When we did the survey for our article in Parentous, to understand more about how parents handled the topic of Child Sexual Abuse and what methods they used to talk to their children, we came across a very interesting and common trend where parents think that the children are too young to talk to about, or be made aware of, CSA. I was in the rosy world that my boy is in no danger of CSA. It was being a part of CSAAM, that really ‘opened my eyes’. It’s from volunteering with them last year that I learned more about CSA. How to educate my child? How to make his environment safe? How to let people know that I certainly won’t take it lightly if they touch my kid in a bad way?
Many parents worry about the right age to start talking to their children regarding CSA. So what is the right age? According to my experience, I decided to talk to my son the day that I knew that I was not going to be with him 24×7.
So here are a few pointers for talking to a 2 year old.
1. Give it a name : When Vi turned 2 last March, that is when I started telling him about his personal body parts. Till then I had taught him his ears, eyes, nose, legs etc. As most parents I was shy to name his pee place as his penis and poop place as his bum. But I decided that my being shy should not be the reason for any untoward incident. Because according to certain surveys, children are unable to express themselves when abuse happens since they don’t know what to say. So now my son knows what to call it.
2. Dont touch. It’s personal : Once he knew the names, I decided it was time that I tell him that no one is allowed to touch or do anything to a few parts of his body. His penis, bum and lips. No one is allowed to touch them except amma and pappa when they are cleaning him or giving him a bath. I would repeat it to him every time that I gave him a bath. I was honestly not sure if he understood. He was just 2 years old. Would he?
3. Scream, shout, bring down the house : This next one was his favourite I think. And this little advice made me understand that he understood everything that I told him. This is how: he goes to a creche and one day when I went to pick him his caretaker told me l, everything is fine except when we have to change his diaper. He cries, howls and will just not let you do it. I had a big idiotic smile on my face which spelled mission accomplished. But yes, I couldn’t explain to her the reason since it was a little complicated to do so in french. Also I didn’t tell my son to stop screaming. I didn’t want to confuse him. Better he screams than being non reactive when something happens. As the days went by, he learned to trust his caretaker and hence stopped screaming while he was being changed.
4. He tells me all, I know it all : This was a tip I picked up from A, a friend from CSAAM. She let’s people who interact closely with her son, know that he shares all the incidents of the day with her. From teachers, to relatives and friends. Also another friend, B has shown me a valuable tip. She trusts her daughter and let’s everyone know that. If her daughter and the maid were to give different accounts of the same incident. She would trust her daughter. I know that maybe you may be thinking will children not lie? Yes, they may. But there is a larger picture we need to take into consideration. Firstly letting the child know that we trust them. Secondly letting a possible abuser(it really CAN BE anyone) know that their deed will be out in the open if they dare to. So I tell everyone who might interact with Vi that he tells me everything that happens in my absence(Which is true, he shares it both me and my husband). It’s a small message hoping to ward off possible evils.
5. Tell them again, again and again and then again : Like how you would teach your children the ABCs or maybe older children the multiplication tables. Repeat,repeat and repeat. So that it is ingrained in their brains. So that they are able to know the bad touch from the good touch. So that they can identify when something is not right. So that they tell you if (god forbid) something happens.
6. At the age of 2, my son was able to understand and act on things based on what I had taught him. As he grows up, I will need to bring more clarity into my explanations. Each age and each stage will require me to explain the same thing again in a way that’s appropriate to his age. I am hoping that his father and I will be able to do it as we have been till now.