Poet, Author, Editor, Creative Writing Consultant

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month -Parents Should Open Communication Channels with Kids

Child sexual abuse takes place because the child has no protection, no one to turn to. A child is trusting and innocent. When something like this happens, the child would not know what it is that is happening to him/her. The terror, the agony, and then the guilt, coupled with the threats of the molester, all of these would add up to silencing the child.

So it is very important that parents keep the channels of communication open between themselves and their children. Parents often drill so much of morality and what is right and wrong into the minds of their children, in order to teach them to tread the straight and narrow path. Yet, they fail to warn their children about those who may have no morals at all as far as children are concerned.  Parents have to teach their children about the ‘right kind of touch’ by others, and the wrong kind of touch.  And in the ‘others’ , the rest of the family members should also be included, the brothers, cousins, uncles and grandparents. Servants should also be included in this list of ‘others’ , even old, trustable, family servants.

 Many parents fight shy of talking to their children, because they do not know how to talk to their kids regarding such matters. Some parents also feel that such talk is ‘dirty’.  They first have to teach themselves that creating awareness of sexual matters, and also making their children aware of the dangers of sexual molestation  is not ‘dirty’ nor ‘shameful’, nor something to be embarrassed about.

Very often it has come to my notice that children are scared of their mother and father, and do not want to discuss anything with either of them, whether it be their dreams or their terrors. Parents, please have an open mind towards your children, you do want the best for them, and you do want them to be safe and sound , especially within the four walls that they call ‘home’.  Be open to their thoughts and ideas, be understanding and compassionate, and try not to be judgmental.  Children need to have someone to turn to and trust with their deepest feelings, and parents need to have the time and ability to understand those feelings.

Parents who teach their children about sex, and about what the right or wrong touch is, guide their children well.  Parents who tell their children that they must be informed if someone ‘wrongly ‘touches them, even if this is done by  a much loved uncle of the family, or a visiting friend of their father’s, are saving their children from a lot of pain. For this, parents have to keep their channels of communication open.

It can happen that the molester is the father himself. In which case, the mother has to be the strong one and the one who supports the child and listens to him/her and takes action. A mother who turns a blind eye or refuses to listen to her child is as much a perpetrator. Mothers cannot claim to be helpless. They have to support the child and get in touch with help from an NGO like RAHI ,or any other, which helps them deal with such traumatic experiences. Anything to do with the family becomes a touchy, sensitive and complex issue, so outside help is required, which works in the form of support and guidance and action to be taken.

However, the first step begins from home, it is important to show love to the child by making him/her aware of the existence of child sexual abuse and incest.  If guidance is required regarding the right age and how to do this kind of awareness creation, once again concerned parents can turn to books on the subject, and to the help and guidance offered by NGO s who work on such issues, like RAHI.

RAHI is Delhi based, but other NGOs are working with such issues all over India and abroad. The bottom line is that Child Sexual Abuse exists, and parents must make their children aware about it, in a gentle and educated manner.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month

When I first starting talking about CSA to people I knew, I got several responses. These responses came from people who were considered educated and aware. These were working women who went out in the world, interacted with an outside world, knew what was going on in the world around them and were not ignorant to say the least. They held well paid jobs. One of these women was a 28 year old (can’t call a today’s urban working 28 year old na├»ve, can you?) who said , when she first learnt of the existence of CSA, that she could not believe such a thing existed. I looked at her in shocked surprise, surely she could not be so impervious to what went on in the world?  Surely she must have heard some stories, some whiff of all this must have reached her ears at some point in her 28 year old life? Anyways, better late than never, be aware and know that CSA exists everywhere, and is often to be found happening within the confines of family life.
The other response was from an Indian lady who lives abroad and is middle aged. She has seen and experienced a lot of life. She is a working woman, holds a very important job, has grown up children. She is aware and alert about several issues. When I mentioned the prevalence of CSA in India, especially that it often takes place in families and that the abuse is done by someone who is either trusted or held in high regard by the victim, she gave an unbelievable response. She said that she did not think that CSA could happen in India, since our religion (sic) would prevent people from doing such shameful things. According to her, it was a malaise of the West. I was so dumbfounded that for a long time I could not speak. Well, now she has become aware that CSA exists wherever there are people, and it is as rampant in India as it is anywhere else.
That is why CSA awareness becomes important. So that people know that CSA exists, that it exists within families, and what to look out for to know if it is taking place within your own family, or happening to someone you know. CSA awareness makes you understand that these issues have to be dealt with, otherwise the implications are great. CSA is hushed, ignore, not made much of, because of the stigma attached to it. So the more people become aware, the more they talk about these issues and bring them out into the open, the more it becomes something that the perpetrators know they cannot get away with without being punished. CSA is a crime against the vulnerable, the tender, the innocent. Awareness is the first step towards action.
Those of you who do want to discuss anything related to CSA, please get in touch with Anuja Gupta of RAHI Foundation. She is there to counsel and help.

Talk today, April 12th, with Anuja of RAHI between 4.30 and 5.30 on Twitter: @CSAawareness

 For more on CSA Awareness, another site : www.karmickids.blogspot.com

Sunday, April 10, 2011

stories connect and reconnect

Rasana writes : Hi Abha,

I read an absolutely brilliant short story recently in the Unison collection. The characterization, the pacing, the execution - everything was superb. I flipped over to check the name of the author and saw that you'd written it.

Congratulations! It is, by far, the best short story I've read in a long time.


She just made my day! The Unison collection is titled "Two Is Company" and available for order online at Flipkart . My story is called "Marked Territories". 

She has a very helpful blog for writers right here! Go check.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Another class: another encounter of the fun kind

This was a fresh batch of students and I was getting better at it. I went with a more relaxed approach but of course the underlying excitement was there, of meeting a new bunch. This bunch had students, a civil servant, a businessman, writers, hairstylist, a yoga enthusiast, a sportsperson, a couple of dancers, a sci- fic lover,  and a lot of enthusiasm. Winter was setting out and spring was on its way in, yet the air did have the element of chill in it. I was early for the first class and as I sat nursing my tea, two of the students walked up to me and we talked before we left for the formal class interactions. They later joked about it, saying they were making sure they got to know me before the others did. J

In class, the ice-breaker was a laugh, with Ramesh and Rama as two characters who were married for thirty years and had grandchildren before a small act of Ramesh’s made Rama decide she could not live with him any longer. He broke the ice and put it in his red wine, and she thought, yuck, how could she possibly put up with someone like this. So she left him and found another guy but the best was that Ramesh was very happy with this separation for finally he could drink the wine as he liked it (with ice) and he also could show his interest in Rama’s lover since he could now proclaim that he was gay and not have any problems about it.

We then worked with an image which threw up all kinds of story ideas from mother earth to performing lemons to a sadhu within the central green pod who was out to mislead the world. I liked the idea of the performing lemon the most. The other tales were of how the blue squiggles were the common man who was non- descript and shallow, the ones on the balconies above were likened to noblemen or controllers of the pod or even jalebis (by one of the students who said she could not think beyond food).

One of the other exercises also produced some very interesting tales. There was a tale of a man buying a lettuce and wondering why the seller asked for hard cash as change and why he could not ask for liquid  change instead, as he sat under a lamplight in the gathering dusk. There was another fantasy tale of how a lettuce could only live so long and then change into a liquid form which could impart its life to another being but become liquid as it did so and be held within a lamp after that. These were very interesting tales, and then one of them brought out a tale of a dancing lamp. So we had homework to do with a dancing lamp or a performing lemon since the photo had a performing central piece that resembled a lemon to one of the participants.

It was a good experience, full of fun and laughter. And work done.