Saturday, January 28, 2012

On Child Abuse and Parenting

Child abuse or molesting minor children is slowly becoming a popular topic. More so in the internet. However, it is not a well-advertised topic to people who aren't plugged into the internet. In news reports it is often dramatized to the point where it resembles an airplane accident or a ferrari crashing into 7 star hotel. A common man ends up thinking 'it happens to other people. Not me'. If an average news reader thinks this then I blame poor presentation of news items on this topic as the reason why people relate to it poorly.

An effective presentation of this news item must make any parent think that there is a high probability that their children can get molested or that they have already been molested. Once they see a news item on child abuse/molestation - parents should be able to clearly identify the amount of situations they have left open that is conducive for someone to molest their own children. A child molestor rarely creates opportunities to go after children. Mostly because he does not have to. Parents give their children to him on a platter. He just takes advantage of the situation. And most parents help him do so all the time. The amount of child molestation that surface up to parent's knowledge is probably 1/1000th of what actually happens. And those that surface to the news is 1/1000th of what actually gets to parent level awareness.

Good parents who are aware of this 'angle' have a growing list of potential suspects. They are conscious of people who can potentially get the privacy and opportunity to molest their children. In Madras, during 80s and 90s it was common to send children via rickshaws (not autos) to school. Parents rely on rickshawman to pick up the child from school and bring them home. Many schools have classes that end at different times (for e.g. 3rd standard ends at 3PM whereas 5th standard ends at 3:45). The first child that rickshaw man picks up could have had their school day end at 3PM. The last child that the rickshawman picks up could have their school day ending at 3;45 PM. That is a solid 45 mins of time spent with a child in a rickshaw in a private space under pretext of parking rickshaw in the shade of a tree. This is the 'exclusive time' that the parent has gifted to the rickshawman. And like most molestors, I am sure he looked very trustworthy in the eyes of the parents. Today parents trust a van driver, autorickshaw driver, their own car driver with at least 45 minutes - 1 hour of private time with children. They hand over their children on a platter like father of the bride setting up a wedding night bed. Why? because these parents trust that such things will never happen to them.

This is just the beginning. Good parents also will never leave their children in a relative's house, an uncle house, or a friend's house. Essentially any place where a person - who is 3 years or more older than the child - can have private time with the child. This could be anyone. Most commonly, I suspect the person who gets most private time is the 'anna upstairs'. The college going or Xth standard boy who is your house owner's kid or is the 'trust worthy boy' who lives downstairs. Your child wanders out from your house and is frequently seen going to neighboring door in same apartment floor. Sometimes the child wanders and goes near the gate of the apartment where the watchman is playing with it. Ofcourse, the neighbor's boy or your watchman has a trustable face. You have never seen him mastrubate or fantasise about other aunties. So obviously he has to be trustworthy. And while this boy who lives downstairs or watchman is 'taking care' of your child - you could get valuable housework done. Your child is not around to cry and nag you. So you were able to cook, clean the house, and arrange that furniture. Chores that would have taken 2 hours actually got done in 1 hour. Yay!

That the 1 hour you saved got tranfered as 1 hour of 'private time' for the watchman in the parking garage with your child or for the downstairs boy in his empty house never crosses your mind. Because such things never happen to you. You would have obviously seen some signs if it did. I suspect most child molestation instances is never known to the child themselves. A memory formed when a child is 3-6 years old is rarely a persistent one. Unless via some fluke it resides in subconcious and it comes out at a later stage - it is silent evidence. Dead and buried.

I had an opportunity to meet some good parents during this trip to India. They would never allow their driver to pick their daughter up alone. No matter how tired they were or how much office work or household work they had to do. No matter how personally they knew their driver or friend's father - they'd never let anyone else pick up their kid. They'd go in the car or drive in 2-wheeler to pick up the kid themselves. Parents and grandparents are the only trustworthy people around a kid. Until the child is 17 they should never for a moment be out of their own supervision. They'd never let kids stay in someone else's house. Even if it was an emergency. They kept a constant vigil. It was almost paranoid and unrelenting.

