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stop child abuse

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I was waiting for the tiny van to come. It was already later than the usual time. Finally I see the silhouette of the van as it turned the corner – the familiar yellow very soothing to my eyes. My aching legs rejoiced. The little boy inside almost jumped on me and wanted to be carried. But I was tired and wobbly, the extra pregnancy weight making me a bit unstable. I asked him to walk. He happily obliged after waving a bye to driver uncle who smiled at him. The little chap gave his hand in mine while he chatted animatedly. The mother and son walked home that was just a street away.

This was my 4-year-old son and I. I had just quit teaching at the school. I personally knew the driver uncles and aaya aunts at school. Every child at school was supposed to address them as such. I also knew most teachers. My son loved most of them as they always pampered him extra. But he was extremely scared of the PT Sir. The young man was extremely strict. He had no qualms in using the wooden ruler on the palms of children for excuses as small as unpolished shoes or talking in the line. Many of us had directly spoken to him but he insisted that it was all okay in the name of discipline. The Principal, a very gentle soul also turned a blind eye to this PT Sir.

As the incident of the rape of a 6-year-old girl child in a Bangalore school flashed all over the TV and newspapers, every single parent grimaced and felt angered. As my younger son persistently asked me what rape was, I didn’t know how to best answer him. Yes, he knows about good touch, bad touch but what do you tell a 7-year-old child about rape? It is terrifying that with repugnant crimes against children being on the rise, the first hit is trust. Don’t trust the neighbor! Don’t trust your teachers! Don’t trust your drivers and helpers! Don’t talk to a stranger! Don’t accept anything to eat or drink from a stranger! We are becoming paranoid and correctly so. Every friendly smile is being questioned and a hidden motive looked into. Alas, the innocence is all but lost!

In all this anger and confusion, a note was sent from my children’s school to all parents. The lines that addressed “Your child, our child, our responsibility” and went on to address the steps the school had taken to make our children safe helped in soothing some frayed nerves. Parents across schools all over the city and the country were distressed when the incident of rape of the little girl came up in the media.

The callousness with which the said school handled the incident shocked the most. Instead of providing succor to the affected child and parents, the school tried its best to hush up the incident and also mislead the parents. Not only was the school at fault in not acting against this criminal offense but their approach to ‘save’ their own reputation produced a bitter taste in the mouth. This from a school that was reputed and charged hefty fees which by default meant that they would be more conscientious and caring! The incident once again highlights the issue of background checks of teachers. Imagine how many criminals and pedophiles are working in the guise of teachers in schools putting at risk hapless, innocent souls every single day. I shudder to think of it.

For our children, the school is their second home and the teachers their surrogate parents. Imagine their trust being violated in the worst possible manner in school. Where do we even begin rectifying the situation? These are some tips for parents:

  • Teach even your very young children about good and bad touch.
  • Watch any changes in their behavior especially something sudden.
  • A small child can be often very confused, withdrawn and fearful if physically and verbally abused. Always take up their complaints seriously no matter how fantastic their stories may sound. It gives them confidence to openly communicate with you.
  • Keep in regular touch with the teachers.
  • If they take school transport, do check if there is a female aaya in the bus who handles the children. Else insist that the school provide one.
  • Talk to your child every single day.
  • Don’t hesitate to report teachers whose behavior is suspicious or violent.
  • Don’t hesitate to reach out to the police. Criminals must not be allowed to go scot-free.

With slow sustained pressure, I hope we can make all schools fall in line in terms of following a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to child abuse.

When you are dealing with children, whether it is a crèche, a playschool or a full-fledged school, it is important to be sensitive to that little child who trustingly entrusts his/her little hand in yours with a smile. If you think of violating that trust ever then the consequences must be so horrible and swift that every predator must think 10 times before committing that crime.

Can our schools and police ever promise us that day?

Apart from signing online petitions and attending protest marches there is precious little that we can do. And a few days down the line, the news will die just like the multiple other such incidents that take place in our cities everyday. How do we keep this movement alive till all schools and police machinery fall in line?

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62 Thoughts on “Stop child abuse!

  1. Good words Rachna… I tried writing about this last night and I just couldn’t get myself too.. :(…Hats off to you for this post..unfortunately in today’s times, children have to grow up much faster than they should… Why 7, I dont think we knew about sexual abuse till we were 12 or 13… I dread to think what the world will be like for the future generations…

    • I guess they are forced to grow up younger. After all we have to initiate these topics to children as young as 3 years old :(. I have been feeling so angry, depressed and helpless. Oh how the child and parents must be suffering. My heart goes out to them.

