Children become endangered when their protectors don’t take the necessary precautions to counter all the threats in our society. Eastern cultures emphasize less on awareness and more on shielding their kids from any negativity (although now it’s changing). As Eastern people, we think its better not to dwell on anything that does not appeal to our own wishful thinking. After all, who wants to be negative? Who wants to think that the world has become a menacing place for us to live? No one. However everyday we watch things happen around us that contradict that thinking. So, its time we face the negativity and do something about it.
Children in the West are told earlier on about online safety, fire safety, stranger danger, drugs and the negative effects of caffeine and nicotine from kindergarten. Courses are offered outside the school where they teach children as young as eight on how to be home alone and how to handle themselves in an emergency. Because of this awareness children are growing up to be more smarter and morally conscious in their decision making. Why should Eastern kids be any different?
So What Do We Do?
We need to reiterate ourselves all the time especially when it comes to the basic stuff. I call it A.S.A.P- Awareness, Safety, Assurance, and Protection. A dialogue needs to start between parents and children. They need to know all the age appropriate information they can get so they can tackle the world outside. Prevention is better than cure. It is essential to groom children in a way that they can predict dangers, avoid being in one and if they are caught in one, they are taught how to get out of it.
We cannot afford to second guess ourselves and take risks with our children. We need to give them the tools and teach kids how to use them. Every change begins from home and it’s imperative that we change our techniques that are more appropriate to the 21st century. So Step one…
Talk to your children about it. We need to tell them about the dangers out there. If a child is crossing the road for the very first time, what do we do? We teach them the rules of traffic, safety, the signs, oncoming traffic, and how to avoid collisions. Similarly we should apply these basic concepts to anything and everything regarding safety rules, such as what to watch out for and how to avoid getting in trouble.
I want to share a story about a father and his teenage daughter who was going to start dating. I realize this is a story about a Western family and their customs, but the moral of the story can be used in our Eastern culture as well. As a man, he knew all the tricks some boys play to get a girl and use her to get what they want. As a father he was worried. He felt uncomfortable talking to his daughter about it but couldn’t risk her going out in the world naively trusting every Tom, Dick or Harry that comes her way. He didn’t want to say anything that could make her defensive or even rebellious so he spoke to her in the only language he knew.
Dad needed to teach her how to be smart in her judgments and not sound condescending about how she makes her decisions about her love life. He did what he naturally knew, he gave her the play book and told her all the tricks. How low-life boys will approach her; how a gentleman will treat her; the pick-up lines; how to sense danger; the cues; the body language; the places she needs to be; the places she needs to avoid, and many more.
Now when this girl goes out, and a boy approaches her with an agenda in his mind, how is this girl going to respond? She’s going to think, “Oh ! My dad already told me about a guy like him, I know what he wants and I don’t need that. Strike him!”.
Now let’s look at the alternative.
An Eastern parent is too uncomfortable to even think about his kid dating another person, let alone talk about it and assumes its better to leave it because its pretty self-explanatory on how to keep themselves safe. “Surely, they can’t be that dumb”, but let me ask you this, How can your child screen out such people when they don’t even know what they’re looking out for ?
Eastern parents avoid talking about it and presume they raised their children right who have some basic common sense (Wrong ! not every child has one). After all, children should know it’s not appropriate to date in our culture or religion so they wouldn’t dare. So their child walks around unprepared and uninformed about the dark side of dating the opposite sex and ends up being used.
Now this girl is being approached by a guy who has clear intentions to use her, does this girl have any idea, how this guy is leading her on? Is this girl in any position to judge wisely about what this boy wants from her? No, because no one gave her the heads up. She is inexperienced and thats who guys go for. Such girls can be easily fooled into believing anything. They have no idea what is about to hit them and have no way to predict it because they have been raised naively.
(Girls, I will address this in another post, but seriously you gotta get out of the “Shahrukh Khan innocent love” phase and wake up and smell the “sexual predator” phase).
Everyone to their battle stations !
