For the fourth time now, we're hosting Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month all through April. As we geared up for the emotional investment and learnt slowly to detach from the horrors we dealt with each year, as our children grew and our fears for them changed and also grew, each year taught us something new.
I start April 2014 with the resolve to not let fears of CSA make me a paranoid parent. Rahul is seven and a half, and there will soon be another child to watch over and fear for, and I cannot afford to let fear rule my life now or ever. From the very start I was very aware of how his gender would not protect my son and in fact, in certain ways, it could possibly make him even more vulnerable to abuse than a daughter. I talked openly about my personal experiences with CSA in the family, and one of my best friends wrote about her own abuse and suggested ways to help keep our children safe. Rahul grew older and I adapted my ideas of safety. CSAAM even made me re-think some of my favourite books in light of the questionable age gap in certain relationships. My last CSAAM post was a subject very important to us all: how to keep our children safe online.
I'm still adapting my notions of safety, as I mentioned before. Now more than ever I'm trying to learn to let go. In recent times, here are ways in which I've tried not to fetter my child:
1. I've let him walk off with strangers (with waiters, for example, into restaurant kitchens), into public bathrooms without any supervision.
2. He occasionally answers the front door -- though only after we give him the go-ahead from upstairs, and only if it's for a person he recognises, such as the maid.
3. He's gone to parties without us, to homes we don't know, filled with other children and adults who are strangers to us.
4. I encourage him to make requests in public places by himself, such as when requesting a cashier for service. Sometimes this means he is out of sight for short whiles.
5. I no longer panic if I can't see him every time I look up when we're outside.
6. He went swimming and played for hours in the lawn while we napped in our cottage, while on holiday last weekend.
In other words, I'm learning to trust his instincts. He is not a child normally given to walking off with strangers without at least coming to let us know where he is going and who with, so this makes our job that little bit easier. If there is one thing that CSAAM has taught me so far, it's that the best way I can protect my child is to let him develop his own judgment of who to trust and how far. As a parent I'm aware that these are but baby steps by me so far, but hey, it's progress!