Need of the hour: A child-centric response

Published Jul 21, 2014, 1:37 pm IST
Updated Jan 10, 2016, 8:38 am IST
As per Dr Shekhar, focus on prevention has the potential to reduce sexual victimization

Bengaluru: According to a report released by the Asian Centre for Human Rights, a total of 48,338 child rape cases were recorded from 2001 to 2011. The country is still battling this huge problem that requires a holistic response.

“Preventing child sexual abuse requires a two-pronged approach: primary prevention that should reach all children and secondary prevention that focuses on populations at risk,” says Dr Shekhar Seshadri, Professor, Dept Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS).


Over the past year, the Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at NIMHANS has received several children who have come there with sexual abuse (CSA) issues. “When they come for help at NIMHANS, they are already extremely overwhelmed after visits to the Child Welfare Committee, police station, the hospital; by then, the children have been subjected to questioning on multiple occasions and therefore exposed to re-traumatization,” adds Dr Shekhar.

According to Dr Shekhar, the focus on prevention has the potential to reduce sexual victimization and even sexual offences in the general population but whenever an event occurs, “it is addressed by various systems of criminal justice, police, schools, families, and healthcare, which generate a flurry of incoherent activity, albeit in good faith, thereby compromising the child’s best interests.”

The thrust of these activities are directed towards the child ‘victim’ through enquiry, interrogation and intrusive detailing of the event to verify it and then bring the perpetrator to book. The balance between the need for justice and empowered rehabilitation of the child becomes precarious. There is thus an urgent need to develop a protocol-based systemic response, ensuring that the child’s agenda i.e. healing and recovery, is at the core,” says Dr Shekhar.

Explaining how one can tackle this issue, Dr H Chandrashekar, Professor & HOD, Department of Psychiatry, Victoria Hospital, says, “A system of investigation which is child-friendly and in accordance with the principles of child rights would be far more effective. All teachers, medical professionals, mental health professionals, counselors are ‘mandated reporters’ – which  means that they are legally required to report such issues.”

The doctor says the main reason such incidents go unreported are because the children fear retribution and also they’re scared they might get their parents into trouble. This is why, he says, parents should ensure that their children communicate freely without fear of consequences.