The physical and mental health of a child are significantly impacted in case a child is abused. Unfortunately, Pakistan is one of the nations with a high prevalence of child sexual abuse. There is a great need that us to inform and educate our children about sexual abuse. Talking openly and honestly with them about the difference between "good touch," which is a safe touch that makes kids feel cared for and supported, and "bad touch," which is an inappropriate touch that makes kids feel uncomfortable and unsafe, is an effective way to prevent child sexual abuse. In this article, we will discuss the impacts of sexual abuse on children, signs of abuse in children, the difference between ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch,’ different ways parents can talk to children about ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’ and different resources to report child sexual abuse.
The Harmful Impact of Sexual Abuse on Children
Child sexual abuse can have serious effects on a child’s life, including physical and mental health issues, problems with forming relationships, and issues with education and career. These effects are carried on to adult life.
- Sexual abuse can cause different diseases like high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, malnourishment, etc., besides the fact that sexual abuse can result in injury to the organs of a child.
- Psychological or mental effects of sexual abuse can range from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to anxiety, depression, and lack of self-esteem.
- Abuse can impact a child's future relationship with their parents, siblings, friends, and partners.
- Research has found that sexual abuse can adversely affect a child's education performance and, consequently, their future career prospects. Victims can often find it difficult to focus at school, find it hard to understand things, and might leave school altogether.
Signs of Sexual Abuse
Child Sexual Abuse symptoms can be categorized in three ways – physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms.
1. Physical symptoms
Physical symptoms of sexual abuse are as follows,
- Severe headache without any medical reason,
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI),
- Swelling and scratches around private parts,
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
2. Behavioral symptoms
Behavioral Symptoms of sexual abuse are as follows:
- Washing oneself frequently,
- Change in eating patterns/ trouble with eating,
- Lack of concentration,
- Fear of people and places,
- Trouble in making friends/ forming bond.
3. Emotional symptoms
Emotional symptoms of child abuse are as follows:
- Display of extreme anger,
- Rebelliousness or disobedience,
- Lack of self-esteem,
- Suicidal Thoughts
If you observe any of these symptoms in a child, talk to them in private and assure them of your support. And if necessary, seek professional help immediately.
If you are not the child's parent or guardian, keep the information confidential and report it to the parents only.
Important Note: These symptoms are not exhaustive and the child may also show any other signs and symptoms as well. Also, these symptoms are not only related to the sexual abuse but for any other reasons too, similar signs or symptoms may appear. Therefore caregivers need to carefully understand the situation of the child.
Holding Conversations with Children
Holding a conversation about sexual abuse with children can be hard, especially in Pakistan, where it is a taboo topic and is often hushed. But it is extremely important for your child’s safety.
Here is how you can start the conversation with your child:
1. Teach children body parts names and about body privacy.
Teach your children the names of their body parts, including private parts, so they can openly communicate it if they need to tell you something. Besides teaching children the names of their body parts, it is also important to teach them about body privacy. It is important to tell them that some parts of their body cannot be touched, photographed, or shown to other people.
2. Make the conversation fun and safe.
You can talk about the risks of sexual abuse through a story or any other appropriate method. Make it fun for your child by teaching them about it through a song, rhyme, or story. Example of ‘Good Touch’ and ‘Bad Touch’ rhyme is as follows,
Make sure that the conversation is not one-sided.
3. Assure your child that you are their safe space.
Assure your child they can always talk to you about anything they want. Tell them that they should never keep a secret from you. Teach them never to feel ashamed or scared when talking to you.
4. Teach your child what to do in case of ‘Bad Touch.’
Teach your child to say ‘No’ and run away if they experience a bad touch and immediately report it to a trusted adult about it. A trusted adult can be their teacher if they are not at home. If they are at a friend or relative’s house, teach them how to call you if they experience any bad touch.
5. Tell your child that no one can take photos of their body parts
Along with teaching your child that no one can touch their private body parts, it is also important to teach them that no one can take photos of their body parts. It is important because many pedophile criminals sell children’s photos online.
6. Teach your child the difference between ‘safe space’ and ‘unsafe space’
It is important your child knows which space or situation can put them at risk. Safe spaces are spaces that are crowded and where help can be found easily. While unsafe spaces are isolated and hard to get help in. Also, teach them how to get out of unsafe places.
7. Online safety
Many children these days have access to phones and the Internet. Pedophile groups online target children and blackmail them into sending them inappropriate photos and videos of themselves. Besides monitoring your child’s phone, it is important to openly talk to them about how they can become a target online.
Note: It is also important for parents to avoid uploading and sharing photos and videos of their children on social media platforms, especially publicly, as it can lead to misuse of the photos and can put children at risk of being kidnapped and sexually exploited.
8. Repeat the conversation.
You should periodically talk to your child about ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ touch and remind them that you are there for them if they experience anything inappropriate.
Good Touch vs. Bad Touch
1. Good touch
Good touch is the kind of touch that makes a child feel secure and safe. Good touch does not make the child uncomfortable or unsafe. They are appropriate. Examples of good touch include hugs and kisses by parents or grandparents, handshakes or high-five with a friend, or parents changing a baby's diaper. Good touch can also include a doctor examining a child but ensuring it always happens in the parent’s presence.
2. Bad touch
Bad touch is a touch that is inappropriate and unsafe. It makes the child feel scared, confused, and uncomfortable. It causes injury or harm to a child. Bad touch often involves touching private parts or touching under clothes. Another way a bad touch can be identified is when the person who has touched the kid asks the child to keep it a secret or not tell anyone about it and threatens the child in case they tell anyone.
Note: Sometimes, some children do not want to be touched, even if it is a good touch. It is called ‘unwanted touch.’ In this case, never force a child and respect their ‘no’. This can help children learn body autonomy and setting their boundaries.
Reporting Channels in Pakistan
If you are in Pakistan and you witness any kind of child abuse, you can report it to authorities through the following resources,
Ministry of Human Rights – 1099
Sahil Head Office Helpline – 051-2260636, 051-2856950
Child Protection Unit, Balochistan Police – 081-9201262
Child Protection Authority – 1121, 021-9933065
Child Protection and Welfare Bureau -042-1121
Child Protection and Welfare Commission – 1121
If you need any kind of information regarding public services in Pakistan or you need any further information about ‘Good Touch’ and ‘Bad Touch,’,’ you can send us a message through Bolo’s Facebook page. Our trained moderators answer your questions Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm.