how your girls understood those incidents - they were obviously not scarred by it and probably only felt loathing for the man in question. That is the only role for parents, to provide that confidence and sense of self, so that such incidents are understood as the actions of a person preying on them, not as actions provoked by the child.
It is not possible, or desirable for us, as parents to hover around the child all the time. "Better safe, than sorry", is a maxim that has to be followed with a generous pinch of salt.
I have written about an incident with a neighbour that I went through. My mother said is if you were uncomfortable with the "game" you just have to refuse and walk away. She never made me feel that the inappropriate touch was the worst thing to happen to me, nor did she forbid me from going to other neighbours houses unescorted.I remember feeling reassured that just because the neighbour was older did not mean that he was right.

SUR NOTES said...

@starry eyed - what you are saying is amongst the most important point to be made in our discussions on child sexual abuse.

dipali said...

@Indian in NZ: There will come a time when children will keep secrets from their parents. There are also many things that we keep private from our children. What we need to empower them with is the knowledge that they can come to us with any kind of problem and we will do our best to help them deal with it.
@Passionate Goof: Yes, the sheer effrontery of some molesters is amazing. He did get his comeuppance, though- was asked to resign because of a suspected financial irregularity.
@Sue: They may not want to sully their hands by giving him the several tight slaps he deserves!
@Rohini: So many wolves in sheep's clothing:(
@Uma: I think they were strong and secure enough to not be traumatised for too long. It was only mentioned to me in passing, several years later.
@CSA Awareness: It's been traumatic reading about far worse incidents. I had written an idealised story about this incident many years ago which I will post later on.
@Boo: How old were you, and who was the perpetrator? A young child can get terribly confused, and stay quiet in order to avoid further trouble:(
@Sur: Exactly. It didn't scar them, nor did it overshadow their lives in any way, especially since they were fairly grown up at the time. It was probably a few degrees more upsetting than street sexual abuse, which, sadly, most Indian women have learn to deal with.
Yes, Starry's point is most valid. Our children need to believe in us.

Cuckoo said...

I especially agree with the note. Its a matter of choice and fundamentally the child should feel that he/she is more important than any 'friend' that their parents could have.

dipali said...

@Cuckoo: Yes, we need to be willing to make that choice, with or without confrontation- preferably an outright parting of ways with reasons spelled out, or a more subtle, unspoken distancing. Anything to ensure the child knows that he/she is far more important to us than the perpetrator.

sukanya said...

it is sad that the perpetrator is always someone we know....
i suffered, you have read my story and commented, thank you. i have come a long way since then and its not something that i think about everyday...i moved on but now that i am mom, i am somewhat paranoid about the saftey of my kids.
as parents we need to talk to her kids, help them understand how unsafe and untrusting some people can be. thank you for this post.

Sanand said...

As a parent, I understand how these real stories freak us out. I too have a son, whose safety I worry about all the time. This post was very touching. It resonates with many of us. Please collect your Award on my Blog.

dipali said...

@Sukanya: Yes, what emerges here is how important it is for our children to be able to communicate with us and for us to respect the trust with which they tell us things, however unsavoury they may be.
@Sanand: Yes, we do worry about our kids, but we must also continue to enjoy them and not be consumed with anxiety. Let not our awareness of danger corrode all our relationships either. I am most honoured that you are giving me an award and will collect it soon! Thank you.

Indian Home Maker said...

So true! "one cannot be friends with both the victim and the perpetrator" - I think most parents, unbelievably, try to remain friends with the perpetrator...

@Starry I agree, children can't be kept safer simply by being kept inside the house, gaining the child's confidence and awareness and empowerment is a better idea.

dipali said...

@IHM: Yes, that is the biggest tragedy and the biggest betrayal, our ability to behave like ostriches:(
Making sure that our children feel confident that they will be heard and appropriate action taken is probably the most important thing to do; abusers seem to slime under the radar of fairly vigilant parents:(

Mamma mia! Me a mamma? said...

I hope that man suffers in great pain.

You know, it's not easy telling a parent something like this, especially when you're older and are 'supposed to know better'. I can't quite explain why it is, it just is...

For me, this line is what has me stumped too -- "How do we successfully protect our children's innocence without making them fundamentally suspicious of everyone?"

dipali said...

@m4: I wonder if the molesters tune out what they have done, and resume 'normal', decent lives. Some of them, I believe, spend hours praying, apparently forgetting the preying aspects of their nature. Strange beasts indeed.