Childhood sexual abuse: be prepared.

It is time we face the fact that the sexual abuse of children is not an  occasional deviant  act, but a devastating commonplace fact of everyday life” Florence Rush The Best-Kept Secret

Sexual abuse of children happens. It is common and widespread. Like last year, a bunch of volunteers have been spreading information about childhood sexual abuse this month. I hope you follow  @csaawareness  on twitter and their website. On the website you will find interviews with experts in the field of sexual abuse, as well as links to posts by other bloggers on the issue.

child sexual awareness moenth
image from alternative.in

 

Some Characteristics of CSA

Lack of consent

Children cannot grant consent about sex, not because they are ignorant, but because there is no equality between them and an adult, and consent for sex can truly only be given between people on equal footing.

Exploitation

Any sexual contact between a child and an adult is exploitative in nature, Children are manipulated or coerced into sexual behavior by adults who are stronger, more resourceful, and more knowledgeable. They may buy the child

gifts, may persuade the child that all parents teach their children about sex, may threaten the child with punishment or more.

Ambivalence

Children are often found to be ambivalent about what’s happening to them, many don’t understand whats happening. Most know that it is not good, but since they are in a vulnerable position they cannot do anything about it. The sexual acts might be physically pleasurable, and this adds to their confusion, to which they react with ambivalence or by pretending it is not happening.

Force

Children are forced to participate, this can be physical force or more commonly by manipulating children’s emotions and beliefs. They can be threatened, or promised rewards.

“….killing an animal in front of the child and telling her that the same fate awaits her if she does not cooperate, threatening to abuse other siblings in the family, or suggesting that the family will be broken up if the child tells anyone.”

Secrecy

This is related to force, in that the child is also convinced that if he or she speaks up about it, something horrible will happen. eg. Family will break up, mom will leave us, no one will believe you etc.

Sexual abuse accommodation syndrome

is something seen in children who have been abused, they develop a group of beliefs and behaviors described as secrecy; helplessness; entrapment and accommodation; delayed, unconvincing disclosure; and retraction

Whats this information for?

The reason I just described these is to give you an idea how difficult it is for the child to come out of such a situation. This is also why it is very important for parents to start talking boundaries with their children very early. Most experts agree that as early as the age of 3, one can tell a child that the parts covered by her underwear or if she is taught names of her private parts, those, are private and no one should touch them, and if someone does, they should tell their parents, or another caregiver immediately.

This talk at 3 years, of course wont happen if parents are otherwise not open to talking about sex. If you cannot talk to your partner about sex, boundaries and what is acceptable and what is not, it is unlikely you will be able to do this with your child.

If both parents are caregivers, it makes sense to have early talks about sex and boundaries with both parents present.

The house also needs to be a safe space for the child, if when the child complains about other things, or stands up for herself in other occasions but parents respond with anger or ridicule, she will not be comfortable talking about something so sensitive.

Summary

  • Teach your kid to say no, early on
  • Teach her what other people are not allowed to do
  • Prepare with your partner/spouse before you have a child
  • Be supportive and a trustworthy parent in everything, not just talking about abuse.

I dont want to repeat what various bloggers have already said, and here are some for further reading:

If you are a survivor of abuse and want to talk about it, I would love to listen, as would others. If you are a parent who would like some more info or help with talking to your child about this, write to me or the good folks at CSA Awareness month.

Long-form Indian writing- Digest 002

I’ve been trying to find bloggers who write longer posts, and am happy to feature a few today.

My child’s spirit is just as important as her physical health.

Karina Varma (BziB on twitter) and her daughter had a not-uncommon horrific experience in a hospital. If you are a healthcare provider or a parent, this post if of great importance to you.

I have never forgiven myself for those forty five minutes when I let someone tell me that being a mother made me inadequate for a particular situation. But it was an excellent lesson, one that now makes me rabid about every single detail of my child’s care. I no longer accept everything her doctor says. I question everything now. When we went in for a follow up, the first thing we asked him was, if the need ever arose again would he consider us taking her to another hospital. He agreed. He even helped us with names of doctors in other hospitals whom we could meet with and decide on. See why we like him?

Notes from a script lab – Which side of the river do you want to be on?

So what happens in a script lab? Does it really help? If so, in what way? – These are few questions that i have been asked many times since i attended the NFDC-Locarno script lab. Have been thinking about writing a post for a long time but never managed to do so. And so here’s Vikas Chandra‘s post about his experience at Mahindra-Sundance script lab. His script Toothache was one of the eight scripts selected for the lab this year.

