Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How Sexual Abuse Makes Child Abhorrent - Instilling Sense of Security is the cure

Don’t touch me!

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

My relative, Sami, was not himself lately. He has never been so agitated. A sweet boy of 14, he has always been a pacifist. Now, his mother tells me, Sami is insisting on carrying a knife, every time he leaves home — even to school.

Last week, she discovered stolen car plates hidden in his room. When asked to go for beach picnic, he adamantly refused, even when offered the irresistible incentive— beach cars. 

I talked to him, first about the knife issue. His argument was self defense. Security, he contended, is the most-sought value in life! He did some researches and found that it is the fundamental right of a Muslim to defend him by all “available means”—even against teachers! In the absence of guns, knives are the only “available means.”

After a long argumentation, he agreed to learn karate, instead. In the meanwhile, I taught him a few things about avoiding dangerous situations. Staying always in groups and in public is the safest way. He shouldn’t wander at night, or trust strangers when alone, I advised.

Since he is religious and ethical, it wasn’t hard to convince him that stealing car plates and acting “macho” toward his classmates was sinful.

Still, something was missing! Something was wrong! His mother, later on, confirmed my suspicion. He had a terrible experience, and she asked me to hear it from him.

Sami was ashamed telling me his story, even though I did my best to put him at ease. When the family was on a beach picnic last month, he rented a beach car. The operator told him they need gas from a nearby station. But there was no station where he took him. It was an abandoned building. There, the man offered free driving but while sitting on his lap.

The boy understood what was going on, and protested. He knew that shouting wouldn’t help — no one would hear him. Crying would be a sign of weakness. So he used his Islamic teaching to give the man a lesson on how sinful for him to seek what he was after. It worked. The boy was taken back to the beach, but after promising not to tell.

Sami told his older brother. They both went to the police patrol and reported the incident. A man, who was around, confirmed the identity and dirtiness of the person in question. The policeman took note and promised to find him.

That same day, Sami saw the offender near the beach mosque. The man thought he was looking for him with his brother, so he ran away. Then and there, Sami felt the need for weapon. His sense of security was violated. He hated the beach, and couldn’t trust to walk around anywhere alone without some means of self defense.

I did my best to make him feel it wasn’t his fault. Yes, he was naive to go along with the offender, but that was an experience to learn from.

Then, I contacted the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice to report the incident. They told me this was not the first incident and that measures were taken with the police department to outlaw these unlicensed cars.

It wasn’t easy, because the operators know how to avoid capture and run dangerously away, risking the safety of others and their own.

They told me it was unnecessary for Sami to identify the offender, and it may disturb him.

Instead, a Sheikh interviewed him on the phone, and promised to clean the beach from all operators, saving other kids from similar incidents.

He also congratulated him on how he saved himself, and on reporting the incident. The most wrong reaction, he explained, is to hide the experience, and suppress the feelings. Such reaction may cause long-term psychological damages to children, and affect their sense of security. The boy felt much better, and he is now advising others on how to act in similar situations.

Sami is not alone in such situation. According to recent studies, children are being sexually harassed, even in homes and schools, by relatives and teachers—the very people who are supposed to give them the sense of security.

The Health Ministry and some independent civic institutions are spreading the word. Families should note any changes in their children’s attitude; support them and seek help. Incidents must be reported and molesters taken to authorities.

This week, a “Don’t Touch Me!” campaign has been lunched on social networks. The organizers aim at spreading awareness and education for children and families. I wish them success and invite all those working on the issue to share with us, here, their progress and keep us updated.

What’s your take, dear readers, on this matter? Let’s share thoughts and support the cause.

– Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com and followed on Twitter: @kbatarfi

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