SEXUAL ABUSE ARTICLE SERIES– 2
What Kind of Approach Should be Embraced in Struggle Against Sexual Abuse?
In struggle against sexual abuse, adults are the responsible ones, not children.
Our perspective on the prevention of sexual abuse should be to tell adults not to abuse children before teaching children to protect themselves. Teaching children to say “no” is not the only way to protect children from sexual abuse. Children already know how to say “no” and often say “no”. The important thing is for adults to hear and pay attention to these reactions. However, abuse in which the child does not say “no” is still an act of abuse and the adults’ responsibility. Therefore, it is adults’ role and responsibility in preventing abuse mainly.
It is the duty of adults to acknowledge, respect and protect children’s rights of bodily integrity and autonomy. It is essential for adults to approach sexual and physical abuse of children from this perspective, for ensuring effective and rapid prevention of sexual abuse in society.
- consider the best interests of the child anytime anywhere,
- control whether the children are in any situation that could harm their lives,
- admit that every child is different and unique,
- include children’s opinions in their decisions, and create an environment for them to express themselves,
they can literally protect children.
Children remain silent when adults do not listen to them.
Without questioning the attitudes of adults who do not give children the freedom to speak, do not listen to the words of children, do not hear their “no”, do not care, and do not keep their promises to children; it is not realistic and consistent to try to prevent sexual abuse with slogans such as “The child is silent, you should not be silent for them” or “Be the scream and voice for children”. Children do not keep silent; they tell everything. Children talk not only verbally but also through their actions and inertia, silence, behaviors, and facial expressions. They express their feelings through creative means such as plays, paintings, songs, and role play. It is also the adults’ responsibility to provide all these tools to the child to create a safe space and communication channels, to be good observers. When we see children as individuals, listen and respect their choices, we prevent them from keeping silent and give them the freedom to speak.
The most basic element that will support children is to ensure they feel like individuals and strengthen their self-confidence, hearing what they say and taking their existence into account. Whatever children tell you, listen to them carefully. While listening to them, being at the same level where you can keep eye contact with them. Thank them for sharing their feelings with you. If you ignore the children’s questions and do not hear what they are saying, they may find it difficult to talk to you about any negative experiences they might have or to seek support from you.
Change starts with us.
Physical contact and touching are not the only ways to show love and compassion to another person. Love and compassion can also be demonstrated through verbal expression. When you do not hear children’s “no” and insist on physical contact, children do not have control over their bodies; they start to think that you and other adults have a right to touch them whenever and however they want. Making promises to children in return for kissing or hugging, cutting off communication when they do not, getting offended or not speaking to them; gives them the message that pleasing others is more important than their own will. This causes them to subordinate their needs and desires, and makes it difficult for them to establish their personal boundaries. These messages can make children more vulnerable to abuse and unwanted acts by adults.
It is important to give children the choice to kiss or hug others. So they know that they have a say over their bodies and that other people must respect those decisions. This way, they can recognize an adult’s disrespectful or abusive behavior directed at their bodies, know that it is not true, and express themselves better on this issue.
As adults, our perspective of children and children’s bodies greatly shapes how we address sexual abuse and what we can do to combat abuse. Starting to change ourselves is the first step of social transformation.