Tag Archives: awareness

Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month: CSAAM 2014

31 Mar

Would you believe how the first three months of the year ganged-up against us, racing right by and paying no heed to our gasps?

Reluctantly or otherwise, this brings us to April, and another year of Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month on the blogosphere.

CSAposter

Again? Yes, again. It hasn’t gone away, has it? Neither should your attention.

Please direct it to this page, and learn about our partners, the problem, and the crying, aching, screaming need for AWARENESS.

Share the URL with your friends: Facebook, Twitter, email, your own words over a cup of coffee. Whatever your method, get talking.

Join Twitter chats that address the issue from various professional angles (I will be doing one and will update time and date details on this post).

We want to hear your stories. If you have none to share, lend us your ears because the world has far, far too many.

Thank you yet again, lovely readers, for sharing with me this month of personal experiences that break our hearts and make us want a better world for our children and their adult avatars.

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Together

24 Jul

At the beginning of this month, I announced an unusual ‘giveaway’, where we were jointly involved in contributing and none of you knew who the recipient(s) would be. To my base pledge of $50, I would add $1 for every comment received on this post.

67 unique visitors to that post left their comment (one squeaking past the midnight deadline by 5 minutes 😉 ) and together, we raised $117. Sadly, 80% (yes, you read that right) of the unique visitors to that page chose not to share our enthusiasm, and I can only hope it was a logistical issue vs. one of attitude.

Why did I open this up to everyone when I could have quietly slipped my check in the mail, you ask? Why did I invite people from the blogosphere to share, knowing there would be some cynics, naysayers and indifferent folk? Put it down to a case of chronic optimism. Of knowing that it may be my money, but I need it to be OUR attitude. As much as I dislike being preachy and usually save my rather strong views on citizenship for other spaces, I know that alone, I am merely one person contributing to another’s life. Together, that effect multiplies manifold. You may not dash out with your checkbook or sign up to build stacks of sandwiches for the homeless just because of this small effort. You may already be doing things far greater than I will ever dream of. The money you may have raised for worthwhile causes will very likely have exceeded this humble amount we have gathered. But if I got you to think–for even a minute–about sharing yourself with the world, planted a seed about doing something similar or paying it forward in other ways, I’m going to bring out my giant feathered boa and do the chicken dance in circles. (No, I’m not ridiculous in the least, why do you ask?)

Our $117 will be pledged to Ummeed Child Development Center in Bombay, India. The stellar multidisciplinary team at Ummeed (consisting of physicians, occupational therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists, mental health counselors, special educators, caseworkers, etc.) works to serve the needs of children with disabilities across all economic strata. Not only do they work with existing disabilities, they work toward early identification and remedial measures, since disability is a gradient. Nobody is turned away for their inability to pay, and a sliding scale based on income helps families give what they’re comfortable paying. Autism, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, mental retardation, emotional/behavioral concerns, attention deficit disorder, and occupational and speech disorders are among a wide range of disabilities they assess and assist. Inclusion is a goal, as they aim to integrate children of all abilities into the social mainstream. Ummeed serves the needs of thousands of families in my home city that have nowhere else to turn. Try this statistic for size: One therapist can comfortably manage a caseload of 35 clients. In the city of Bombay, a megapolis where levels of healthcare far exceed the rest of the country, there are 500 children with disabilities per available therapist. The need exists acutely, yet funding is hard to come by.

I have worked for Ummeed in the past. Some of my closest friends continue to serve there. Which is why I have an insider’s view of a truly wonderful organization that has, for the past 12 years, been the ‘ummeed’ (hope) of so many families.

Thank you for visiting my blog, for joining in, for inspiring me with your comments, and for being the vocal 20% that acted to make a difference.

Together is better. Together, we’re better. Give yourselves a round of applause. And now jump in for a group hug! 😀

Violence Against Women Awareness Month 2012

30 Sep

Hands up all those who have never heard of or witnessed an act of violence toward a woman.

Thought so.

Starting tomorrow, or today, if you’re anywhere ahead of Pacific Standard Time, we kick off Violence Against Women (VAW) Awareness Month 2012, that will run through all of October.

I’ve shared this with you before and I am proud to continue to extend my support to the cause and the fantastic team of people behind it.

If you have a story to share, or are among the lucky ones not to have a violence story of your own, hop over.

Read, write, spread the word, encourage friends/family to speak up, offer support. Just don’t be an ostrich and pretend all’s hunky dory, and that if it doesn’t affect you directly, you’re going to sit pretty and not let it affect you at all.

This initiative doesn’t promise to change the world. It is intended to remind you–if the daily news doesn’t do that already–that violence, frequently gory, life-altering, vicious assaults on women’s bodies, minds and spirits, is far from declining. It could be happening next door to you as you read this. Or definitely down the street from your comfortable couch. Don’t believe me. Just read the statistics. And for the love of god or glitter, do your bit. Here’s your chance.

For more information on how you can help or contribute a post,

Write to: vawawareness@gmail.com

On Twitter, follow: @VAWawareness and RT our tweets

On Facebook, ‘Like’: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Violence-Against-Women-Awareness-Month

 

So am I going to see you on http://vawawareness.wordpress.com? 🙂

April for Abuse Awareness

8 Apr

All through April, Indian bloggers from several countries have come together to raise awareness about child sexual abuse on the blogosphere; sharing survivor stories, debunking myths, listing red flags, answering questions and providing guidance from parents and individuals/organizations who work in the fields of mental health, child development and media.  

