Child sexual abuse in schools: what should be done?

Enfold, as part of its annual events around observing World Day Against Child Abuse (November 19th), organised a panel discussion on November28th.

When child sexual abuse (CSA) is reported in school, its ‘safe-space’ reputation can quickly become a hotbed of suspicion and panic, attracting media glare. In this emotionally charged situation, the best interests of the child and family, and adherence to the POCSO Act (The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012), and Karnataka State CPP (Child Protection For Educational Institutions) often recedes.

Representations from stakeholders, related to school spaces, discussed about the systems and protocols on how to handle child safety in schools. They acknowledged their functionary gaps in terms of handling cases of child abuse, presented the different challenges they faced, and steps on treating CSA in a more inclusive and holistic manner. This panel discussion was moderated by Dr Shaibya Saldanha, co-founder of Enfold Proactive Health Trust.

What the experts had to say

To address the issue Ashok (High Court lawyer) shared, “Instead of convicting the abusers and seeing them as a non-existential elements, we need to study the offenders to strategise better preventive measures.”  He further stated that our common approach of ‘reacting’ to cases of abuse renders our position feeble, compared to that of the offender. This places the child and the entire support in the most vulnerable position.

Dr Sushma and Dr Chitra from St. John’s Hospital in agreement, emphaised that the closest guardian to the child should only accompany them to the medical spaces, henceforth saving time and ensuring better response of the medical staff.

Vekatesh, Assistant Commissioner of Police, and Subbaiah, Trustee of Lawrence School, admitted that while there are challenges in procuring a foolproof background check on every employee,  following these practices will act as a possible preventive measure.

Vasudeva Sharma, Director of Child Rights Trust, appreciated Enfold’s efforts in promoting the 1098 helpline in the ready reckoner that was shared with the participants (a copy of the same can be found below). He emphasised that the 1098 helpline number provides assistance and support towards the process of seeking justice for the child and family. The helpline hence remains available not only to children, but to all citizens 24/7.  

Sharada BN, counselor from Parivarthan Counselling Center and Archana Naik, a PTA member, conveyed that it was equally important for parents and educators to equip themselves on matters of sexuality, so that they are in a better position to respond and prevent occurrences of similar situations.

As a community, it is important that we do not treat an abused as a ‘case’ or a victim, rather perceive and receive them with similar attention and love like other children. As illustrated by Sharada, “the act of abuse is just a dot in the child’s line of life.” It then becomes the role of the community to reemphasise this idea to the child in order to ensure effectiveness in the healing process.

Enfold distributed a compilation of recommended action , in case of child sexual abuse, reported or detected in schools, in the form of a ready reckoner, incorporating most of the action points raised in the discussion.

For more information on Enfold and what it does, visit: enfoldindia.org.

Recommended action in case of CSA in schools

 

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