The warmth of the mother as she lovingly embraces you, the pat of an appreciative father, the hand-holding by siblings when you are going to the cross the road, the friendly hugs from friends during play and celebrations – all these are etched in mind forever. The friendly neighborhood uncle who used to touch you down there citing he was checking something, the cousin who used to kiss you citing teaching what people do and the teacher who fondled and pinched you inappropriately under the guise of punishing you – these touches too are etched in memory. The difference – while you yearn for more touch in the former set, you shudder and shrink inside when you think of the latter set.You withdraw more into a shell and start looking at a majority of touches as ‘bad’ and have trouble trusting individuals of a similar profile.
Recently, in one of my sessions, we explored the topic of the Good Touch and the Bad Touch. When the presentation and the short film were over you could see a lot of moist eyes in the audience.Parents and teachers nodded appreciatively in understanding the challenges and realising the need for educating their kids at home as well. You might recollect and shudder, how many times we have left our kids in the hands of strangers, in the hands of relatives and in the hands of doctors and maid servants. The Delaware paediatrician who was arrested on account of more than 1000+ counts of molestation and rape, the church dignitaries alleged of sodomising young boys, the #MeToo campaign that had so many real life accounts of relatives, family and strangers employing the bad touch should be grim reminders of how serious the issue is really and why is the education important.
I noticed one girl, probably a ninth grader, shedding tears as the movie went on. When asked in front of the audience, she remarked “I have a friend who underwent a traumatic experience of this nature, i totally feel for her”. The principal, students and the staff seemed to be happy at this answer and went on to other topics after consoling her. I, however, had my own doubts.
I met her after the session and called her aside. I asked her – “was it you or was it really a friend that you spoke about?”. She broke down again inconsolable and narrated her ordeal during her 4th and 5th grades when a neighbour used to call her over on one pretext or another and took advantage. She had never mentioned this to anyone else for fear of being punished by the friendly neighbour an impacting relations. When she used to see that her family members were very close to the person, she thought she may have been mistaken and he wouldn’t do anything bad as her parents wouldn’t have allowed it. After sometime, she realised the futility of thoughts and started staying away.
Now, she has isolated herself, rarely goes outside to play, hates mingling with new people and shudders at the very mention of that individual. Imagine, a girl who should be playing happily, making new friends, discussing exciting career options and seeing the world is now confined to the corners of her house just because of one man’s lechery. It is going to take a fair amount of counselling to get her out of her shell, and to set her life on the path to normalcy. But yes, we will achieve it.