Of Courage and Compassionhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/of-courage-and-compassion/

Of Courage and Compassion

Muskaan,a project by NGO Aalochana teaches children about good and bad touch and adults about how to deal with incidents of child sexual abuse with sensitivity

It takes tremendous courage to come out and speak about what has happened to you,” says Kranti Agnihotri-Dabir,programme co-ordinator of Muskaan,a project by the NGO Aalochana. The project conducts awareness and training sessions about child sexual abuse for children,adults,police personnel and observation home staff. “When children try to tell their parents,or the police about their experience,they must be given a listening ear. They must be asked questions in a way that will make them comfortable to narrate the facts and not be bluntly blamed and hushed up,” continues Dabir,who designs and conducts workshops with police personnel to change their attitude towards victims.

The volunteers recently hosted an awareness session for children at a mall where they spoke to them about the different types of touches and gave talks to boost confidence so they can approach their parents or any adult they trust to inform them about unpleasant touches that bother them.

Explaining how they function,Dabir says,the team at Muskaan follows news items about incidences of child abuse and visits the police station to read the FIR report on the case and then gets in touch with victims to offer counselling so that they can cope with the situation. It was during one of these visits that a woman officer suggested that the team take workshops for them and teach them how to deal with victims while questioning them and making a report. “Those who work at the police station see such cases of molestation,rape and other crimes every day. It is a harsh reality for them and so they become insensitive to it. They often do not realise the emotional damage the victim is suffering. We host workshops to revive compassion for the children so that he or she can voice their anguish and give proper information required for the report. We also help them frame questions when they are dealing with a child,” says Radhika Rawat,a core member at Muskaan.

This apart,the volunteers have been working with remand observation homes since 2011. The awareness sessions are tailor-made according to the audience. For young children between the age group of five and eight years,they use puppets and story-telling to spread awareness about good and bad touch. “A hug,a kiss or a pat on the back from a loved one is a good touch; a slap or a kick is a bad touch. There are comfortable touches and uncomfortable touches. Children know the difference,they are very intuitive,they just don’t know how to put it into words,” says Rawat.

For older children,they conduct talks about sexual education,highlighting private body parts where one must not be allowed to touch,helping them identify who can be abusers and reassuring them that it is not their fault if they have gotten abused by someone they trust. When they are talking to a group of adults,their subject matter and the presentation differs according to the composition of the audience. “The grassroot level workers of an NGO are spoken to and made to understand the concepts of how to deal with victimised children in a different way than we talk to parents or administration staff of a school,or a group of college students,” says Rawat.