  2. Rahul on July 22, 2014 at 10:22 am said:

    A very sad situation and those who are in power are also just spectators rather than putting their act together! Faith is a casualty in every such situation and the trust in goodness is on the wane!

    • I agree, Rahul! I fail to understand how such demons can be shielded. I shudder to think what society we are leaving behind for the kids :(.

  3. A post packed with information, Rachna. It’s a big bad world out there, and I guess the training needs to start early with the little ones. Tell them whats acceptable form of contact. and what isn’t. I dont think I knew about sexual abuse till about 14. And even then, that was because of reading. Sigh. What has the world come to? I even followed my sons van the other day, just because I was concerned.

    • You are right! It pains me to begin their education this soon. It pains me to be untrusting of just about everyone. It really feels like a jungle out there. And I don’t know if things would improve for the better :/.

  4. well what can I say. my 4.something son used to cringe at using female toilets in malls and wanted to start using rhe ones meant for men

    I usually asked some man entering or leaving to help my son because i never enter male toilets but my heart always raced while I waited outside

    what a sad state our country is

    • Oh, that sounds really scary! I had to push my sons to use the ladies toilet till they got old enough to go on their own. Just did not have the nerve to send them on their own. Seriously, what is wrong with this country?

  5. Pertinent post Rachna. The callous approach of the school was really disturbing. As you say, slow but sustained pressure is what’s going to work.

  6. Rachna…absolutely crucial and need of the hour article….I am a mother to a 6 yr old boy…every time he is out maybe for a play on the park or to his school on his own…I worry…as news like this creeps into my mind. It’s not just a newspiece as I feel my son is unsafe there being out…such is the situation. So do I rob him away from simple pleasures of childhood with that much of fear and don’t do stuff…yes zero tolerance policy is a must and a vigil and alert mind and constant communication both with your kid and schools might aid…but until then the law and order policy against such heinous crime should be stringent and implemented to set example….perfect article

    • Thanks, Chaitali! I do agree. What can we do when we live in such dangerous times? As much as we hate it, we have to ensure the safety of our kids first even if it means that we take away some of the joys of their childhood. I wonder when the day will dawn when we will be able to rely on our law and order to deliver :(.

  7. YOu are right .. in a few days time this will be forgotten and the school will go on making what it is doing now .. MONEY .. until some other issue comes and then SOMEONe will point out , Oh yeah this happened in blah blah school in bangalore ..

    Such are the ways of our society..

    The thing is No one cares, and I know many will raise eyebrows but truthfully tell me who cares, yes we care but for our own. and that is what needs changing , what happened in school someone somwhere knew about it , or got to know about it did they do anything .. No.

    Till that changes things wont change because the first reaction is how to put this under the carpet, no one thinks of the child or the CRIMINAL, the school authorities thought of their school reputation first .. that needs to change..

    the need is to keep harping about it , NOT to let people forget .. and when people dont forget things change only then, the parents of children studying in that school need to change school, and when money goes down the school will do something for sure

    what is the world coming to I wonder

    • Yes, the school must be punished in the worst possible way. It should be hit where it hurts monetarily. But you know we are not as callous. We do care about other children and other parents. Our hearts go out to the little girl and her parents and what they are going through. And that is the reason why we are seeing so much action on the ground. The question is — will it be enough to bring about some real change? Or will the status quo continue once the furore has died down? What is the world coming to? What a world we are leaving behind for our children? It turns my stomach!

  8. I don’t know what to say… Schools were supposed to be safe..I feel very angry when they don’t want to acknowledge that they are indeed responsible…As always you have covered everything that we can and should do and ofcourse what was wrong…

    • I feel so frightened and angry, Naba, so helpless. How do I protect my kids? How do I protect myself? it is just so horrifying what is out there on the streets. The moment they are out of my sight, I worry. Seriously what times are we living in?

  9. The incident has angered me, disturbed me so much. I am wondering why no action has been taken against the school. The school did such a brilliant job in covering up. Everyone’s conscience has gone for a toss. There was a maid, a teacher, a doctor, the management, so many people involved apart from the actual rapists that it makes me question the entire belief system on which the world is running.

    • I completely agree with you, my thoughts being the same. What did the school achieve? How could they be so callous? How could they be in the business of education children? Is there nothing beyond money these days? Bad times indeed!

  10. It’s so shocked how demons under the name of teachers are harming young children. The Bangalore incident is a shocker committed by the Guru and it sends shiver down the spine. The schools should do a background check, you right but what bout’ our lenient laws. I was shocked to see those a******* mercilessly beating blind students.
    Yest while watching news, something cropped in my mind, while we respect our teachers and are grateful to them, they should never abuse their position and if they do, they should be taught a lesson. I am losing hope in the system.

