Child safety is of utmost importance in today’s time. With the increasing crime rate in the nation, it becomes important to address the ‘elephant in the room’ – child sexual abuse (CSA).
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), abuse can be of several kinds, like physical, mental, emotional, psychological or in the form of neglect. CSA is a serious problem not only in India, but in other nations as well.
One small step towards helping children and avoiding CSA, is to understand the different kinds of touch - addressing the topic of good touch and bad touch has become the talk of the hour.
Why should children be taught about good touch and bad touch?
The concept of ‘good touch and bad touch’ (GTBT) is still a hush-hush topic in households and classrooms. Most parents and teachers have a difficult time addressing this topic, but this doesn’t mean that the topic can be avoided as well. Children must be educated on good touch (acceptable touch) and bad touch (inappropriate touch) invariably.
One may argue saying it is too early to broach the topic with a child, but children need to be told about this as they are too young to differentiate between what is right and what is wrong. Teaching them about GTBT will help them deal with a situation that seems abusive, in a better manner. The early the GTBT education, the safer it is for a child.
What can parents/teachers do?
Here are some points to remember before the GTBT talk:
Understand what the children will be told and how it will be communicated to them. If the parents/teachers feel uncomfortable talking about it, a trusted family member/school authority can address the children.
Keep it real
Children are a lot smarter than what most adults think. Keeping it real and factual will help them understand the conversation. Introduce children to their body parts by labelling them as they are.
Keep the conversation casual
Approach the topic in a casual manner. If the tone sounds too serious, the child may not grasp it.
Good touch and bad touch
Having the talk with the children may seem awkward, but parents/teachers need to stay calm and, sound soft and reassuring. It is necessary for parents/teachers to sound casual and least nervous.
Start by talking about the body parts. Introduce the children to the undergarment rule – every part that the undergarment covers are those that nobody is allowed to touch.
Tell the children what good touch means. Tell them that it feels pleasant and gives a sense of affection and warmth.
Help the children understand what bad touch means by telling them that anything which makes them uncomfortable or hurts them is an unacceptable touch.
Children should be taught to say ‘NO’. If anything makes them feel uncomfortable, they should voice it out loudly.
Parents and teachers should befriend children. Sometimes a child may feel hesitant to talk about abuse with his or her parents or teachers. When parents start treating their children as friends and encourage them to talk to them without any hesitation, the children will start opening up and will talk if they face any issue.
Children should be introduced to the concept of ‘no secret’. They should be encouraged to share their thoughts or feelings with their parents. They should also be taught about ‘personal space’ and how nobody is supposed to get into that personal boundary.
Parents and teachers can make use of books to approach the topic. There are a wide variety of illustrated child-friendly books available online and in bookstores.
Parents/teachers need to be observant of the child’s behaviour. Any minute change in the behaviour must be addressed immediately.
Children should be told not to talk to strangers or befriend people they don’t know. There have been many instances where a child has been lured away on the pretext of a gift, chocolate or being a family friend. All these points should be addressed so that children understand what is right and wrong.
It is important for parents and teachers to understand that a child’s consent matters too. Children should never be forced to hug or kiss someone they are not comfortable with. Asking a child “Can I get a hug?” goes a long way in building his or her trust. Parents should also make it a point to be there for their child at any given point of time. Teachers, with whom the children spend a lot of time in school, should also be present for the child in case he or she needs them.
Though the good touch and bad touch talk may not eradicate child abuse, it is a preventive step aimed at creating awareness among children from a very young age.