Statistics provided by the World Health Organization in their factsheet (2017) titled ‘Violence against women’ state that 1 in 3 women face sexual harassment. One of the many facts published by the Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence against Women and Girls, an initiative of UN Women, states that up to 50% of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16.
Human trafficking, sexual violence and harassment have become a staple element of everyday news. Considering the fact that we live in a digital world and that children have access to phones right from a very young age, cybercrimes are also a very prominent threat. With so much violence being perpetrated against children, it’s important to teach the girl child that it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when she is on her own.
Going by the saying ‘parents are the first teachers’, you are the best person to teach your child about personal safety. It is important to inculcate a sense of awareness right from a very young age and help your child think smart and develop a strong character.
Here are some tips that parents can give their girl child to ensure she remains safe:
For primary schoolers (ages 6–9)
- Information about self: Children should know their full name, home address, and phone number. They should also know the names of three trusted adults and ways of contacting them if the need should ever arise.
- Situational awareness: Situational awareness is extremely important and can be taught with the help of some very simple methods. For example, ask your child to notice three things around her or the shortest route to the exit in a closed space. You can use fun games to teach your child to be situationally aware, a skill which will prove very useful in the long term
- Safe and unsafe touch: Teach your child the difference between safe and unsafe touch, and reassure her that you will believe her words, no matter what. Do not explain it as good and bad touch as a bad touch can also feel good. Do not allow your child to be hugged and kissed by someone she does not want to be touched by just because she is in the ‘cute’ age. Children know when they are in an uncomfortable situation.
- No-go-tell: This follows the above tip. Teach your child to shout ‘No’, and then to ‘go’ and ‘tell’ a trusted adult if she ever feels uncomfortable or unsafe.
- Child helpline number: Ensure that your child memorises the Child Helpline number – 1098 – and dials it in case she feels she can’t speak to any known adult. Perpetrators of child sexual abuse are most often someone known to the child.
- Stranger danger: Sometimes, in your presence, your child could feel emboldened to talk to strangers, for example, the door-to-door salesman. She might then speak to other strangers even in your absence. Explain to your child that she should not speak to strangers, travel with them or take/eat/drink anything from them, whether you are present with your child or not.
- No wandering alone: Teach your child to stick to the routes you have shown her and always travel in the company of someone. Discourage her from discovering new places alone.
For preteens (ages 10–12)
- Self-defence: It is always a good idea to teach your daughter how to defend and protect herself in any dangerous situation. Along with aiding her to stay safe, it will also give her a sense of confidence, which can deter someone from trying to harm her.
- Always be alert and aware: Again, situational awareness is super important. Teach your child to mentally prepare a plan of action for any situation. Known locations or people do not guarantee safety. Hence, it is always important to be on guard.
- Trust your instinct: Women and girls have an innate skill of sensing creepiness, be it a glance that is too long or a touch that is uncomfortable. Teach your daughters to trust their instinct and pay heed to it.
For teens (ages 13–18)
This is the age when girls are discovering themselves. It is also the time when they feel attracted towards someone. Attention from boys might seem like a compliment but teach your child to be a strong, confident and assertive young woman.
- Say NO: Understanding the value of consent is essential. Teach your daughter to say ‘No’ if she feels uncomfortable and not feel pressured by anyone under any circumstances.
- Open communication: As your daughter grows, it is natural that she might want to spend more time with friends, see new places and experiment. Let her know that you are always there for her, encourage open conversations especially about things considered taboo and explain reasons for curfews and ensure they are met.
- In the digital space: Your child might already have a phone and be active on social media. Make her aware of the dangers present online and encourage caution. Tell her not to share personal details online or befriend someone she doesn’t know.
- Awareness: Yes, again! Make your daughter aware of the different types of harassment and to speak up against it whilst always ensuring her own safety first.
Here are some ways of assessing whether your child is facing any safety issues:
- Is your child happy?
- Does she show any signs of fear or distress?
- Does she have any suspicious bruise, scar or pain?
- Has she become secretive?
- Are there any sudden behavioural changes?
- Is she comfortable with her friends’ circle?
- Does she try to avoid going to public spaces? If so, why?
- Does she feel comfortable travelling in the school van/mode of transport?
–Renita Siqueira, Communications Officer at Safecity
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