  11. janu on July 22, 2014 at 5:45 pm said:

    What is the world coming to? As small kids we would go to school walking and that too without an adult accompanying us. We used to roam the streets and our parents did not have a clue as to where we were. And we were back home on time and they did not have a reason to worry at all. Now, it is unsafe even inside the homes. A valid post in lieu of what is happening now. All the channels on TV are talking about measures to change the system…we can only hope. We are still barbaric not having evolved at all.

    • Exactly, Janu! Just about 3 decades back, life seemed idyllic. Why even that much? I have travelled alone all over India when I was working even late nights never once scared that something untoward will happen. Now I am scared even when I drive my own car with the way people leer and intimidate. I am scared every time a stranger smiles and talks to my children. How sick has the world become?

  12. We must not forget that society is exposed to every little detail on the internet.Fact is that even in smaller towns it is accessible…..you know how much can one see on internet.Our society too is evolving and I feel parents must take absolute care of their children when at home.
    Most people don’t agree with me,but,present day TV serials and songs/ lyrics are very suggestive .Do,we agree with the kind of clothes one sees Malika Arora Khna wearing during item numbers? Hence,it is a combination of various factors.Since,it concerns our child,we have to keep our eyes and ears open.
    Did you hear UP Governor yesterday when he said. ” Even God can not stop rape” .

    • I agree. All little pieces have ended up creating this giant monster. And nothing is under our control. All we end up doing is taking away freedom and happiness, bit by bit!

  13. The cost of all this is the trust. That is so true Rachna. We will have a generation of paranoid people – afraid to trust anybody. In the aftermath, one also realizes that at stake is also innocence – not only of that poor girl but also of so many other kids. Has innocence become a luxury – a thing of the past – that we can’t afford our children to have any more. We lead lives of fear. Truly gone are the days when kids could play, explore places, talk to people with gay abandon. But thinking of that man,a man who was also a father to a 2 year old girl, committing this is truly incomprehensible. How come there are more and more dysfunctional humans in the society. Where have we gone wrong ?

    • Very valid points, Ash! The casualties are both trust and innocence. Innocence has become a thing of the past for sure. I think perversity always exists in society. It is there in the most developed societies. Where we are failing is in our urge as a society to hush up and cover things. Why don’t people actively do what is morally right? How could the school think of covering this up?

  14. A very relevant post Rachna. In this troubled world, we need to be extra careful for the sake of our kids. I threw away my job just to be with my kid so that I don’t have to leave him at the mercy of strangers.
    Though there is a school van, it scares me to the core. No aaya in charge and they keep the door open! How careful will 3-6 year olds be? I complained to the school management but no action was taken. In our route, the transportation still lacks safety procedure. Now I have the added responsibility of bringing him home from school. So what? I get to interact with his teachers everyday. I have seen many school buses which lack proper safety precautions. What are they waiting for? Another tragedy to strike?
    School authorities should be more responsible.

    • I understand, Preethi. The reason why I work from home is similar to yours. I think about school transport, we must be behind schools if they don’t follow rules. In my children’s school, the school buses have always had lady attendants to help the children. The whole problem is that schools like cutting corners to make extra buck whether it is public transport, background checks or hiring enough teachers and attendants.

  15. If the current PM thinks, it is just a matter of few minutes to make a law for rapists. A few years back in AP, there was an acid attack on college girls. The criminals responsible for it have been put in jail. But, will that stop the acid attacks? Not at all. Guess what happened next? The then CM YSR ordered for an encounter of those fellows. Everyone cheered. Though I am not a big fan of him, cannot stop appreciating. If such rules don’t come, these kind of incidents won’t stop Rachna, unfortunately. I lost trust in online petitions. All we can do to protect our kids is teach them, talk to them and ask them to communicate. We need to be on vigil round the clock. These incidents can make any carefree parents paranoid, including me 🙁

    • I agree. As parents we have to be on tenterhooks all the time. Just teach our children and protect them in whatever way we can. I don’t know which way this society is headed, Latha. It is so distressing seeing how the school and the police handled this issue.

  16. A very relevant post, Rachna. And some great words of caution and advice for parents and guardians. I don’t know what the world has come to or where it is going, when children can’t even trust their teachers. This is such a shame. Absolutely horrific and unacceptable.

