Chai & Just Chat hosts a discussion on Child Sexual Abuse Prevention
Chai & Just Chat, hosted by Dr. Nazeera Dawood, brought forth an important discussion on child sexual abuse prevention.The ethos of the discussion was ‘a wounded child,’ ‘a surviving adult,’ and ‘a healing heart.’
Nazeera Dawood [top left] with panelists at Chai & Just Chat session
Dawood moderated a very emotional, open and honest conversation with aglobal panel that also had members from Mumbai. The panelists spoke as victims and survivors. They told their stories, shared the shame and darkness they felt, the low self-esteem days they experienced, how they overcame, and how they journey to healing happened. The panelists also discussed coping and healing mechanisms, sexual abuse prevention, and training programs that have been put together by many, and number of avenues, which are now available today for reporting instances of abuse.
Panelists included: Alli Neal, Co-Founder and Executive Director; Revved Up Kids; Namrata Karamchandani, Co-Founder and Director, Anahat for Change Foundation; Nicole Epps, Executive Director, World Childhood Foundation USA; Sangeeta Pant, music composer as well as songwriter of the award-winning song I Won’tBe Broken; Balaji, TEDx Speaker; Heather Stockdale, Director of Operations, Street Grace; and Asha Lightbearer, Founder of The Fiona Project and HelpforSurvivors.org.
Balaji opened upabout their traumatic childhood. Eppssaid, “Most of the disclosures are delayed and occur in adulthood.” She said that the “actual number of sexual assault instances are much higher [than those that come to light]”. She shared her concern that, “Adult women at the pinnacle of their success have difficulty saying NO, and yet the society expects a five-year-old to say NO to a person they love and likely care about.”She said that, if we, as a society, really wanted to have healthy adults and prevent multigenerational trauma caused by an inability to process unfortunate chapters in their lives, the responsibility really falls on the parents and adults; and it is extremely important to equip them with the required tools to show up, to be safe adults, to provide that safe space and be better protectors.
Alli discussed that the easiest predators are children who don’t know that predators exist, are unaware of what their personal boundaries should be and what’s inappropriate. She said that it is important to provide prevention training to both parents and children, to provide age-appropriate training for identifying sexual predators and the tools one can have handy and be equipped with when they encounter a sexual predator. If a child suddenly loses interest in activities or suddenly avoids coming in proximity of certain individuals, these can be viewed as enormous red flags that something has happened.
Karamchandanidiscussed how ‘naming’ private body parts is sometimes viewed as a taboo in India, but it is important to educate children about privacy and their right to refusal.
Lightbearer emphasized that, “When we break the silence together in numbers, abusers will no longer be able to hide their dirty deeds in the darkness of children’s fear and shame.” She also shared the availability of a cyber helpline that can be used to report online trafficking. There are also numerous child advocacy centers available for disclosure and evaluation.
Pant shared how she felt socially responsible when she observed the candle marches on the streets in instances when a death had occurred due to a sexual assault; but then in contrast, how often the mental impact on a sexual assault survivor went under the covers.
Pantand Lightbearer also discussed alternative coping and healing mechanisms by addressing the subconscious through music, art, emotional freedom tapping (EFT) and energy healing techniques.
Stockdale shared information on how to report and the various avenues available to disclose instances of abuse. She echoed Epps’sentiment that “abuse thrives in silence.”
The panelists discussed how dealing with childhood sexual abuse could be an extremely grueling and confusing process that can feel completely overwhelming, especially given that most of the offenders are ‘not strangers’ to the victims and how most survivors carry their stories silently out of unduly placed shame and guilt. Seemingly simple interactions and situations can suddenly trigger extreme anxiety, panic attacks, stress, illness, depression, and other challenging side-effects. However, fully accepting what happened and releasing the inner demons of self-judgment, self-hatred and low self-worth is the only path to a true healing and a life of peace, joy and freedom. Speaking up may be the single most frightening step that an adult survivor can take toward their own healing, and yet it may also be the most liberating.
- Ashwini Panse
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