CSA Awareness, as anyone who knows me would know, is a topic I hold close to my heart, having worked on two awareness months on this issue, and having researched possibly every aspect of the topic for the twitter updates and the posts, and handled the expert chats and read through all the blog posts that came up on the CSA months both in 2011 and 2012.
Ergo, it was with much interest that I received the news that CSA was going to be the topic under discussion on this Sunday’s episode of Satyamev Jayate, the new talk show by Aamir Khan which is a brave attempt at holding up a mirror to the ugly side of us as a society. Their first topic covered was female foeticide, and I believe, though I didn’t get the opportunity to watch that, being enroute from Pune to Mumbai at the time it was aired, that there was not a dry eye in the house during that show as well.
This episode of Satyamev Jayate had three people on their panel who were part of our CSA Awareness Month this year, Cindrella Prakash, Harrish Iyer, both CSA Survivors and awareness activists and Anuja Gupta, founder of RAHI an organisation that works with incest victims.
I watched the show with the strange sensation of deja vu. All that we covered in the entire month of CSA awareness was covered in this one hour show. And with Aamir Khan lending his star power to the effort, it reached out to millions in a manner that we couldn’t even begin to dream about. That was what made the show fantastic, it handled the topic sensitively, there were the emotional moments, but they were not allowed to detract from the topic and it was informative, yet did not sensationalise the topic.
I did have a few bones to pick though. The majority of CSA is not some strange pedophile in the park or in a dark corner preying on your child. It is right at home. With people the child knows and trusts. An older brother. An uncle. A cousin. And sometimes even a father. This needed to be discussed. That a parent can also commit CSA. The parents needed to be given tips on how to spot signs of CSA. Behaviour changes. Physical signs. The pointer given by the expert on when one should be wary of a potential pedophile was very relevant but very often some person might just be fond of kids, and might not necessarily be interested in the child sexually. And lastly, while I appreciate the contrast between danger and safe that Aamir tried to bring out in his workshop for children to advise them about what to do in the event of CSA, I took umbrage at the word ‘Danger’ used for parts of the body, as kindly brought to my attention by Chandni Parekh, child and adolescent sexuality expert. We don’t want kids to start thinking their body parts are ‘danger’. We want them to think of those parts as ‘private’ and not accessible to anyone. We want them to develop a strong sense of personal space and strong self esteem that allows them to stop blindly obeying an adult when they know that something is not quite right.
Having got those little niggles out of the way, I must give credit where credit is due and say that this is the kind of show we need. Hardhitting. Uncomfortable. Provoking discussion and hopefully awareness and change. And hope the discussion provoked is sustained. That we realise, as a nation, that CSA is everywhere, and we need to talk about it and watch out for our kids. Not just be blind to it, thinking it happens to other people, and other people’s kids not ours.
I’ll end with something I read while researching tweets for the CSA month this year, which has stuck in my head. “The biggest self defence you can give your child against CSA is by educating him or her about it, and giving your child the courage and self confidence to know that he or she is loved and not needy to be vulnerable to approval and affection from a predator.”