  17. such a shocking incident! I don’t have the words 🙁
    We send our children to school to learn, its home to them – away from home.
    Teachers were placed next to God :-/
    and now this!! Scary!!

    power packed post with a lot of info Rachna. Thank you 🙂

    • Thank you for reading, Pixie! It is just rape and rape in the newspapers. 3 year olds, 6 year olds no one is left alone. Perverts are on the prowl and caution is really important :(.

  18. I wonder why schools don’t do proper background checks before hiring the staff,considering paedophiles look for jobs that bring them in close proximity of children. The skating instructor who was finally arrested had a history of inappropriate behaviour with his students. Why didn’t schools share this information? Why is it we always wait for a grievous crime before the authorities spring into action?

    • Yes, Purba! I think most schools do not do background checks in India before they hire. They may just glance at the certificates and letters of recommendations. Come to think of it, we have so many teachers who come in the gated community and teach children swimming, karate, badminton, skating etc. I wonder if any of them get their background checks done. And the worst part is of schools themselves. They want to stay away from conteroversies so they don’t bother informing the school ahead. As it is the schools do not maintain any shared database of employees. The whole system is a mess and the price is paid by innocent children. Even now, we have the CM and police making perfunctory noises. I doubt if anything substantial will come out of it. For starters, will the school even get punished?

  19. As a parent it’s real hard to witness and harder to tell your child what’s bad out there in the world. I think, we have to be careful and proactive as we can’t expect much from our system. Sad, very sad indeed.

    • True, Saru! That is what parents have to do. Be vigilant and inform their kids and pray for the best every single day. What a tragedy this is!

  20. Very sad & distressing, Rachna.
    Hate to see the news these days.
    What sort of a world are we living in?
    Small kids aren’t even spared…

  21. I have not slept well since that day, Rachna! Everyday new horror stories are coming to light adding to the anxiety of parents. My 3 years old travels by bus and I feel so insecure. It is true that even an innocent gesture like a smile or a pat is looked at with suspicion. I was so proud of my little girl’s friendly nature, but now I am asking her to be wary of people and not talk to anyone she doesn’t know. These really are terrible times. Worst part is these incidents do not even shake the school authorities, they are only worried about the money they make any which way. So what, if a few innocent lives are destroyed for it! 🙁

    • I understand, Priya! Hugs to your and your little one. Even I have to constantly tell my children not to get too friendly with strangers. How sad is that! Indeed, what do the schools care? From a service they have become money-making exercises. All they care for is there own profitability. I think sustained pressure from a group of parents can bring about change.

  22. My mind fails me when I try to find soem solution, any solution to this ailment. I have none…and I think other parents like me are as confused, tired, scared. I shudder at the mere thought of my child being in a dnager as such. Yeas, we need to be very clued in to how and what their day comprises when they are away from us. Teaching them good touch, bad toch is necessary too… Amidst it all, I do agree somewhere their innocence is lost, especially when we can’t let them be (completely) the way they want to. i can’t have my child go play in the playground without keeping a watchful eye. i can never be totally free from “the thought”…and neither can she. She is always wary of strangers (cuz i taught her that) and making friends is not as easy as it was for me when I was a child….damn!! this is tough parenting and a very trying childhood.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Rachna.

    • So true, Kajal! Every time an incident like this happens, my despair, anger and confusion increases. I am always keeping an eye on my children when they go out to play. Seriously, I have become paranoid. Even sending them to their friends’ houses leaves me queasy. There are just too many factors that are not under our control these days. And anyone getting friendly makes the alarm bells rings. How tragic has all this become :(. Yes, it is a very trying time for us parents and younger kids who don’t even understand why their innocent childhood is put under scanners.

  23. I was just appalled at the insensitivity displayed by the school authorities!!

  24. Rachna,

    As long as teaching is a ‘stop gap’ career choice for people, thing like this will keep happening. I seriously think that the selection criterion for a teacher should be a lot stricter than that for selecting officers for the armed forces. A complete psychological profiling is a must. I have seen too many horrible teachers in my life… and so must you have.

    People who haven’t the aptitude for teaching little children, shouldn’t be allowed to get close to them.

    But then, to put such a profiling in place, teachers would need to be paid a lot better than they are. Once teaching is elevated to being a viable, respected and COVETED career option, many a little mind would be saved the trauma that a bad teacher subjects them to.

