RJ Padmapriya from Radio Active 90.4 MHz discusses child abuse and mental health during the lockdown with Ashwini N V from the Muktha Foundation, an organisation committed to ‘prevent abuse and promote mental health’.
During lockdown, everyone is primarily focusing on social and economic problems, but it’s important to bring issues related to mental health and abuse to the forefront, says Ashwini.
Poor mental health of parents, unavailability of alcohol during lockdown, poor economic conditions, unemployment and frustration over not being able to step out are some of the reasons for the spike in child abuse during the lockdown. Parents tend to displace their frustrations onto their children through various forms of abuse.
Ashwini identifies three main types of abuse- physical, sexual and verbal. In normal circumstances, the warning signs of abuse would be noticed by teachers, counsellors at school, friends or other relatives. But during lockdown, fewer instances of abuse are being reported since children are confined to their homes. It is advised that members of the household keep a vigil on the child and take action if they notice anything out of the ordinary (fever, irregular eating habits).
Speaking of children who have been separated from their parents due to the lockdown, it is important that relatives do not think children are the sole responsibility of their parents. Instead, they should rise up to the occasion and take good care of the child, says Ashwini.
It is alarming to note that the consumption of child pornography has increased by 95% in India since the lockdown. Ashwini urges that anyone who comes across such content should report it immediately.
There has also been an increase in children’s usage of the internet, now that they are home all day. This poses a risk to the children as there may be abusers online who try and build rapport with children, and ‘prepare’ them for abusive purposes later on. Parents should closely supervise children’s online activities and also reduce their screen-time by engaging them in other activities.
Child abuse helpline: 1098
Domestic violence helpline: 181