A few days ago I saw a video on Facebook which shook me to my core. It was a social experiment based in India by PuraniDili Talkies. At the beginning of the video, you see a five or six year-old-boy, Abeer, and his father in a waiting area. Abeer is waiting to audition for the role of a superhero and is greeted by Peter – the actor who is conducting this social experiment.
A second clip shows the father telling Peter that his child would never do such a thing since he has repeatedly taught him not to get close to strangers. Peter then asks the father to go to the monitor room where he can watch the audition live on a TV. At this point, the audience still doesn’t know what the experiment is about.
The next shot brings us to the audition. Peter starts talking to Abeer and asks him basic questions – “Which class are you in?” “Do you know any jokes?”
In the monitor room, a crew member asks the father if he thinks Abeer will take his clothes off. The father hesitates a little but still claims that his son won’t go ahead with it. That’s when it hit me! I understood what the social experiment was about and hoped against hope that Abeer would be smart enough to say ‘NO’.
At this juncture, Peter changes the topic brilliantly. He turns to the child and says, “Let’s play a game.”
Abeer obviously says yes and here’s how it pans out:
Peter: “Aapka favourite superhero kaun hai?”
Abeer: “Power Rangers”
Peter: “Power Rangers. Theek hai, hum Power Rangers ke costumes pehnain gay. Theek hai?”
Abeer nods and Peter tells Abeer that he will go get the costume and then they’ll play together but before that he needs to remove his shirt so that he can put on the costume.
Peter: “Haath ooper karo.”
And Abeer, without any hesitation, lifts up his arms and Peter removes his shirt. After that he asks the child if he can remove his pants and the child says ‘Yes’.
That is where the experiment ends and we see the father in absolute shock.
To be honest, I was petrified! At the end of the clip, they asked the audience to try this experiment with their own children. That scared me even more because even though I hoped my son would say ‘No’; even though I had TAUGHT him to say ‘No’, now I wasn’t sure if he would be smart enough to actually do so.
It made me realize how terribly innocent and gullible children are and how easily they can be sweet-talked into doing ANYTHING.
Parents need to be extra vigilant and reiterate, reiterate, reiterate when teaching children matters of consent and how to say ‘No’. Here are a few ways to teach your child to say ‘No’:
- Talk about it
Teaching them how to say ‘No’ isn’t restricted to sexual abuse. Children face emotional abuse and/or bullying almost every day. It is important to let your child know that he/she can speak to you about ANYTHING that is bothering them. And when your child expresses his/her feelings, you MUST listen with an open mind and be very patient. Gaining your child’s confidence is the ONLY way he/she can feel secure.
It also helps to discuss certain situations beforehand to prepare them for unforeseen events.
- Keep reinforcing
It’s a fact that children are forgetful and it’s completely understandable considering how their brain cells work at the speed of light. Keep reminding them to say NO. The more you emphasize on something, the more they will remember.
- Role play
My son and I like to play a lot of games and do role play. One such game that I came up with is what we like to call the “What if?” game.
I ask him a series of questions and he gives me answers. This way he also questions me when he doesn’t comprehend a particular situation.
Me: “What if your classmate snatched crisps from your lunchbox? What would you do?”
Son: “I would scream at him and snatch my chips back.”
Me: “That’s not very nice. A better approach would be to politely say, ‘I could’ve shared with you if you asked me for them. It’s not nice to snatch food from someone’.”
The idea is to make children stand up for themselves politely – to say ‘No’ to anything or anyone that they are not comfortable with, even if it is a friend, aunt, uncle, helper or teacher.
- Never let anyone touch you or take your clothes off
I tell my son on a daily basis…yes, I mean EVERY day, to NEVER let ANYONE touch him on his face, back, chest or private parts. I remind him every day that he must NOT let the helper come near him when he goes to the bathroom in school. He is NOT allowed to help my son unbutton his pants or pull them back up and he must not touch him while he is trying to wash his hands.
I reiterate that apart from his parents, NO ONE is allowed to help him change his clothes, go to the bathroom and especially, bathe him.
The more I talk about it, the more conscious he is about protecting himself.
Every other day we hear tragic stories about child abuse that leave us horrified. But what is even more horrific is how certain Abeer’s father was that his son would not comply since he had warned his child beforehand. Don’t we all believe that? Don’t we have absolute trust in our parenting and in our children?
But the fact is that children forget; they get influenced – simply because they are innocent. Simply because they are children. As parents, it is absolutely essential that we remind our children to say ‘No’ on a regular basis for them to remember always. Bad things can still happen but we have to try our best.