    • You have hit the nail on the head, Dagny! Teaching is a completely underpaid profession. And so many teachers I come across give a poor name to their profession. Just his PTI, I was speaking to my younger son’s class teachers. I was telling her that threatening children with dire consequences was scaring my poor boy even though those threats are not directed towards him. She turns around and says, “Your child is a ‘good’ child. There are some bad children who are naughty and don’t do their work on time. As you know, we are not allowed to hit (regrettably) hence we have to resort to these tactics. Tell your son not to worry. This is only said for ‘bad’ children.” And, she is the class teacher for Class 2. I have also heard about the PT teacher scolding and hitting. I have once already given a complaint against him. All this just makes me wonder where teaching and teachers are headed. It is slowly becoming a stop gap career choice for bored housewives. Sorry to use that terminology but clearly they neither have the orientation nor the skill or empathy to teach and nurture young minds :(. I don’t even understand what the solution to this is. We are paying hefty fees then why can’t the teachers be better trained and better paid?

  25. You’ve given some excellent tips. But, to be realistic, how many parents will speak up to the school authorities about these points? Forget speaking up, how many parents will support another parent who speaks up? In the recent case in Bangalore, many parents protested because it was rape. What if it was not rape, but inappropriate touching? Many parents would have looked the other way. If it was verbal abuse, many more parents would have looked the other way. This happens because school education is completely a seller’s market.

    • Your points are completely valid, Pro! Indeed, we are all so caught up in the I, me, my world that we refuse to act collectively. The show of solidarity for this incident has shown that people may be willing to change that status quo. Yes, school education is a business and getting into a good school is tough, very tough. Many parents would not wish to jeopardize that opportunity by being very vocal. I can speak for myself. I have lodged official complaints against teachers in the past when they have verbally or physically hit kids. And every single time the Principal has taken action.

  26. Our social responsibilities and care have lost its values nowadays. Instead of shaping young minds they are being tortured in our country, nothing could be worse than this.

    The guidelines provided in the posts are really worth trying for every parents. Thank you again for writing such an eye opener.

  27. Terrible is the word! Every now and then such gruesome incidents are reported but there seems no end to it. 🙁

    School education needs a serious revamp. Unfortunately some of the teachers are so rude and insensitive that they cause serious damage to the young minds. When a complaint is made to the Prinicipal he or she always supports the teacher.

    The sad part is that teachers themselves lack values or are not trained in soft-skills. Character building and value education gets the back-seat and the only focus remains on covering syllabus and exams.

    Your post is definitely opportune in spreading awareness. Thank you.

    • I agree, Dilip. School education does need an overhaul especially the attitude with which education is imparted. I can’t talk about other schools but the Principal of the school where my children go is very proactive. Every single time when there was a complaint against the teacher, he looked into it seriously and got the matter resolved. I do agree about the training part. Teaching is no longer a passion and being so underpaid, it does not attract the best of talent. The sad part is that the schools charge hefty fees yet pay so little to teachers and do not train them either. Thanks so much for reading and for your insightful comment.

  28. I have a 7 month old daughter at home. And I just don’t have any idea what kind of world she ll be stepping into. Sometimes I am roaringly furious. Sometimes I am just dumbfounded.

  29. Whenever I see a school bus, when I see parents waiting with their children for their buses, when I see children getting off the bus in the afternoon, I shudder imperceptibly. I scan the faces of the little ones to see signs of trauma. If this happens to me, who has finished raising children in much safer times, I wonder what would be going through the minds of parents of today.

    You say that you pay hefty fees and expect the schools to be safe. I would say that you living in a fools’ paradise. the fees is for the central AC, the fancy cafeteria, the AC buses and fancy gyms, not for the basic things like security and safety or even good staff and teachers. And talking of police, can we trust them any? . The noise has to be kept up, even stepped up till the situation changes.

    • Yes, I agree, Zephyr! Even I study the faces of young children, their innocent smiles, the skip in their walk… Yes, I know that the schools overcharge and don’t pay attention to the basics. At least in my children’s school, there are no AC buses or classroom or cafeteria or gyms. It is a very normal school where the teachers and Principal are still approachable and the children still seem to have middle class values. Since this incident has come to light, the school has been taking various measures to tighten its own systems and also to educate the children further about safety. I am happy that they are doing that. But we all know that more needs to be done. And then law enforcement is another whole problem altogether. Always a pleasure hearing your thoughts.

  30. Sage advice, Rachna. I hope that school chain is made a severe example of to serve as a warning bell to other schools. Even if government does not take action, all parents should boycott that school and run it down to bankruptcy.

  31. This incident is truly shocking and the way the school handled it is outrageous. Agree, putting pressure on the authorities by way of protest marchs and raising voice against such crimes and having open communication with our children are the only things we can do till stricter rules are enforced!

    • The school has opened for now with police presence and new rules in place. I shudder to think of the children who have to go. And new controversies cropping up. It is all so horrible!

Do not leave without commenting. I love a good conversation :).

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