In 2014, a survey conducted by the Government of India, approximately 8904 cases of child abuses were found. In 2015, the number drastically went up to 14,913. Despite the alarming numbers, talking about child abuse is still a taboo in a country like India. The LEADers from Varanasi took up this issue and chose to spread awareness. The LEADer Sushma Choubey from Vasant Kanya Mahavidyalay, Kamachha, Varanasi who led this project was encouraged by the Komal video on YouTube which is recognized nationally. The project inevitably had to start from children who were the victims. Sushma and her team members Ritumbhara, Pankaj and Manjeet visited an orphanage, and conversed with the children intimately, and they openly talked about their own horrifying experiences.
The Imitiaz Ali movie Highway, though mostly focused on Stockholm syndrome, has a very powerful scene where Alia Bhatt’s character confesses to her kidnapper of how she was abused by her uncle as a child. Though the movie does not explicitly show any actual scene of the child being abused, but it portrays how the childhood trauma is carried into adulthood as well. According to Sushma, the LEAD platform provided her an opportunity to materialise her goals. The primary problem faced by her and her teammates was, how to make the children aware of such a difficult social issue. Children are not easy to handle, they are sensitive, curious and scared of the unknown. To implement the project effectively they held a session at Kendriya Vidyalaya, BHU, Varanasi. Students of classes 6 & 7 participated. As the session proceeded, girls started crying which confused Sushma as to how to console those helpless souls. She advised them, they should not cry because they did not do anything wrong.
What the LEAders initiated was not as welcoming to some of the schools as the perpetrators were sometimes hiding there. Teachers were afraid as the children got comfortable with the workshops, specifically the LEADers. The method LEADers adopted is extensively based on the children’s mood and every individual child’s reaction.
In the sessions, they formulated certain steps for the children so they can identify the indications of child abuse. They are as follows:
- See Alert
- Hold Alert
- Alone Alert
- Talk Alert
- Touch Alert
One of the LEADer himself has experienced molestation by a middle-aged man. He was shocked to realise that if this could happen to a young adult like him, it must happen to children widespread. He visited his own village, gathering up boys and asking them about sexual abuse. As usual, the villagers protested vehemently against his methods. He too was seen as poisoning the innocent minds.
Obstacles are only seen if you are not entirely committed to your goal. The LEADers faced a massive resistance from too many other reputed schools when they wanted to conduct this awareness programme. The reasons they cited were stereotypical of the Indian society. Child abuse was called a dirty topic, and talking with the children about this was like poisoning their innocent minds. It is ironic, since the moment a child is sexually abused, he or she loses their innocence. Nevertheless, battling through these hurdles the “Good Touch – Bad Touch” project was successfully conducted by them in 15 schools/community .
Written by: Tirna Sarkar