India is among the top 5 nations with the highest cases of child abuse, and this is mostly due to lack of awareness. Let’s help our kids learn about body safety and stranger danger with the help of these simple and child-friendly books about child abuse.
What do you feel when you hear of a little child being attacked and molested? Maybe it’s unbridled rage that makes you want to go out and slit the throats of the animals that did it. Maybe it’s unimaginable sorrow at the plight of the poor parents. Or perhaps it triggers paranoia, where you look at each and every person with suspicion and dread. Maybe you just block out the whole incident from your mind because thinking about it will give you sleepless nights.
It’s also possible that you do all of the above, which is probably what most of us in the country are doing right now. Besides all these, another common feeling is the frustration that comes from feeling helpless, from the fact that such things are happening around our country, and as parents, we really do not know how to help.
But that’s where we’re wrong. We can help, and the first thing to do is to educate our children about sexual abuse. Just seeing the word ‘sex’ makes many Indian parents squirm in their seats, and the thought of talking about it to their kids is just too much for the Indian palate. But the only way out of this mess is more education and more awareness, and parents have got to take the initiative.
Facts about Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) in India
April is observed as Child Abuse Prevention Month in the United States, where several organizations renew their efforts to protect children from abuse. In India, we have organizations like Save the Children, Childline India Foundation and UNICEF India who work tirelessly to help children, but they are still struggling. With India being among the top five nations having the highest rate of child sexual abuse, we have a huge problem on our hands. Here are some more shocking facts about child sexual abuse:
- India has the world’s largest number of CSA cases
- A child is sexually abused every 15 minutes in India
- 57% of child sexual assault victims are boys
- Majority of abusers are personally known to the child or in a position of responsibility
- Most cases of abuse are reported from children in the age group 5-11 years
- One in four families do not report the abuse
- 96% of perpetrators are men
As you can imagine, these are numbers of reported cases, and the actual number is likely to be much higher. The average Indian’s attitude towards sex is one of the biggest reasons many cases go unreported. It is also the main cause of lack of awareness among children, many of whom don’t realize that they are being abused and that they should tell someone about it. The lack of awareness also breeds several myths, such as ‘only girls are abused’ or ‘sexual abuse only happens to children from poor families’. Then we have the victim-shaming culture and the joint family system, where the norm is that the entire family involves in raising a child, which makes the child vulnerable to abuse from family members. With the huge premium that Indian society puts on respecting adults, many children don’t even dare say ‘No’ or report something after it has happened.
Raising Awareness about Child Abuse
Raising awareness is the most important task we have in today’s scenario, both among parents and children. Parents need to lose the ‘sex is taboo’ mentality and children need to be educated about right and wrong touch, getting out of dangerous situations and reporting an incident. This education needs to start right from toddlerhood, since kids as young as 2 and 3 are getting abused.
It’s understandable that this is a difficult topic to discuss with our kids. Especially if you’ve never had such a conversation with your own parents. But we have to start somewhere and the best way in my opinion is through books. There are several books out there written specifically for children, to educate them about this important topic, and they are a great way to start the conversation and get it going. The earlier you start, the easier and less awkward it will be. It also makes it easier to discuss as the child grows older. Here are 10 books about child abuse, that are ideal for very young kids as well.
10 Books about Child Abuse for Young Children
This is a great book to start the conversation by teaching kids that their body is theirs and theirs alone. It tackles the topic of preventing abuse from a very basic standpoint. The benefit of this is that you can start this book with kids as young as two years old. The disadvantage is that the information is not thorough enough, especially as kids get older. The best way to use this book is as a starter, and then move on to more detailed books.
2. I Said No!
This award winning book is among the most popular child abuse prevention books for kids, and with good reason. It can be used to introduce young kids to the topic and also works as a detailed guide for older ones. The book covers everything – what private parts are, how to spot ‘red flags’ in people’s behavior, how to practice the ways to respond in such situations and lots more. Based on a real life event in the author’s life, this book is rather expensive, so you might want to look it up in the library.
3. No Means No!
No Means No – a very, very important message that every human being should understand. The earlier this message is introduced, the easier it will be for kids to internalize it – so they can say ‘No’ to someone they’re not comfortable with as well as respect it when someone else says ‘No’ to them. This book is good for kids aged three and above, which is an ideal time to start this conversation about being confident about speaking up.
Kids are often taught that they should keep secrets, and this is often misused by abusers to keep the child from reporting any event of abuse. This book teaches kids that some secrets HAVE to be told, to a person they trust. This book is an excellent guide for both parents and children, since parents also need to know where abusers may lurk, the signs of an abused child – all through the course of a story. Good for children above the age of five.
5. It’s MY Body
This is another popular book on the topic, targeted towards younger children. My personal opinion is to start this book when you’re teaching your little one the parts of his body. As you teach the names of eyes, ears etc., emphasize the fact that it’s HER hand or HIS tummy. This book helps little kids take ownership of their body and let them know that they have control over what happens to it.
The title of this book might sound rather cynical for innocent little kids, but it emphasizes an important fact – not everyone you see can be trusted. The book is better suited for older children, as younger kids may not understand the concept of stranger danger well enough. The book uses many examples to show kids that not everything that looks nice or polite is good, and they need to be aware at all times.
This book teaches kids important lessons about personal boundaries – through fish! Yes, the unusual pair here helps in making this serious topic palatable to young children without scaring them. This award winning book is a great pick for all ages, as it explains in a very clear and child-friendly manner what kinds of touch are appropriate and what are not.
This book, written by an Indian author, is perfect for parents of young kids who are feeling awkward and wondering how to start explaining body safety to toddlers and preschoolers. The book is full of colorful illustrations and covers a range of topics about the body – what’s private, how to stay clean, right and wrong touch. The bright pictures keep kids hooked, while the straightforward language makes it easy for parents to talk about this topic.
This is another great book to help kids understand the difference between secrets that should be shared whatever maybe. The book uses terms like ‘secrets’ and ‘surprises’ to help children understand the difference between the two, and which ones should not be hidden. It also tells kids who they should tell the secret to, making this a well rounded book for kids aged five and above.
Studies show that in most cases of child abuse, the perpetrator is someone known to the child. This makes it crucial for kids to be empowered to resist any show of physical affection, even from someone known to them. This is especially true in Indian society, where many are unaware of personal space and elders are expected to be treated with respect bordering on veneration. This book is perfect for such scenarios, especially for parents, who can take out the stress of saying ‘No’ to a friend or relative.
Always consider the age of the child when introducing books about child abuse to them. You want to educate them and let them know it’s a serious topic, but you don’t want to frighten them. Don’t just read a book and leave it at that – take the conversation forward. Discuss the story in the book, check out any resources related to it, and maybe even use role play with the child’s dolls and teddies to learn how to react in dangerous situations. We would love to wrap our children in a huge, soft bubble of safety, but that’s not how the world works. They are bound to be alone and they need to learn how to protect themselves in such scenarios. With proper awareness and education, we can fight this evil and make the world a safer place for our children.
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