A report from our team who attended a workshop on child sexual abuse with schools at Rotary Sadan, Kolkata.
"BELIEVE THEM WITHOUT DOUBT” - The first time a child tells might be the only time
Perspective building exercise and panel discussion organised by RACSHA (Rise against Child Sexual Harm and Abuse) in association with The Telegraph (YOUNG METRO) on child sexual abuse at Rotary Sadan, Kolkata. The critical masses of audience were teachers, heads of institutions, mental health practitioners, development professionals and the CHP Team( Debolina and Indrani) along with Dr. Hartnett.
After the small introduction of RACHSA by the Special Educator of the Team, the event was followed by presentations and panel discussions. The principal objective of the workshop was to implement child protection tools at school level and increase awareness.
‘Community has a big role to play. Schools are a part of the community’. -Mr. Deep Purkayastha, Director, PRAAJAK & Social Activist
Ms Ananya Chakroborty, Chairperson of West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights shared her thoughts and experiences which were equally relevant.
‘Make our home safe first. Most of the abuse cases take place in home by father/ step father/uncle/neighbour/ teacher etc and child is asked to shut up by other family members. We have to look into the families’.
-Ms Ananya Chakroborty, Chairperson of West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights
In the first panel discussion, Students were raised few valid points that followed:
Why children are unable to tell their parents?
What are the effects of sexual abuse on children?
Identifying ‘signs and indicators' in the children through behavioural changes.
When asked to sum up ‘what can we do’?
A young community advocate summed up:
‘We should believe the child, listen to him/her and ask questions. It’s important to be sympathetic and supportive towards the child.’
Second Round of discussion took part with brilliant speakers. Panellists included Dr. Reena Sen, Board Member, IICP Kolkata; Ms Swati Bhattacharjee, Sr. Editor, Anada Bazar Patrika; Mrs. Hilda Peacock,Director, GEMS Academic International School; Ms Ratnaboli Ray, Founder of Anjali and Mental Health Rights Activist; Ms Anuradha Kapoor, Director of SWAYAM & Women’s Rights Activist; Dr. Jai Ranjan Ram, Consultant Psychiatrist; Mr. Deep Purkayastha, Director, PRAAJAK & Social Activist; Dr. Shamik Ghosh,Consultant Paediatrician.
‘Some important messages were needed to attend to children with disabilities to protect them from CSA (child sexual abuse). Children with disabilities may not understand vocabulary, safe and unsafe touch. Both boys and girls are vulnerable. Made them feel comfortable to talk to us. Gender equality should be included in school curriculum’. –Dr. Reena Sen, Board Member, IICP Kolkata
‘By recognising changing behaviour of children we have to recognise that there is some problem. We have to learn from each other as there is no age for learning.’ –Dr. Shamik Ghosh, Consultant Paediatrician
‘We have to understand what is bullying and where it is coming from and it needs to be in control. Also we need to understand the concept of intent and impact’.
-Mr. Deep Purkayastha, Director, PRAAJAK & Social Activist
There is a common link between domestic violence and child abuse. Among victims of child abuse, It has been reported that 40% children are victimized by domestic violence at their home.
‘Children who grow up in a violent atmosphere are more likely to be victim of child abuse. Children need adults to speak out and break the silence’. -Ms Anuradha Kapoor, Director of SWAYAM & Women’s Rights Activist
‘It is our embarrassment to describe or talking about the body part. Age appropriate languages have to develop’. -Dr. Jai Ranjan Ram, Consultant Psychiatrist
‘Children should be taught this 4 words: NO, GO, TELL, YELL..’ -Mrs. Hilda Peacock, Director, GEMS Academic International School
Moving forward: What policymakers must do
Using, accessing AAC(augmentative and alternative communication) techniques to identify and address the concern of children with disabilities.
Creatively using age appropriate language to explain CSA to children.
Ensuring bullying free environment at schools as a first step towards prevention.
Flagging red alert in cases of sudden silence by children constantly challenging our own biases and prejudices as teachers to understand issues of CSA.
Making knowledge about child development a must for all associated with school education and openness to interact with media with right information, by not speaking to media schools often make them vulnerable to misrepresentations.