By Ozioma Onyenweaku
One way we can succeed in ending sexual abuse of children is by involving the children themselves; by helping them to protect themselves. This we can do by letting them know what is on the ground. We have to bring them on board. Even the very young ones.
Do you know that by just teaching a small child the different parts of the body, and showing that there are certain parts of the body that are private which must not be touched by anyone, you are well on your way to protecting that child?
Many parents, because of our culture and upbringing, find it awkward and embarrassing to discuss sex with their children. We must live above that and discard that mentality if we must succeed in this struggle against child sexual abuse. In this era you would be surprise at what they have already learnt without you. It is better they learn it right from you, the parent.
You must educate them about sex. Start as early as possible. Start by naming the body parts. Do not skip any part. Do not give any part any special name. Use the real name for each body part; that way the child would know that there is nothing funny or shameful about any part of the body. For instance, call the penis , penis not dick, rod, babadud or JT. Call vagina, vagina and not winkie, book or kpomo.
Through naming the body parts instruction on sexual abuse would naturally follow. A child should be made to know that certain parts like the penis, breast, and buttocks are special and personal parts. Private parts are personal. They are not toys to be played with.
Those parts are personal and must not be touched by anyone else, mom and dad inclusive. A touch at these parts is a bad touch, and he/she should scream at such a touch. Inform the child that in case of illness, the doctor might need to touch and examine any of the personal parts only as a matter of duty, and that the parents must be there too as the doctor examines the child.
Inform the child too that there are some people even adults who would want to touch her genitals; she must scream and report such a person. Let the children know about the dangers in the society, and teach them at their level how to protect themselves.
So you see that for even the very young ones the message can be passed.
We went to schools on our “Say No to Bad Touch” project. We taught the children that a touch at any of the body parts we had explained were private amounted to bad touch. We demonstrated and dramatized. Few days later a mother from one of the schools called me to inform that her husband had to stop bathing her 3 year old girl because the girl kept shouting “daddy don’t touch my bum bum, it is a bad touch” when the dad was bathing her.
To avoid giving wrong impression to neighbours who could hear her daughter shouting, the dad had to stop bathing her. The mother said they were happy to know that should anybody try any dirty play on their girl that the girl would definitely shout. Did I inform you I got a bottle of wine for that?
You see, that girl has been involved by letting her know what touch is acceptable and which is not acceptable and what action to take to protect herself from the unacceptable.
Please know that you make the children vulnerable to sexual abuse when you fail to teach them about sex in the language they will understand, and about the prevalent abuses. One reference work reported of a convicted child sexual abuser who said, “Give me a child that knows nothing about sex, you have given me my next victim” That was from an expert. We do not need to add anything to that. We can only take the hint and do the needful.
It is a notorious fact that greater percentage of child sexual abuse happens in the homes. If the home is not safe for the child, where else will? Keep a date as we shall be discussing, next, how to keep our homes free of sexual abuse. It is a date.