Young Zainab’s case has brought the nation’s attention to the uncurbed crime of kidnapping and sexual assault of children in our society. A heart-breaking incident, it has hit close to home and shaken the entire nation due to the brutal nature of the crime. However, this is by far not the country’s first case of an underage child being sexually assaulted and brutally murdered by a predator. Could Zainab, or more innocent little children like her, possibly have been saved from meeting such a fate?
Awareness programmes at schools and also at homes are imperative to help prevent more oblivious children from falling victim to heinous criminals.
Study after study has revealed that the most culprits of sexual abuse of small children are the victims’ relatives, or their close family friends. These unsuspecting predators have easy access to vulnerable children. Parents must keep a close eye on the activities of such suspects in the presence of their children.
Relatives and Close Family Friends
By virtue of being close to the family, paedophiles can approach their victims easily, as opposed to other predators. By design, all child-sex offenders share some common traits among them, which may be overlooked by the victims’parents. More detrimentally, parents may also turn away in denial about the inappropriate advances made by an adult to their child. Following are the major signs of a child being a potential victim of a child-sex-offender:
• Kissing and caressing: Since these predators happen to be close to the parents of their victim, they try to appease the parents by showing their love and affection to the kids. They kiss and hug the children in front of the parents, and later when nobody is around they take indecent advantage or perpetrate the crime. Children must be educated to immediately report these interactions to their parents.
• Inappropriate touching of body parts: In contrast to Western society, relatives and family friends in our society are always at liberty of touching young children to be affectionate. Children must be made aware of what is ‘improper’ touching of their private body parts and, if subjected to such touching, immediately report to their parents.
• Sitting in someone’s lap: It is common practice that relatives and family friends take children on to their laps to show affection for the kids. Parents must always pay close attention, and never let relatives and friends take their children on to their laps.
• Offering candies and gifts: One of the most effective and common ways predators lure children is to spoil their prey by offering them candies and gifts. This is one of the most obvious signs of a child being led into a predator’s trap.
• Parents should counsel their children to refuse favours from strangers, and they should also strictly discourage the strangers from offering gifts to their kids.
• Taking children out unchaperoned: It is also common practice in our society that relatives and family friends take children out for a treat for fun. Predators, too, try to create a close proximity to children by doing the same and build a bond with their victims. Parents should never allow children to go out alone with their relatives or friends.
A neighbourly predator also is in easy access of his victims. Normally, these predators offer their prey expensive gifts and candies in order to build a friendship with them. They sexually assault their victims at the first opportunity they can find. Most of those cases, according to media reports, end in murder of the innocent little children to keep them eternally silent.
• Parents should counsel their children to “Say No” to these favours by neighbours and strangers, and never allow close contact to them.
Most of the predators wander around schools in search of their prey. They are on the hunt for victims of their choice. Once a culprit spots a lonely child walking to his/her home, they rush to him/her pretending there is an emergency. He poses as the friend of his/her father and tells the child that his/her mother is in critical condition in hospital; that his/her father has sent for him/her to be with the mother. Hearing the alarming news, the child either starts to cry and/or is ready to be taken to the ‘hospital’ with the predator. This is a scenario of an attempted kidnapping of a child.
• Parents must counsel their children to never believe a stranger, and never take a ride with one under any circumstance. Always remember to “Say No” to strangers, and run away from them, and shout for help loudly to attract school personnel, other students and passers-by.
Finally, parents must speak openly with their children about these matters, and discuss the possible preventive measures in case a situation arises where the child may be vulnerable to sexual assault or kidnapping.
Aijaz Ali Abro is a veteran educationist, writer and journalist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in Dawn, EOS, January 21st, 2018