Since we began 9 days ago, many, many stories and insights have been shared, along with pointers on how to shield future victims. If you hop over to the CSA-Awareness blog  (and I strongly encourage you to do so), you’ll notice a large chunk of the material consists of survivor stories. CSA, you see, isn’t just about children who were/are abused. It is as much about children who grow into adults, carrying the scars and trauma with them for a lifetime. There’s guilt, there is anger, confusion, pain, vulnerability and shame. Some move past it and cope the best they can, others struggle with their emotions every day. But everyone, with the exception of those who have entirely repressed the experience or those not old enough to consciously remember, can recollect the denuding of themselves in meticulous detail. And I say this not as a victim/survivor, (for I am blessed to have been spared that horror), but as a therapist who has worked with sexually abused children. Therapy can help retrospectively, but prevention, without a doubt, is the option we’re looking to exercise.

Here are a few home truths that can help us all:

When it comes to child sexual abuse, there is no stereotype. Not for victims, not for perpetrators. You cannot look at a person and know. Destiny experienced vaginal penetration at 9 months from her mother’s then boyfriend. Christina at age 3, from her own mother, who in turn had been shared by her father’s friends at 13. A much-loved uncle groped his 12-year-old niece at family lunches every Sunday. A teenage cousin experimenting with his sexuality, the household help who saw his wife annually, the mother of an affluent classmate. It is true, however, that in a majority of CSA cases, the child/adolescent knows and trusts the perpetrator.

Abolish the culture of shame surrounding the victim. If a friend’s home were burgled, would you be ashamed and think s/he should hide the fact? Admittedly, sex is more complex than robbery. Which is why the sense of violation is that much deeper. This is a crime, a very serious one, and it’s terrible enough that a child has to be at the receiving end of it without having to process additional feelings of shame, mortification and blame. No child invites sexual abuse, no child asks for it, no matter how “well-developed” or “mature” s/he looks. I will interject with a disclaimer here: it is not unnatural for children to express curiosity about their bodies and feel flattered when showered with the physical attentions of an older person they like. That still does not justify touching their bodies inappropriately or making gestures, suggestions and/or remarks that are graphic and sexually inappropriate.

Children need to be given a sense of personal boundaries, even in a casual, everyone-is-an-uncle/aunty culture such as ours. Talking about good touch-bad touch, naming body parts appropriately and keeping channels of communication open without showing embarrassment or disgust will go a long way in helping your child say no or tell you if someone is making him/her uncomfortable. If this means you need to get comfortable with your own body and learn to talk about touching and anatomy, please do that right away. You don’t have to launch into the how-precisely-you-were-born spiel. Keep it simple, age-appropriate and positive. Your child needs to know you’re willing to listen and that s/he is strong and important enough to say no and have his/her decision respected. In the event that the abuse has already occurred and you are in the know, don’t gloss over it, ignore it or disregard your child’s feelings. Some children will talk. Others will act out. Some will wet their bed and still others will show you through play. Don’t expect them to spell it out. It may be as subtle as “Can X drop me to music practice today instead of Y? Y laughs at me/is mean/doesn’t listen.”  

Pedophilia is typically not a one-off instance. People who use their power over children to gratify themselves sexually don’t do it just once for a lark. If it has happened to you or your child and even if you are absolutely certain you’ve done all you can to ensure your own/ child’s safety, remember the world has other vulnerable children and we’re responsible for each other to some degree. Raise an alarm, get help from appropriate authorities, but do not shove such an instance under the carpet no matter how much you want to forget about it and move on. Survivor stories frequently mention childhood victims confronting their abusers once they had children of their own to protect.

Know where your child is and with whom. If you feel more comfortable calling your child’s friends over rather than have him/her go to their home, go ahead and do that. Better paranoid than sorry in this case. Taking him/her with you is a better option if you don’t have a trusted person you can leave him/her home with. Even when your child is older (late childhood and adolescence), you still need to know the people in his/her orbit.  

The fact that you’re reading this online should tell you what’s coming next. Predators don’t just come in the guise of sweet neighbors and favorite teachers.  Monitor your child’s online activity and know what sites s/he is spending time on, the friends s/he is making via the internet and whether there is offline contact.

If you’re not sure, don’t ignore your doubts. Get professional help. Consult your pediatrician, ask for a referral to a therapist working with children, read up on the subject.  (If you want a culture-relevant book, try ‘My Personal Safety Workbook’ by Tulir Publications. It costs Rs. 25 and is interactive and informative.) Share your suspicions and information with your partner/family and remain watchful. Even if an episode of abuse has occurred, if you deal with it appropriately, it will not hamper your child from having a full, happy and healthy life.

Yes, this is a murky topic, but know that there are many well-meaning folks out there, committed to keeping a watchful eye and spreading awareness. It’s not all bad, there is much love in this world and may you and/or your child be at its receiving end.

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If you wish to discuss this subject further, I will be taking questions from readers/parents/anyone interested at CSA-Awareness’ tweetchat site:   http://tweetchat.com/room/csaam   on Wednesday, April  13, 10.30—11.30 pm Pacific Standard Time, which is Thursday, April 14th, 11 am—12 noon Indian Standard Time.  You will need a twitter ID to log in. See you there.