Vikas Chandra (@vikSchandra) describes his experiences in a script lab, this is great advice for not just movie makers, but anyone who wants to craft a story.


Ignobel Indians

We might not be winning any Nobel prizes but there is no drought of Ignobel winners from India, from formulas to calculate elephant body surface areas to the physics of hoola hooping. Priyanka Pulla in Open magazine.

Leaving love out in the cold

The playground is indeed the best place to get a glimpse of who your kids are going to be when they grow up. It is also a place to reexamine your filters, clean out the cupboard of your prejudices and open up your world to the lacy fan of possibility. On one such evening, as I watched them, I saw a bunch of kids ranging from 4.5 years to nearly 13 snicker, look goofily uncomfortable and exchange looks with each other when my little girl said “I love you, don’t go” to one of the kids.

Is your child comfortable in identifying what and who she loves? Sandhya Menon tells us about her princess.

Long-form Indian writing- Digest 001

In my last post I outlined that Longform writing on the web has found a new life thanks to apps like Readability, Instapaper and Longreads. My interest lies in finding indian writings that are long from and bring to focus my immediate surrounding. Every week I will present that weeks finds, and hopefully this list will grow as time passes.

Mumbai: Cities within

Sanjay Sipahimalani (SanSip on twitter) hosts a book-review carnival with around 10 recent books that are written about Mumbai.

It’s a chemical romance that begins and ends with the word “Bombay”, where all manner of depravity arising out of addiction is on parade. When the novel moves on from the Seventies in tracing the decline in the characters’ lives, you find an elegy for an earlier time: “Already now there were times when he could feel it slipping away, a way of life vanishing as he watched, the pipes, the oil lamps layered with years of black residue, the conversations that a man would begin and lose interest in, all the rituals that he revered and obeyed, all disappearing.”

He goes on to review Tajmahal Foxtrot, The Extras, Behind The Beautiful Forevers and more books.

A few God Doctors

Dilip D’Souza (DeathEndsFun on twitter)  takes us to the Ganiyari in rural Chattisgarh to a unique hospital. Here, around the year for close to a decade passionate Doctors from AIIMS and other top medical colleges work. The hospital is owned and run by a collective of locals, not by the activists who began the hospital. Some of my mentors and personal heroes work or have worked in this hospital, and so it was a delight to find a lovely long article on it.

As they work, the doctors keep up their steady discussion about what to do next, what drugs to give her. I know the two senior men especially, have years of training and experience to call upon. Even so, the impression they give is of addressing the situation not with jaded formulae from medical school, but with fresh minds, thinking on their feet. While their calm professionalism is impressive and reassuring. I cannot help a quick thought about the difficulty JSS has in attracting talent.

Conditions in Ganiyari are hard, the pressure is relentless. Nearly every day throws up fresh crises that interfere with plans for meetings, training programmes, or documentation. The pressures of their work often travel home with them, and there are the usual issues to think about; of the kids’ schooling, and indeed of life itself in this dusty backwater of India. These doctors gave up the chance of high-profile urban careers to come here, to work like this. And when they respond to this poisoning emergency, you can see why.
Hard work it might be, but it is greatly fulfilling too, working among the people who need their care the most.

 

Some you choose, some life chooses

Shubhra Gupta invites us into her home and tells us about her son who is autistic and what autism means to them. Reality is grim and gritty, and yet, humans find reasons to rejoice. She wrote this in the context of the World Autism Day.

We coast on little joys. He is a powerful swimmer, a fish in the water. We put him on a horse in the nearby stables a few years ago. A few weeks ago, I saw him trot, minus the stable lad, who has always had to accompany him till now; he sat upright, smiling widely, having a blast.

He has learnt to be very clear about his needs: not a silly burger, a pizza, okay? And he is on the whole, despite the now occasional meltdowns, a sunny, cheerful child. When he says a new word, it is celebration time. When he turns around and says good night, without having to be prompted. Or when he waves bye, and races off for his evening out. Little things, but for us, huge steps.

In our sobering moments, we are forced to introspect—what has all this meant for us as people, as professionals, as a couple. There is, of course, the cumulative wear and tear of bad-hair days. Sometimes just a few horrible seconds can be enough to wipe off the strength to face a working day.

