Let’s Talk About Sex
Myra, 15, daughter of professional bankers, committed suicide. The reason: nude pictures her boyfriend circulated to his friends. Myra didn’t know whom to turn to and thought it would be easier to end her life than face this humiliation.
Jason, 21, is a porn addict. Jason watches porn extensively, and to fulfil these unnatural fantasies, visits prostitutes often. Jason is HIV+.
Rhea, 12, has gone from a bubbly young child to a quiet, withdrawn girl. It started when she was accused of lying by her family when she charged their favourite son, her uncle, of inappropriately touching her. Uncle now has a free hand and the confidence of others, while Rhea has no one who believes she is being abused.
Myra lost her life, Jason has an infection that could become an incurable disease and Rhea at only 12 is battling depression and emotional trauma along with the physical abuse. What are we as parents and caregivers doing wrong here?
We assume these acts happen to children from troubled or low-income households, but that’s a myth. Terrifying statistics about India tell us that 86% of victims know their abusers personally. One in five teens watches porn before age 13. 90% believe in premarital sex, with 45% of girls opt for clandestine abortions.
India has the highest rate of child sexual abuse in the world and is second in the list of five countries with highest sexual abuse rates. Sexual abuse in India has reached epidemic proportions.
Maybe it’s time for the blinders to come off.
How can we ensure that our children turn to us when they have problems as grave as being physically violated or simply general queries regarding sex and sexuality? By keeping the communication lines open.
Many argue that our parents never had the sex talk with us and we turned out fine, but these are different times and the exposure to our children is immense.
It is important that we empower them to take control of their bodies and for this, we need to teach, trust and start young.
For little children, it’s best to keep it simple and use age-appropriate language. Always use the right name for their genitals, it is the vulva or the penis and not the ‘susu place’. Teach them that some parts are private and nobody is allowed to touch them except the parent or caregiver, and them too only until the age of five.
Wonder what to say to the little ones? Follow a very easy dictum: if they ask, you must answer. They are asking because they are pondering. Avoiding or ignoring will rouse their curiosity more and they will look for answers elsewhere, which may not be the better option.
Another extremely important rule every caregiver must follow is TRUST YOUR CHILD. Children do not lie in these matters. If he or she complains about a friend or relative being inappropriate, believe her and take action. Nothing will seal the faith as much as the security your child has that you believe him/her.
Also, explain to the child that it is never their fault if someone else behaves inappropriately with them.
Make a plan--this holds true for children of all ages. If ever in a difficult situation. teach them to SCREAM--it is the most powerful deterrent. Abusers never want to draw attention and doing so will discourage them.
While it’s easier with younger children, pre-pubescent and teenagers are a very different ballgame. Parents need to remember that these are difficult times in a child’s life. With the changes happening in his/her body and odd but exciting feelings getting aroused, the child very often struggles with guilt and embarrassment.
We can draw from our experiences but we didn’t grow up in the same times as them. Being on the same page is essential to building a bond of trust. These kids have easy access to the internet and we cannot ensure that they are not exposed to unwelcome attention. Again, the only way to do the best on our path is to talk and keep the door open for any queries that may need to be addressed.
Parents should take the time and read up on puberty, sex and masturbation, ill effects of pornography and benefits of abstinence before speaking to the child; but we must speak. Make sure it is not a rushed conversation. Be honest; if you are uncomfortable, tell your child about it; chances are that he/she may be feeling the same and this confession could help both relax.
Allow them to ask as many questions as they want to, but stick to the topic at hand. If you feel there are questions you cannot answer at that moment, ask for some time to get back. Make sure you get back with the answer.
Another important aspect is to talk without being critical or condemning. We as parents have had our children because of sex; so telling them that sex is wrong or bad sends out a very confusing message, which is often carried forward to their marital lives. Teach them safety and teach them the importance of learning to say no.
As parents, we can’t imagine our children as sexual beings, but they are. Educating them about their sexuality should start when they are young; sex is not only about the act but also about their bodies. Instil in them responsibility and respect for their body and build an environment where they don’t hesitate to speak about queries weighing on them. We might not always be there to protect them but if they can be confident and differentiate the harmful from the normal, they will learn to keep themselves safe.