I’d rather my child were rude, than raped

child molestation at school - Parenting resources by ZenParent

Another four-year-old child was sexually abused in a Bangalore school yesterday.  I go to sleep every night in pure and unadulterated terror. Terror of pollution and food creating cancer in my kids, badly-driven school buses being involved in an accident, terror of them being abducted when I go out with them. But my biggest terror comes from imagining what happens in their lives the many hours they are away from me in school.

Every morning when I see them off in the school bus, I look at the driver and wonder if he is as decent and kind as he looks. The day there’s a new driver my terror goes into overdrive. What if this one is a pervert? I have sleepless nights the odd times when my child complains of any discomfort in his or her privates; I literally feel on fire with fear and dread. Maybe I am overanxious, maybe I am paranoid. But after seeing that Bangalore in 2014 reported six child rape and molestation cases, and 2015 saw four, including the one yesterday in a southeast Bangalore school, I think I’ll err on the side of caution.

CCTV cameras were supposed to be the big answer to reducing molestation on school campuses. But what’s the point of those cameras if there is no one to monitor the footage? In the report I’ve linked above, it clearly states that the temporary PE teacher lured the child to a lonely part of the school campus and then proceeded to molest her. If someone had been monitoring the CCTV camera feed, Romeo, the perpetrator in this case, would have been stopped way before he undressed the child. A great solution, but as always, a complete fail where implementation is concerned. I wonder how many schools have someone to actually monitor the CCTV camera feed that they so enthusiastically put up. When I spoke about this on Twitter today, a teacher in a school replied saying she is surprised how they let her work there without doing a background check on her. Food for thought, I think.

schools under video surveillance to stop child molestation - Parenting resources by ZenParent

In the absence of safety for children, who can barely speak up for themselves, who are taught their gurus are godlike, and who are taught to be polite, no matter what is done to them, I am at a loss when I think how to protect my own kids from this sort of a fate. What more can I do than be grateful that my children are untouched, as yet, and hope for escape till they grow up?

I try and live my life with values of trust and faith in this world. I try to teach my kids that this world is beautiful and true. But in the face of this diabolic brutality towards kids who have no way to voice their discomfort, what am I to teach my kids? The only thing I can think of, immediately, is body autonomy and the confidence to be assertive.

Stop teaching your kids to hug every friend of yours. Unless they want to. Stop teaching your kids to always be polite to adults. Stop teaching your kids to be compliant to someone just because that someone is an adult. Agreement should be earned, not demanded because of age. Stop teaching your kids to quietly accept whatever adults say. Stop teaching your kids to not be argumentative or register protest. Stop teaching your kids to be pliant, good Indian children. Don’t teach your kids to be servile to teachers. Maybe then, they’ll scream and attract attention when a creep molests them. Most paedophiles have been known to stop, step back momentarily or change their mind entirely when a child protests or is assertive about his or her own body. I know it sounds extreme, but honestly, I’d rather have rude children than raped children.

I realise it’s the opposite of who we were raised. But we live in scary times, and desperate measures are called for. Background checks on all staff, constant monitoring of CCTV cameras installed in schools, more than one staff member at any given point, quicker trials of charged paedophiles and adequate punishment, public interest programmes on child molestation undertaken not just by NGOs but state governments, teaching your child good touch-bad touch: the way I see it, all of these things need to be implemented together. The commitment must come from parents, schools and governing bodies in order to ensure that each day a child spends in school is safe. There are no guarantees, of course, but it’s important to do our best.

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Tonight, go home and hug your children extra tight and thank whatever it is that protects you — god, the universe, your faith — that your children are untouched and their childhood is still theirs.

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