Prashanth loved kids, a lot!



By Lubna Usman Rifat

Follow the author on twitter @lubnaurifat

As he looked around, he began to feel satisfied with his plans. There was no place for errors in the way he worked. A hard task master, he expected perfection in most if not everything that he did. And today he had done everything by himself. Deepali, the beautiful secretary was not there to be of additional help. But what good is beauty or anything for that matter if one cannot use it to its fullest. He had learnt very early in life not to be wasteful. Two chapattis had to be shared amongst the three brothers, appa and amma.

Amma said if we tear the chappatis and boil it in milk or water with a bit of sugar, then that made a wholesome meal. They called it optimum utilization.

Prashanth grew up to understand and learn. A quick learner, he spoke four languages not including his own mother tongue. His was not a very popular language anyway.

No wonder he soon gave up the idea of communicating in his own language altogether. When Rustam Uncle, who later became Rustam the friend and then maybe a little more, first started conversing in English to him, he was instantly mesmerized by the charm of his words. That almost always worked.

As Prashanth looked around he saw a broom stick on a clean classroom floor. What could he do using the theory of ‘optimum utilization?’ What else could he do with his broom stick? He smiled as his thoughts wandered. These thoughts were silly, funny and at times very gratifying.

The marketing team had done its job well. With a fee of Rs 1 lakh excluding the monthly tuition and development charges, it was a good business plan. The people with deep pockets, or shall I say nouveau riche, were easy to fool. They were always attracted to anything with a foreign sounding name. Creche wouldn’t do; he had to use something more foreign sounding. A Google search led to the name of Prashanth’s new nursery; Enfante Pipienere. Superb!

That was it. Another Google search of the pronunciation made it sound even more posh. He would have to make sure the three staff members were able get the pronunciation right. Twenty six pre-schoolers had sought admissions, 19 boys and six girls. 19 little cowboys and six lipstick girls. Prashanth loved kids, a lot.

What makes a man feel the urge to violate the innocence of a little child in such a gruesome manner? According to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition Pedophilia is a psychiatric disorder and on most occasions the perpetrators are men, but women too suffer from this form of sexual deviance. A paedophile is one who feels the urge to engage in sexual activity with a prepubescent (<age 13) child. He/She has to be above 16 years and the age gap between perpetrator and victim has to be at least 5 years.They may not necessarily engage in the activity, but may fantasize, watch, read paedophilic videos/material for sexual gratification.

Prashanth possessed every quality to qualify as a smart paedophile. Our society is replete with innumerable Prashanths. They are everywhere in various guises. In our naivety we fail to spot them. So cute, rolly-polly…the caressing / pinching fingers of unknown (although friendly), ‘uncles and aunties’ in malls, schools and neighbourhood parks bring a smile to the parents face. Seldom do parents find this admiration as objectionable or inappropriate.

In the western countries such as UK, any such comments or touching of children will be greeted with frowning faces of the concerned parents.

As parents we have to educate ourselves, care givers (nannies, grandparents) and children to understand that most touching (malicious or otherwise) by strangers or relatives who are not primary care givers to the child is unwarranted. It has to be actively discouraged both politely and firmly depending on the relationship with the individuals or circumstances.

Difficulty arises when the perpetrator is someone older and in a position of authority like a grandparent, older uncle or a person who has some standing in society. Another difficulty also arises with the child. A paedophile on most occasions is an amiable person who wins the confidence of the parents and most importantly the child with bribes of sweets and toys.

The rule is to keep a constant vigil on everybody associated with your child. From maids to relatives at home to school teachers and ‘playmates’ in the neighbourhoods.  Look for signs of abuse in your kids. They could be unexplained bruising on your children especially when they are back from school or playtime. Other signs could be unusual mood swings, lack of interest in activities that would normally excite them, development of fears, anxiety about innocuous things; shyness, withdrawal, depression etc.

Given the high standard of living and our rapidly rising aspirations for us and our children, the culture of both parents working is rapidly gaining popularity. This often forces parents to leave their children in the care of maids or relatives. Exercise extra caution if you happen to be placed in such an unavoidable situation. Make sure you are extremely sure about the person you leave your children with in the daytime also the person who shares the bed with them at night. Installing close circuit cameras in the house would help.

A survey by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2007 revealed that 53% of children in India had been sexually abused. Following public pressure for a stringent law to protect children from sexual abuses, The Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) was passed by both houses of the Indian arliament on May 22, 2012. The law came into effect on Children’s Day( November 14) the same year.

According to National Crime Records Bureau, the number of overall crimes against children in 2013 stood at staggering 58224, constituting 13.2 % of India’s total children population. Most unsafe state for children was Uttar Pradesh, while Madhya Pradesh, Maharshtra and Delhi were not far behind. These were reported incidents. In many cases, crimes against children are not reported because of host of reasons (perceived shame in society or the perpetrators are simply too powerful).

Prashanth’s story here may be imaginary, but it’s only to highlight a fact that paedophiles can go to any length to satisfy their deviant desires involving children. Unfortunately, there’s no one-stop solution to stop the sexual harassment of children. But as parents we are dutifully bound to take utmost care to create a safe environment for our most prized possessions i.e. ours little angels.

The author is a clinical psychologist and has worked extensively on psychiatric disorders.