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.