I also saw some parents who said "adhellam summa newsla varuudhu. You cant be doing this all the time. If you look at it with this angle you will never have peace of mind. You just need to have some trust in life. If you are good only good things will happen to you". The casual ones. Ones who took life as it comes and ones who didnt take life too seriously. The happy-go-lucky kind. I saw them handing their children over to complete strangers for close to 2 hours of 'private time'. I suppose nothing bad will happen to the child. The stranger's face had that trustworthy look. I suppose that is enough, no?



13 comments:

I am a ComplexNumber said...

Wow...This post is hard hitting...
My favorite post
You are very much right...Couldnt have said it better...I was writing a small screenplay about this just showing a regular school day (For a boy kid) and how common abuse is...after watching Girl with Dragon tattoo....I couldnt finish it...but your post drives the point better...

Note: it is not just restricted to Girl child...even though abuse is more pronounced there...For boy child who are less than 5-6 years it is true too...

Also, more important, is how the parents are such prudes that the miss significant signals about abuse after its first or second occurrence...In chennai with its heat any tiresomeness that Child shows is blamed on the heat....Parents don't have a sensitive instrument to measure / indicate an abuse happened

Thanks for this post...

rads said...

Lost a long comment to a freeze, but essentially saying, yes, am a paranoid mom. It's so easy and doesn't take more than a few moments for anyone to mess with a kid. Regardless of age or gender.

It's tad harder here in the west, primarily coz of awareness, both with the parents and the child, but yes, India needs to ramp up. Coz I see and hear how maids and drivers are used as backup babysitters, and that just is not right.
Personal experience speaks too.

austrian said...

hawkeye,

you're right: misplaced trust is one of the easiest, but often unnoticed ways such things can happen.

here's a link that has a lot more info on Child Abuse and how to ensure there's more awareness within children and parents regarding this serious issue.

http://csaawarenessmonth.wordpress.com

Subfusced said...

I think it's more often the case that it's someone closer than a neighbor or a watchman. Most times, it's an older relative who molests, and so a high-schooler/watchman is probably less likely than a VRS'ed mama-thatha, a la Monsoon Wedding.

Overall, I agree, most people in India either live in denial or just don't think child-molesting is wide-spread enough for them to take necessary steps. One more reason why one would be better off settling in the US. :)

SathyaRam said...

Great post Hawkeye. You just missed the tution teacher angle. You cant rule out anything.

monu said...

finally a post of yours i agree with completely.As an aware working mother of a 4 year old boy, I am always worried. My MIL goes to school and picks him up. But I don't speak out my fears, because others may not understand. Yes, that awareness is very much lacking!! I just make sure that I am always around watching him... when I am home... But the truth is , I still can't tell my in-laws my fears... so yes, all sections of society need awareness..

Sowmya Srikrishnan said...

Been there, seen that :(

Living in India, I was never in denial though...I kept talking about it to my daughter and when one of the repeat sessions of good/bad touch was on, she told me about it. It was a neighbour thaatha. Shocked as I was, I just went to his house to confront him. Fortunately for him, he was out. So told his son, warned him to keep his dad away from my kid.

Wanted to blog about it one day. I've cautioned other mothers in my apartment though.

The only problem is how to not keep talking about it to your daughter so it doesnt become the 'most important' thing ever. Or keep her 'in the know' lest she forgets to tell us something. She is all but four. :(

I am a ComplexNumber said...

Thanks for adding the video!!!

tifosikrishna said...

Agree with every word in the post. Well said.

Ganesh said...

@hawkeye - just to give another perspective to this article, im interested in thinking of what could be the way out to control the insatiable sex drives (in whatsoever form they may be) amongst grown ups ! Do u think that opening up the cultural closure on male-female relationships as in the west (even if not necessarily to the same extent) would make us live in much more control of our needs ? or would it lead to further chaos ??

Anonymous said...

Btw, watch Udaan if u get a chance.. Child abuse of a different sort..

ahmedabadonnet said...

Good awareness...
ahmedabadonnet.com

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