Mothers, Aware! – Payal Shah Karwa

Mothers, Aware!

Once upon a time in a village there was a secret mythological story about a Goddess who bathed naked in the village lake in the dead of the night. It was a known secret but no one dared speak or discuss for fear what the other villagers might think. No one even ventured near the lake for fear that the Goddess might curse them and other such superstitions. One day a group of children got curious and decided to see for themselves if the Goddess really existed. They hid behind the trees and waited. At midnight they did see a lady walk into to the lake and start undressing herself. The children were dead scared and ran away, but one of them stayed back to see what actually happened. When she uncovered the pallu from her face and her body the boy saw it was blackened with soot. The boy then realised that it was not a lady but a man in a woman’s dress! Now in his dhoti, the man put down a sack he had carrying on his shoulders and waded into the lake. He washed away the black soot from his face. The child immediately recognised him as a wanted thief. The thief had been raiding homes since years and managed to escape for his disguise.

The child then ran back to his village and woke everyone. The villagers were angry that the boy had screamed and shouted about this sensitive and hushed up story of the naked Goddess. But then they realised had he not found out the truth and raised an alarm the thief would have continued looting the villagers. The next night when he came to the lake they nabbed the thief for good. No one got robbed from thereon.

This is a parable can be likened to the issue of child sex abuse. Most of us are scared to talk about it. Maybe not scared but shy or hesitant. We know it is happening but we are afraid to talk. It robs our child’s childhood yet we are afraid to talk. It is a community problem but still we are afraid to talk. I think it is time we Mothers become like that brave kid, discover the truth and warn others about it so we can together nab the problem and protect our own children.

My interaction with some Mothers in the on the issue of Child Sex Abuse was heartening as I saw more of them keen to know more about protecting their children. Probably because since past few years media is reporting news and cases about Child Sex Abuse making it a household word. The question is how can a Mother protect her child and help others do the same?

The first step is in self-education– educating oneself about Child Sex Abuse by reading up, going for workshops by NGOs, urging the schools to conduct such discussions etc. Every child is different, every lifestyle is different. So by educating yourself you can figure out what steps work best for you and your child.

Secondly, Mothers must get themselves comfortable speaking about sex and probability of child sex abuse with your children in an age-appropriate way. The reason why our mindset about ‘sex’ is so conservative and negative is because our elders fed us with the same ideology. We need to break that and look at sex as a natural healthy human phenomenon. And when that happens we can speak to our children normally about it, in a way they understand without making it sound shameful or dirty. When you can get them comfortable you can educate them properly about protecting themselves about sex abuse as well.

And third, we should encourage other mothers to discuss, share and open conversations about CSA in theirown forums. The exchange of information is always beneficial and leads everyone to sympathise rather than make it hush hush. Mothers are natural protectors for their children. She knows him/her better than anyone and is instinctive about the child’s actions. Who better than a Mother to understand and take the necessary steps in protecting her little one?

As a mother myself and writer of The Bad Touch, I urge all Mothers to take the onus of speaking, sharing and self-educating herself about Child Sex Abuse. Of course we need not get paranoid about it or follow the child like a hawk but instead take the effort to educate the child and equip them to protect themselves. So Mothers don’t just beware, but be aware.

By my next article I would be in a better position to share some more tips on how to do that. Till then keep spreading the word through Child Sex Abuse Awareness Month!