Introspective confession of a silently fiddling worker ant

Dr.Swarna Rajagopalan (swarraj on twitter)about her journey as a worker ant in the world of politics and policy

And then at some point, something changed. The world became grey. Daily news became miniscule data points on longer-term perspectives. Outrage faded into observation. Opinion was replaced by study. I guess one way to look at it is that I became an academic. I do have strongly held values, but they became somewhat meta-political. What I am trying to say is they held in a place that was above the daily world of petitions and polemics.
….
The grey universe of the worker ant is strangely similar to that of Nero, who fiddled while Rome burnt.

The Language of High Art

Deepanjana Pal (dpanjana on twitter) discovers a new app that decodes the mystifying gobbledygook that comprises most curatorial notes in our biggest art exhibitions.

The Wall Text:

Art for Bose is a site of contest between context, subtext and pretext. Rather than passively see Banana: Braque, Warhol and Beyond, the viewer is encouraged to encounter the works and engage in the dialectics that inform Bose’s praxis. Bose’s work is part of numerous prestigious, international collections and thanks are extended to the following for their generosity….

Translated for the Critic:

Has thesaurus and isn’t afraid to use it. Photographs, paintings, sculpture and installation. Either the artist has studied abroad or has hired a postgraduate student to write wall text. Can use phrases from wall text if writing a review. Postmodern wanker.

Also featuring translations for Artist, Critic, Gallerist, Aficionado, Collector and Random visitor.

……

I hope you munch on these over the weekend.

Mail me at uberschizo at gmail with your favorite long-form writing from an indian author or tag me in your tweets on twitter. I am uberschizo on twitter.

Reading: Help a logophile out please

I read a lot

Not counting professional work, I read for about 3 hours a day. These last few months when I’ve been bed-ridden and vacationing, I read for over 8 hours a day. Yes, I counted. In the last year I have read more than a hundred books and thousands of blog-posts.

I love reading long articles.

Most websites are not designed to help you with reading long form articles. Till Readability happened, I would tweak websites via firebug to make long articles readable. Readability has changed everything for me. One click and 2000 word articles in NYRB are not an eye sore.

I cant find Indian long-form writing easily

Yes, Caravan tries, ugly typography notwithstanding, but I have a suspicion that the best longform writing by Indians on the web happens in blogs. Are there other outlets? I know about Longreads. I was thrilled to find a movement that cares about reading. I even have my own page on Longreads. But Longreads, now, is all about American/British writing.

Help me out here

If you are on twitter – tag me when you find lovely long-form writing by an Indian author in a Blog or media outlet. I am @uberschizo.

Or, email me: uberschizo at gmail

I care about the beauty of the writing. I care about what you have to say. I like writing that goes beyond the usual conclusions. I know this country is messed up, I know women are treated badly, I know healthcare sucks. Stating that much is not enough. Tell me a story. Or give me a new idea. Say something hilarious or outrageous. Make me think. Please.

I will help you

On my blog, I will run a regular digest of such long reads. I will also tag them with #longreads or #longreadsindia on twitter.

Oh, and spare me politics.

Thank you.

Anand

Long-form, for the web, is anything 1500 words or more but not 6000 words. Plus/Minus 10% is fine.

What we dont talk about- Steroid Abuse among Teenagers in Brothels in Bangladesh

In Bandladesh’s legal brothels, madams dose the (often underage) sex-workers with Dexamethasone, a steorid, to make them look older and fatter.which their customers find attractive.

According to a photo essay by Andrew Biraj on Bangladesh’s legal brothels, madams dose (often underage) sex-workers with Dexamethasone, a steroid, to make them look older and fatter. The photographs are sexually suggestive and made me uncomfortable, but the issues are worth examining.

These kids, as young as 12, are bought from parents or lured into sex-trade as an escape from penury and then literally fattened before they are pimped to costumers.

Dexamethasone is a powerful corticosteroid. It suppresses inflammation in the body and is used in the treatment of various disease like Rheumatoid arthritis and other AutoImmune diseases.

One of the most visible and early side effects of corticosteroid use is deposition of fat on the upper body. Typically, short term use will result in chubby cheeks, rounder shoulders and some deposition of fat on the chest. This might give the appearance of being chubby or healthy but is a side effect, and not a pleasant one.

