Currently, everyone’s social media news feed is flooded with hashtag #Metoo posts . People and especially women from all over the world shared their experiences of harassment under this hashtag. It is not easy to talk about the nightmares you have gone through; you always fear being judged even if you were powerless at the time of that incident. It gave people an idea of the enormity of this issue even though there are numerous people who kept silent.
#Metoo dragged me into the deep sea of emotions and anger, reminding me of everything that I have ever read, felt and heard about harassment. All the sexual assault stories I heard from my friends, all the catcalls, whistles and forbidden touches I experienced growing up as a girl flashed before my eyes once again. It was nice to see that so many people who kept their secrets bottled up because of different fears opened up now on social media informing about their experiences. The powerlessness they once felt during their incident of harassment is finally disappeared because of the power social media gave them to stop hiding and tell their story. The magnitude of “#Metoo” stories is eye opening and it is disgusting to see that this happens way too often than we think; they just do not get reported often. Women and men both can be a victim of harassment but I strongly want to talk about children who are the most vulnerable victims.
Harassment according to me can be anything happened to you without your consent. It can be an un-invited touch on the bus, a catcall on the street, a dirty text from your co-worker or a full-fledged sexual assault. It happens everywhere in the world but in Pakistan people usually ignore it.Growing up, many girls in my friend circle shared their experiences of being molested as a child by a teacher, neighbor, relatives etc but none of them informed their family. It’s like we feel safer to share our pain with friends but very few report it to their parents who can actually do something about it. So what is wrong with our parenting? I m a single woman but I have it crystal clear in my mind that whenever I will have kids, I will make sure to inform them about their bodies as soon as possible and build a strong friendship bond with them. Pakistani Parents need to take a few things into consideration to prevent any future problems in this regard. Here are a few things parents need to do Asap before it’s too late.
TALK TO KIDS AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE:
Sexual harassment is something a number of kids face in their lives, mostly during the ages of seven to thirteen. However, it can happen to anyone; by anyone in any age. Educating children is very important in this regard. Teach your children that certain parts of their bodies are private and no one should touch them. Many parents educate and train their children but there are a huge number of people in Pakistan who do not want to discuss this thinking that the kids are too young for this or that they are safe just because they don’t go out alone. Trust me, there are so many situations where a child can feel unsafe even at your house, so educating kids will be the best decision you will make. You need to develop trust and bond with your kids letting them know the dangers they can face in this regard. No one is asking you to give them too much information but at least they should be able to differentiate between right and wrong and to be able to inform you if they ever feel unsafe with anyone without fear.
TRUST IS THE KEY:
Developing trust is so important; most of the time children never report abuse or molestation to their elders because they think that they will also be considered guilty or get in trouble. They might think that parents won’t believe them just because this situation sounds too bizarre to them. Resolve this with love and trust. Tell your child that you love them no matter what and they can share anything without fear with you. A friendly bond will allow kids to share things with you without any fear.
MAKE “NO SECRETS” RULE:
A molester might use sweet words, bribes, loving gestures or even threat to keep their evil deeds a secret. Sexual harassment is committed by someone who is more powerful than us. It can be anyone a school bus driver, a teacher, an uncle, a stranger they met in the park. The molester can ask children to remain silent about the incident which works every time because kids get easily scared. Parents should educate kids about secret touch. Inform them that if a person touches them improperly and asks them to keep it a secret, they should immediately inform their parents. Assure them that they won’t be in trouble for anything. Build trust with love and communication.
DO NOT TRUST EVERYONE:
Sometimes relatives and family friends can be as dangerous as any stranger on the street, inform your kids not to let anyone touch them in an indecent manner. There should be some boundaries made clear in the child’s mind. For example; hugs or a kiss on the cheek from relatives like uncle/aunt, grandparents are ok but any touch apart from that should be reported to parents. What you can do is to try not leaving your kids even with the people you trust a lot because most of the reported sexual assault worldwide is usually done by someone the children already knew. There are a striking number of kids that are molested by people their parents know as in family friends or relatives. That also doesn’t mean that we should be paranoid and start doubting everyone who genuinely loves your children but it is best not to leave the kids alone with anyone for long time periods.
USE CCTV CAMERAS AND DEVELOP A CODE:
If you have to leave kids with someone such as a nanny or a house-help, install cameras both open and hidden. It will work as a prevention because the potential attacker will know he/she can be filmed which will prevent any assault. Develop a code word with your kids for such situations, ask your kids to remember a code word which they can use to inform about a certain person or a situation when they are around people and cannot tell openly.
TEACHING SELF DEFENCE:
Boys and girls in their early teens should be taught basic self-defense to prevent any bad situation. But the younger kids who are small and exposed cannot do much; teach them to run away or move away from the person they feel unsafe with and to scream for help if alone with that person.
We teach kids to stay away from electric objects to prevent shock, to never touch sharp objects like knives to prevent cuts but we forget to teach about body safety which is essential to prevent sexual assault. I would say all parents should take extra care of their children while growing up and build a type of relationship where kids can easily share anything with parents to prevent any type of future violence and harassment. Stay safe.