Parents also need to know what’s out there; how it happens; where do our children go; who do they talk to. They need to place limits and boundaries no matter how hard they kick or scream about it. Your job is to hold on as tightly as you can until they have come to a mature age where they can make their own decisions wisely. Talk to your children, tell them whats out there so they are prepared and are fully aware about what could happen. Teach them the difference between how a good person would treat them or a person who only wants to use them for their vulnerability and later exploit them for their own means.
I also get it that boys can also be easily exploited by girls who only want material things and attention from them. We keep coming back to the same theory- It’s a two way street. I have known friends who were used by their girlfriends and treated brutally by them. They too should be raised and prepared in a way that can keep them safe from girls who want to use them.
We as parents know about all the underhanded tricks boys (or girls) play to get what they want, especially fathers and yet we would rather assume, our kids know better than to make sure and teach how to make prudent decisions when it comes to their safety. Parents are under the delusion that if we are strict enough, the thought to date, will never even cross their minds but kids just get better at hiding. If they feel the need to keep things from their protectors, are they truly safe? You cannot ensure their safety if you don’t even know what’s happening in their life because of the fear you have instilled in them.
Another type of Safety
It’s unrealistic to keep your children shut in the house and not let them socialize because that is also a skill they must learn. The only difference is that we teach them how to be cautious and come up with scenarios and strategies that can get them out of a danger. After all, we teach them how to be safe in a fire incident, when driving, around water, so why not this, which is equally life threatening?
One strategy is to make up a secret word with your children so they can use it whenever they find themselves in a dangerous situation when they go out with their friends. The secret word or phrase would not alarm anyone or make a potential perpetrator feel suspicious. Example. Walk the dog. Whenever a child is in danger, they should call up their parents and say, “I’m sorry, I forgot to walk the dog today, can you do it? Or if the word is sore throat, a child could say “Yes I’m fine, but I feel I have a sore throat.”
- We need to help them develop a filtering process for people. We should teach them to look out for cues that could trigger off the danger alarm in their heads.
- Test them constantly with ‘What if ?’ scenarios and see how will they respond and if need be, create a mock up situation with a help of a friend who has never met your children. Take your children to the park and get out of their sight (but keeping them in YOUR sight). Then ask your friend to approach them and try to lure them with some sweet talk or candy. See how they respond, did they remember your teachings? When you will see how your child reacted, you will have something to work with, now that you know what the problem is.
- I implore schools to include these type of mock up scenarios and practice drills with students, trying to make the situation as real as possible. (For the schools that already have implemented them, kudos to you!)
For the little ones…
- A lost child should approach someone with a badge, a woman or any mother with kids.
- By age four they should have memorized phone numbers and the home address so they can share it with an officer.
- When a man approaches them or offers to help, they should not move from their place. To drive him away, they should let him know that they are wearing a GPS device that let’s their parents know where they are and also that their parents are coming back any minute now. Once they are gone, they should leave the spot too and watch out for him. They have to make sure that he is actually gone and not waiting around to see if the parents do actually come.
- In this era of technology there are so many gadgets and watches that have GPS locaters in them, please invest in one.
- If a family could afford iPads and Xboxes, I’m sure they can invest in their children’s safety. Working parents should install surveillance and hidden cameras that sends live feed to their phones and laptops. They are inexpensive and highly recommended for families.
- Don’t let your children open the doors or gates unsupervised.
- Children should be accompanied by an adult while crossing streets or going to a friend’s house next door.
Crucial mistake in Zainab’s murder.
Parents with little children, for goodness sakes. Please don’t let your children out of your sight wherever you are going. If your child is going to the neighbors, walk with them. People are going to badger me about what I’m going to say, but I’m sorry, that’s how I feel about Zainab’s death because what happened to her, could have been easily avoided. She did not have to die in this way, had one person taken some responsibility towards her.
Zainab was left in the care of her elder sisters and family members. They were living in an area where already children were being kidnapped and raped every other day.They were aware of the arrest of the large ring of child pornographers who were abducting children; making compromising videos of them, and then blackmailing the child and the families. So many children left their homes in shame and never returned. Why didn’t anyone think of getting up and escorting this child, who they were responsible for, and take her to the class that was a block away?