Corticosteroids have a darker side, CDC lists some of the side effects

Possible side effects of short-term corticosteroid use:

  • Increased fat on the face (rounded face), upper back, and belly
  • Upset stomach
  • Increased blood sugar
  • Increased hunger
  • Behavior changes, trouble sleeping, irritability, depression
  • Increased risk of pneumonia, thrush (white coating in the mouth), and other infections
  • Weight gain, salt and water retention
  • High blood pressure
  • Stretch marks on the skin, acne, poor wound healing, increased and unusual hair growth

Possible side effects of long-term use (3 months or longer):

  • All short-term side effects
  • Poor growth in children (can be severe)
  • Brittle bones (bones break easily, problems with hips and shoulder joints)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Diabetes
  • Eye problems

As you can see, not only are these kids subject to being sex-slaves, but also face a lifetime of illness for a decade of two of sex-work.

There is very little medical data from Bangladesh about steroid abuse, The only people who seem interested are news outlets. UNICEF in its “Background Paper on Good Practices and Priorities to Combat Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children in Bangladesh” mentions it in passing and refers to an 2010 BBC story about the same.

Most public health and medical research into sex-work looks almost exclusively at Sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS, a few look at violence, but the longer term health and non-psychoactive drug abuse often gets sidelined.

One could dismiss this problem and say “if you are not going to live to be 40, STI’s are more a priority than Diabetes”.

Read more at

A Guide to Life [Guest post]

Cathartist, who has written on Cerebral salad before, mailed me with her response to the criticism that Meena Kandasamy was facing for her article about domestic violence. I am turning the mail into a post. As usual, she is brilliant. Follow her on twitter.

A guide to life – General edition

Can doctors be unhealthy? Yes
Do comedians cry? Yes
Can dentists have bad teeth? Yes
Do priests sin? Yes
Can shrinks get depressed? Yes
Do teachers smoke? Yes
Can athletes dope? Yes
Do clowns feel sad? Yes
Can geniuses fail school? Yes
Do deaf people compose music? Yes
Can scientists be atheists? Yes
Do scientists believe in god? Yes

A guide to life- Animal edition

Can elephants have sex? Yes
Do whales have body hair? Yes

A guide to life – Family edition

Can little boys love dolls? Yes
Do little girls love guns? Yes
Can mothers hurt their children? Yes
Do fathers protect their children? Yes

A guide to life – Gender edition

Can men cry? Yes
Do women laugh? Yes
Can men love women? Yes
Do men love men? Yes
Can men hate men? Yes
Do women hate men? Yes
Can women hate women? Yes
Do women love men? Yes
Can men rape? Yes
Do men get raped? Yes

A guide to life – Feminist edition

Can feminists be men? Yes
Do feminists love men? Yes
Can feminists hate men? Yes
Do feminists hate women? Yes
Can feminists be strong? Yes
Do feminists go wrong? Yes
Can feminists abuse? Yes
Do feminists get abused? Yes

A guide to life – Work In Progress

Is Meena a writer? Yes
Is Meena a good writer? Yes
Is Meena a bad writer? Yes
Does Meena write fiction? Yes
Does Meena write non-fiction? Yes
Is Meena an activist? Maybe
Is Meena a dalit? No
Does that matter? No
Is Meena a feminist? Maybe
Was Meena married? Maybe
Was Meena abused? Maybe
Do I believe her? Yes
Can I be wrong? Yes
Is that okay? Yes

 

 

Some Questions that need to be answered on Domestic Violence

Background: Poet and Dalit activist Meena kandasamy recently wrote about her story of domestic violence. She is an evocative writer and her article has resulted in a lot of conversation on various web-platforms.  Among the usual “hear, hear” and “she must be lying”  comments were a few a few questions that are earnest and need to be answered. This is a post addressing those questions.

Note: I am not trying to explain Meena Kandasamy’s story, I have no business doing that. I am strictly answering general questions on the topic of Domestic violence.

How can feminists be victims of violence?

One of the earliest reactions to this story was “how can someone so “strong”, a fierce feminist, put up with domestic violence?”. I hope this leads to people searching for truths about domestic violence, and not concluding that her story is fabricated based on a presupposition that strong women do not get beaten up. On my timeline on twitter, stories were pouring in about VP’s of companies, Doctors, and NGO owners who were victims of violence who suffered in silence for a long time. This is, no doubt, puzzling and I hope to explain why it happens.

Continue reading “Some Questions that need to be answered on Domestic Violence”