I remember being comfortably settled in my seat on my way to Dubai to celebrate New Years with friends that year when I picked up the newspaper to read about Nirbhaya. Time allowed me to read every detail of the matter, and on that day at that distinct hour, something in me as a woman died.
Time and time again this disturbing feeling is triggered when horrific news of rape, assault, unimaginable and inhumane actions is reported. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks the Hathras case opened up some of these wounds and worries for you as well. Why such a devastating and irreparable exploitation of fundamental human respect and of life? Feeling unsettled is not enough. It will take months, investigations, elaborate policies, versions and verdicts before we see justice and a glimmer of light on this front.
I would like to focus on what we can do to help and address this at a micro level. I believe we can start at home. The availability of social media, information technology, growing frustrations and inhibited conversations at home have started to expose children to words like rape, sexual assault, violence and exploitation. It may not be intentional, but it can be used with intention.
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I have always believed that parents can be the sweetest, most authentic sources of information for children. We can exhibit, guide, and teach future generations more than grades in school, reaching Ivy League colleges and earning big package deals every year. Perhaps this is a wake-up call for us parents to consider speaking hard, starting at the local level and instilling a value system in children, adolescents and young adults to change attitudes. collective.
This is probably one of the most terrifying conversations for parents, and so there is a strong need for empathetic conversations and holding hands as a community of caregivers to be effective guides for our children. Fear, anxiety and apprehension on our part are understandable, but preparation and prevention are rooted in information and education.
This debate is not just for girls. The sons are also raped. Another aspect to consider is whether our children are victims or abusers, they are not safe and need guidance.
According to the 2016 NCRB report, a total of 2.90 lakh of people went missing, of which 1.74 lakh were female, marking the missing men at 1.16 lakh. There is a rape every 16 minutes in India. Statistically, 43% of victims in India are minors, 5% are under 12 years old.
This is reason enough for us to stop living with the illusion that “this will not happen to us” and the altered mentality that only girls are vulnerable. We believe we are at a safe distance when, in most cases, the perpetrators are known to the victims, family members or family friends who have access to our children right under our noses.
Or are we just uncomfortable talking about unpleasant realities and avoiding talking about a crucial danger that lurks closer than we realize? As parents, it is time to put aside our fantasies, hesitations, reservations and speak quietly but confidently to our children about the concepts of rights, consent and abuse. Know that only education will give our children the tools to act before it is late, to avoid injury, to preserve rights and freedom.
Start talking about consent and choices early. It is important to introduce the concept of consent to both boys and girls. Coherent conversations about good and bad contacts, reminders to respect the words “no”, “don’t” and “stop” and respect for privacy, physical and emotional, is a crucial conversation to have. We have to follow these rules.
Posting pictures of children without their consent, talking about incidents that parents find funny about children’s bodies, sharing private anecdotes with friends and family without their consent is sending them a message. Soon such conversations became part of their focus groups and locker room searches for other children.
Respect children’s choices when they say “no” to being touched or kissed, making them understand that the choices need to be considered.
If there is a violation, be quick to remedy it. We need to take educational, not punitive, action. More often than not, children are unable to predict what their actions and words might lead to. Ask them to think, encourage them to talk to you and take remedial action, repair the damage done, apologize and take responsibility.
Teens and young adults
At this age, the emphasis on “consent” should already be instilled and valued. Various “touch games” such as boys slapping each other in the genitals and pinching their nipples, girls lifting up skirts or slapping each other’s buttocks appear to be frolicking. We need to talk about the impact of these games on others and introduce the concept of empathy and discomfort, that a violation is never funny. This is not about ‘boys being boys’, or ‘girls bullying girls’, it is harassment, and sometimes, if left unchecked, can cause significant physical and emotional trauma. both.
Constantly remind them of personal choices, body, private parts, sex and sexuality. Ask questions such as “How do you know if your partner is ready to kiss you?” And “How do you think you can tell if a girl (or boy) is interested in you?” “What do you do if your partner says no?” About permission to kiss or touch a partner, and how to deal with disappointment or rejection of one’s offer. This is a great time to explain enthusiastic consent. Explain that only “yes” means “yes.” Don’t wait for your partner to say “no” to research his consent.
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Environments of gender segregation often encourage chatter. Children at sleepovers, changing rooms, swimming pool changing rooms engage in many conversations of a private nature. I can assure you that many do so without even understanding the meaning of the words used.
We need to help kids identify abusive words, and unless you tell them what they mean, they’ll either find out too late or from an uncensored and unreliable external resource like the web.
Let your kids know that whatever the topic or feeling about it, they can come and chat with you. These will give us the opportunity to instill values and attitudes of respect and equality, that words can also be abusive, and that the practice of kindness and empathy are the greatest signs of growth. .
We need to talk to boys and girls about what masculinity means. Challenge some of the sloppy ideas of masculinity and its slanted expression, communicate what you respect about masculinity and the idea that it is far from equal to violence, aggression and a demonstration by force.
This is probably one of the most important discussions to bring about a change in the minds of our future generations.
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Talk about limits when traveling, at parties, when there is no adult supervision
“We were just having fun” can often get out of hand. It is imperative to educate and prepare children in clear terms about things that can go wrong with alcohol consumption, drugs, fortified drinks, being alone in a room, in a parking lot, rape, a drunken partner or friend or someone who makes unnecessary and unwanted advances towards them. Remind them of limits and consent, even if it is a serious relationship. Prepare the children with options for finding safe ground in case something goes wrong. It also involves introducing the idea of not being a bystander and calling for help from a friend they might see in trouble.
Conversations about authorization and privacy need to be consistent, even if our kids roll their eyes and say, “Not yet! They need to develop an auditory memory, an inner voice that reminds them of limits and respect, consent and caution and so parents, please persist!
Not only will it be good for them, but if this ideology becomes the new hit conversation, cool new trend, new peer pressure, to be respectful and respect consent, we can have some hope of changing the world we live in. our children.
(The author is a psychologist and psychotherapist based in Mumbai)