How many times have parents taken such chances with their children? Parents the negligence of your children is inexcusable if a child has to pay for it with their rape and murder. If you are too tired to take your child somewhere, don’t hand them off to a person you slightly trust and get rid of the problem. Just, don’t take them out. Let them kick, scream and go blue in the faces. But to risk their lives is something that should not even occur to us let alone to actually take it. Know the world you’re sending your child in to. It is preposterous to assume the world is safe. It takes only one small mistake for something big like Zainab’s rape and murder to happen. Is that worth the risk? Should your child bear so much brutality for your misjudgment?
Regarding my first point about bringing awareness to the issue of dating, Eastern parents are going to ask, why is she telling us this? Our kids don’t date! But I’m sorry to burst your bubble parents; the answer is quite contrary to what you think. You have to wake up now. This is the reality and has been for quite long. You have to accept this, and because you have created such a hush-hush, toobah-toobah relationship with your kids, they don’t come to you first.
But guess who do they go to? A friend, who will probably misguide them about it all and more importantly is inexperienced and immature to give such advice to your child. It is dire that you create an environment of open communication with your children, so at the slightest inklings of any danger, they think about running to you first and share everything that happens with them, even if it’s about liking another person. Keep those doors open.
Keeping an eye.
Now that you are aware of the problem, you can give your children the proper advice and keep a control over the situation. I am not encouraging dating; neither am I saying it should happen. I am just saying it does happen. By ignoring it, you are only generating its growth. It’s better to be aware than be ignorant and falsely hope that your kids don’t indulge in this dating culture.
You must assure your child that no matter what happens they should come to you first, whenever there is the slightest indication that something of an uncomfortable nature could happen or has happened, you have to know it beforehand and even afterwards. Making them fear you, will only delay the solution and by then who knows what could have happened. Mistakes happen. Kids are not born with a moral manual book. They learn by making mistakes. The earlier you catch their mistakes and help them understand the lesson, the wiser they will become.
Parents, you know your child best and their personalities. As conscious parents, you should have a sixth sense when your child becomes more secretive, secluded, and quiet. Do not ignore that voice inside that is telling you to find out what’s going on with your child. If you have an uncomfortable gut feeling that is telling you, something is wrong, then it is ! and you need to figure out a way and ask your child. But please, please, please do not ignore the problem. If your child overreacts or shuts you down, it should be a cause for concern and intervention on your part is compulsory.
Always, Always, Always, protect the child. Retribution needs to take place by confronting the abuser, cutting him off from the family to even something drastic like going to the police. But something needs to change to protect the child from that man and also that feeling that makes a child uncomfortable and sick to their stomachs.
Your child needs to know that you did something to protect them. They won’t be able to move on in life if they have a lingering fear that this person is still around them and any day when everything works according to their plan, they will pounce on that opportunity. Be there for them and let them know by words and action. Warn others around you, protect the children around you and maybe it will be enough to drive the predator away.
Extra Special Protection from Boys.
In our society when boys hit puberty, their bodies and urges, pull them in different directions. Many times, these boys feel shy to come forward and talk to their parents about it. When they do, they don’t get proper answers because parents think they are too young to know what’s happening. Boys that don’t know what to do, look for inappropriate outlets to relieve themselves. They look for vulnerable targets that are within their reach and unfortunately sometimes it’s the kids in the family.
The world has become a candy store for such people. Every type of sexual material is out there in movies and Tv shows. Apps like snap chat and instagram have facilitated sharing indecent content and making it harder for parents to catch them. Instead of walking to stores and purchasing DVD’s, you have digital content that is easily downloadable now. Hiding from parents who aren’t tech savvy is effortless and laughable. Kids can get away with anything now. This is a proliferating problem that will continue to grow. Children are becoming more smarter and sneakier in their ways, and it’s becoming harder to catch them. As parents, we also need to come up with new strategies and I have outlined those in a previous article.
May God protect all the children in this world and save them from every unthinkable atrocity. This concludes my series on Rape and Molestation and I hope it has raised some awareness on the issue. My next post will be a continuation of my marriage series and it will be about the infamous in-laws. I realize I’m will be sticking out my neck and this could offend some people but what the heck… it has always been a controversial issue in our countries. Someone’s got to do the dirty work.
Until next time. Take care.