Child sexual abuse is not even acknowledged as a reality by many, say trainers from Arpan who are trying to create awareness about this taboo subject
In India, talking about sex and sexuality is still a taboo. Child sexual abuse (CSA) is not even acknowledged as a reality. People were shocked when Pooja Taparia started creating awareness about the issue. She is the founder of the NGO, Arpan, which started work in this area in 2007. It came into being with a team of just two or three people who started conducting awareness sessions, training various stakeholders like children, parents, teachers, civil society groups, clubs, etc.
Going back to her own early work in this field, Pooja recalls, “The inspiration to start working on the issue came when I watched a play on CSA and was deeply moved by it. The play depicted the trauma faced by a survivor of sexual abuse as she carries on with her life, makes decisions, develops relationships and the fears and crisis she experiences in her everyday life. The play shook me from the core. The understanding that children are violated (the violation of not only child’s body but the trust implicit in care-giving relationship) and the revelation that child sexual abuse can be psychologically traumatic and disturb a person’s everyday experience of self and others if not supported and healed at the appropriate time, unsettled me. So I decided to do something about it.”
Arpan evolved an effective two-pronged strategy—prevention and healing—to reduce the occurrence of CSA and heal its psychological, social, sexual and physical consequences. Its preventative programme is called ‘Personal Safety Education’ (PSE) and is the core programme. PSE is conducted in private, semi-private and government schools and institutions. The programme aims to empower children by imparting age-appropriate knowledge, information and skills related to personal safety and by building their self-esteem to prevent and protect them from sexual abuse. The programme also includes awareness and skill enhancement of adults like parents, teachers and institutional caretakers who are the primary stakeholders in a child’s life. These stakeholders are empowered with adequate information and skills about CSA so that they can create strong safety and support networks around children in their respective environments.
The second part of Arpan’s work is to provide psycho-therapeutic support to children who report cases of attempted and continued sexual abuse. Qualified psychologists work with survivors of CSA and their families to heal the trauma and impact they faced. “We work at various levels to help restore the child’s sense of self awareness, self-worth, create safe and supportive environment, stabilisation, help the child to process the trauma and reach re-integration,” says Pooja.
Over the past eight years, Arpan has reached out to over 22,000 children and adults directly through its training and capacity building programmes.
An anecdote narrated by a parent illustrates the effectiveness of Arpan’s efforts. “When an uncle tried to kiss my child who has borderline mental retardation, the child categorically said: ‘NO, do not kiss me. I will not allow’… I did not think the child would understand, you trained us and her takeaway is so high that now I am confident that she will be able to protect herself.” The child is just under four years old. Donations can be made in the name of Arpan by demand draft or cheque, payable in Mumbai. Donors will receive a receipt as well as the 80G certificate for income-tax exemption.
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