In a recent conversation with some young people, I was asked what they could do to prevent sexual abuse. To be clear, the girls in the group asked me what they could do to prevent it happening to them and the boys asked what they could do to prevent it happening to their friends/sisters/mothers, etc.
The world belongs to them. But how safe is that world? (Photo: Reuters)
I said I hoped nothing would ever happen to any one of them — but statistically, that was impossible. As much as it pained me, all I could say is that their efforts to raise boys and girls better in time would hopefully mean a better world for their grandchildren.
The unfortunate truth in this world is that even a group of young people, those that have yet to understand what unemployment and taxes really mean, are susceptible to horrible acts of violence. According to NCRB data in 2017, every 15 minutes, a child is molested. We are yet to understand the vulnerability of boys in our country — and as most children are in fact molested by someone they know, in reality, the numbers are probably much higher.
Every child is at risk of abuse, even from those who apparently love them. (Photo: Reuters)
It is a horrible thought to think of our children being molested.
Sadly, there are too many children out there who are even sexually abused by their own parents, the very people that are meant to protect and nurture them. This is why it is crucial that children should have someone they can approach if something is wrong.
Stereotypes play a role in this. Boys are often told that they should never be scared — girls are often told that they have to be careful. The onus shifts carefully to the victims, and not to the attackers.
Women are brought up with the notion that it is 'their fault' if they are subjected to sexual violence.
Though this has reduced quite a lot, often victim blaming can look like 'love' and 'care'.
Young girls are still told that they should not go out at night, that they should be careful whom they talk to, that they should not hang out with boys alone. This will convey the idea that it is their job to not get raped. Young boys, on the other hand, are often not required to follow any of these rules. Many parents might even be happy that their son has a girlfriend. To a boy, this grants impunity.
The same jeans get different reactions on different genders. (Photo: Reuters)
Though Indian culture is big on respecting parents and elders, it is high time that we also became open to feedback from children. This does not mean we take to heart all the “I hate you for not letting me go out” or similar statements — those are not feedback but tantrums. Children have a lot more exposure these days. It is not uncommon for a child to have been a part of a gender sensitisation workshop — quite often, that will be enough for them to pick out the problematic things that adults often take for granted.
They look like pure fun. But kids' workshops these days convey many serious facts. (Photo: Reuters)
Stereotypes often creep into our brains and though we’d question them as children, as adults, they are just a thing we do. A child that has been empowered or has recently learned that certain things need not be the way they are will be able to give critical feedback to parents. It is true that as a race that genuinely wants to see social improvement, we have to raise our sons in particular much better — but it is also true that we have to ourselves become much better.
Getting back to the group I was talking to, the girls understood when I mentioned things like self-defence and trusting their instincts in uncomfortable situations.
One of the boys complained that I was giving suggestions that would either help in the future or weren't really fool-proof.
What was interesting to me about this was that the boy in the group refused to accept that there was no immediate solution possible. This interaction might not have helped the group very much but it was really helpful to me. It filled me with hope because here was a young boy refusing to accept that women were being sexually attacked and nothing could be done to stop this instantly.
These are the allies girls and women need to win the battle against sexual violence — and I hope there are many more out there.