How to Talk to Your Teenager about the Dangers of Abuse

This weekend, a 16-year-old girl from Mumbai has claimed that she was raped at a party in Kandivali after her drink was spiked. This the second such incident in a fortnight that has involved a minor and sexual abuse occurring in the midst of friends, which makes it a family wellness wake-up call to parents and young people alike. This is according to child wellness experts, who have commented on the incidents and advised parents and teenagers that it is better to be safe than sorry.

According to Pooja Taparia, founder and CEO of NGO Arpan, which works towards freedom from child sexual abuse, ‘We encourage parents to talk about personal safety. Instead of focusing on dos and don’ts, create an environment where you have an open communication channel with your children.’ Taparia advises that you need to talk very openly with your children and discuss the risks that such incidents involve. It is also recommended that, for the sake of your teenager’s wellbeing, you know about their friends. However, avoid becoming too intrusive or judgmental because your teen will only want to rebel.

Psychiatrist Hemangi Dhavale commented, ‘It might seem old-fashioned, but it isn’t advisable to let young girls stay over with unknown friends,’ and so you need to take some responsibility and ensure your young children are supervised. She added that you should also be aware of any new friends your children might make, as well as the kind of entertainment they indulge in. ‘Parents could keep a set of number of friends so that if their child doesn’t return home they at least have a contact point,’ Dhavale said.

However, a worrying fact of abuse is that a lot of it occurs within your circle of loved ones and neighbours. Sandeep Shinde, of voluntary organisation Childline, noted, ‘Even when children report such abuse to adults, parents often try to suppress such complaints or fail to acknowledge them. It is essential that they take cognizance of such complaints and act on them.’ Counsellors encourage children to speak up against abuse, even if it is initiated by a loved one, and to confide in someone they trust.

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