How To Talk To Your Child About Rape

Across our nation and the world, there is an alarming rise in the number of cases of rape. To ensure the safety of our children, we need to educate them about the reality of such assaults.

By Hannah S. Mathew

How To Talk To Your Child About Rape

11-year-old girl gang-raped by 22 for 7 months in Chennai; 18 men including security guards, arrested — The Economic Times (17 Jul 2018)

Every time a report, such as the one mentioned above, appears in the media, many of us voice our anger and anguish. But the horrific truth is that the unpardonable act of rape is becoming more common. In fact, Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi has termed the issue of child abuse and rape a 'national emergency', as there are at least 100,000 cases of rape pending in the courts.

In recent times, the media has also joined the crusade against rape by trying to report as many incidents as possible to help bring the perpetrators to book. As a result, every other day, we are exposed to headlines screaming about such heinous crimes. Since children too hear or read about such incidents, it is imperative that parents are prepared to answer their questions on this issue.

However, talking about the abhorrent act of rape with children needs to be done in a sensitive and sensible manner. Here are some tips on how to begin the conversation with your child and what you can include in your discussion:

  1. Don’t wait for your child to talk about rape. Instead, initiate the conversation. But, before that, make a list of what you want to talk about with your child. Also, plan how you will respond to questions that you may not be able to answer at that time — in such cases, you could tell him that you need time to think about the answer.
  2. Explain what it is. This can make both you and your child feel uncomfortable. However, you can begin the conversation by talking about the concept of safe touch and unsafe touch. Then, go on to explain how unsafe touch (by anyone, male or female) may lead to rape or assault — which means hurting or touching her private parts.
  3. Rape is a crime and the rapist must be punished. Make your child understand this fact. Make him aware that children of both genders can be assaulted or attacked in this manner.
  4. Gang rape and rape by a person of the same gender are facts your child may come across and find confusing. Inform her that the invasion of an individual's private space and body can be perpetrated by either a group of individuals or individuals of the same gender as the victim.
  5. Tell your child that rape is a sensitive issue and that survivors of rape need to be dealt with delicately. Impress on your child that it is not okay to discuss details the way the media often does. For, media reports can sensationalise and desensitise its audience to such crimes.
  6. Your child has the right over her body. Teach your child that she should not allow anyone to touch her without her consent. That she has every right to deny others the permission to hold, hug or touch her. Teach her to shout 'NO' if anyone disregards her boundaries. Encourage her to talk to you about any such attempts against her so that you can ensure her protection.
  7. The act of sex needs to spring from feelings of love and care. Rape is the opposite of love. Teach your son to respect members of the opposite sex. Make him understand that he should not engage with members of the opposite sex against their wishes. Teach him that molestation, rape and assault are forms of violence.
  8. Rape, pregnancy and murder are closely related, as evidenced by many rapes that have ended in pregnancy or murder. Teach your child to be alert to her surroundings, especially when she is in a public place. Or if she is on her own. This can help her spot signs of danger and avoid getting into a unsafe situation. Encourage your child to inform you if someone is making her feel uncomfortable, is overly affectionate, is stalking her, trying to get intimate with her or, making unwelcome sexual advances.
  9. Language that is sensitive can help drive the message home. How you refer to persons of the opposite sex, the labels you give to survivors of rape and, the words you use to discuss the issue itself, make a difference. Your respect for the opposite sex and the sensitivity with which you deal with the topic of sex, sexuality and sexual assault will also influence the way your child perceives it.

God forbid, but if your child ever tells you that she or any of her friends has been sexually assaulted or raped, believe her. However, check the facts thoroughly before you proceed to take action against the alleged perpetrator. Also, enlist the help of a professional counsellor and give your child all the support she needs. Repeatedly reaffirm and reassure that she is not at fault, as you help her heal.

Hannah S. Mathew is an Assistant Professor of English, a Freelance Writer, Soft Skills Trainer, Learning Content Developer, Mentor, Diagnostic Counsellor and devoted mom to a teenager.

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