In the past few days, several individual news on rape, that too on toddlers, have dominated the news media. Whenever I see such news I remember my cousin Salma who was a victim of sexual abuse when she was just 10-years-old. Salma's mother, my aunt, was a doctor who had to work late hours, leaving her at home with her entire family. There was lot of people to take care of her, even after that the house tutor who used to come to teach her cousins did something horrible to her that left a scar forever. She did not quite understand what was happening to her when he forced her on his lap. But she was traumatised, that I remember, and she stopped doing everything that a 10-year-old would do- playing, laughing and running around. After a week or so, she told her mother that she was terrified and what happened to her. My aunt was very upset and decided to give up her job. She decided to accompany her as she understood the fact that she cannot fully prevent the risk of her child being sexually abused. My aunt told my mother that she did not think that this could happen to her child, that she will never leave her children with strangers, that she would always keep her children within her eyesight. My mother talked to her about why it is important to talk about body safety and that it's not always the strangers who abuse children. In many cases, the children know the perpetrators. Because like Salma, there are lots of children who have been sexually abused on play dates, sleepovers, in school, on playgrounds and unfortunately, also at home. Both of them decided to talk to us, all the cousins about healthy boundaries and uncomfortable touch. They were always approachable and gave us the comfort of being someone we can talk to even when something has already happened. They asked us not to get afraid talking about these kinds of incidents. Most importantly they talk to us about why it is important for us not to harm others. They told us that it is not okay for us to use tricks or force to touch other people in a way that makes them uncomfortable. I am now 19-years-old and living in another city, far away from my family for my education. But I always remember the valuable lessons that they gave us and why it is important to stand up, fight back, and talk about sexual abuse. Back then there were no available guidelines on how to talk about body safety to your children. But they did it anyway. It is always important to talk to your children about body safety early enough and help them be less vulnerable to sexual abuse.
Bashundhara Residential Area, Dhaka