An infant, who is unable to communicate, will not be able to even express their trauma. So as parents you must look for signs that suggest something abnormal in their behaviour. Like, internal bleeding and incessant wailing could be predictive about some abnormal injury your baby has gone through. However, inappropriate touching and non-touching activities also fall under the purview of child sexual abuse.
The non-touching abuse would be things like showing pornography to them, exposing adult genitals to them, or taking the photograph of their genitals. Hence, children aged one-three years can be abused in a non-touching way as well. The kind of abuse does not matter; it is the trauma that the child is inflicted for life.
Bedwetting, sleeping problems, withdrawing from people, scared to go to certain places, change in eating habits, sudden outbursts of anger, are some of the signs that suggest sexual abuse. Pinky Virani, writer, journalist, human-rights activist, in her book ‘The Bitter Chocolate’, states some of the physical symptoms indicating sexual abuse are:
- Bleeding from genitals, anus or mouth and pain and discolouration in these areas
- Consistent pain during urination or bowel movements
- Soiling the bed and shivers during sleep
You should teach your child to identify all body parts including genitals. That way they will be able to tell you if something is wrong with genitals or if they are touched inappropriately.
Pinky Virani also writes, “The definition of child sexual abuse, encompasses both adult males and adult females since child sexual abuse, is a crime committed by women as well even if their numbers are minuscule when compared with men perpetrators.”
In the year 2012, Indian Parliament passed a Child Protection Act safeguarding children from sexual offences. It recognises all forms of penetration in addition to penovaginal penetration and watching child pornography as sexual offences.
The biggest challenge for parents is to keep the child safe from abuses but without imposing unnecessary restrictions on the child. So, while it is important to allow a baby to interact with people other than immediate family for development of social skills, parents should ensure that the baby is never left alone for long stretches with others. It is also very important to encourage children to narrate their day’s incidents to parents in details, especially to the mother, so that any unusual incident can immediately be identified. Background checks, verification of documents and references are mandatory before hiring any new domestic staff or childminder.
Finally, though despite best efforts of parents, if a child does fall prey to sexual predation, the parents should immediately seek help of
medical specialists including counsellors, to avert long-term psychological and emotional scarring of the child.