Author: Payal Shah Karwah
Publisher: Hay House
Price: Rs 299
I'm not going to sugar-coat this. To me, Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is one of the most disturbing and heinous crimes that can be imagined or committed in any society-civilised or otherwise. Though the new law, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), passed in 2012 has done a great deal to define what constitutes abuse and make punishing perpetrators easier; unless parents are sensitised and proactive in preventing and reporting abuse, this law cannot be applied effectively.
Payal Shah Karwa's book, The Bad Touch, is one such attempt to shock parents into accepting that CSA exists and offenders exist-all around us.
Why read the book?
Few crimes can leave victims as traumatised as sexual abuse. When it is children who are the victims, as a mother, imagining what must go through a child's mind makes me recoil in horror. The first ever National Study on Child Abuse in April 2007, released by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, gave some alarming figures-53% of children in India have been abused at least once in their lifetime. As per WHO, India has the world's largest number of sexually abused children-with a child below 16 years raped every 155th minute; a child below 10 years every 13th hour; and with 1 in every 10 children abused at any point in time.
These, and other figures quoted in the book, drives the reader to be vigilant of this crime, or at the least be informed about the issue as a whole.
Making the reader aware of the existence of CSA is something, the book does for sure. The way the subject is treated is refreshing too. While talking in detail about real stories of Harish Iyer and Anurag Kashyap, the reader's focus is shifted to their victories.
But what's most striking about the book is the amount of detail that the book contains. The gory description of activist Harish Iyer's abuse is definitely not for the faint-hearted. The book elaborates his journey from a victim of abuse by his uncle to a survivor and now a thriver who is crusading against the secrecy that shrouds the subject of CSA in gut-wrenching detail. The details of the story are horrific, and are best read when you detach yourself from the situation. I personally couldn't take all of the details at one go, and had to close the book several times, and skip some lines to actually continue reading.
What binds all the stories of abuse in the book is the utter belief of each and every one of the survivor's family when they were told about the abuse. The book also discusses the mental make-up of the child, the manner in which the abuse is perceived by them, the fear and apprehension, everything is portrayed in a way that you can relate to instantly, and more so if you are a parent!
While the stories may start with details of abuse that may make you want to hurl, the focus soon shifts to how survivors stopped looking at themselves as victims, picked up the pieces of their lives, shared their stories, and began to make a difference to others affected by CSA.
The book highlights the fact that talking about the issue and sharing stories go a long way in helping the thriver move on. It also drives home the point that there needs to be unwavering support from the thriver's family. While sensitising the reader to the issue, the book, and the data and statistics quoted in it, are a great source for parents looking for information about CSA. There is information on signs to watch out for if your child is abused, precautions to take, how to deal with CSA, and organisations that can help in such a scenario. Some descriptions and details might shake up some parents, but maybe this is required to help them realise the seriousness of the crime.
One area I felt the book lacked in was talking about women abusers. All the perpetrators spoken about in the stories are men. It is dangerous to assume that abuse is carried out mostly by men, as there are several records of CSA incidents with women as abusers. So, if the author found it difficult to find a story where the culprit was a woman, there could have been mention about it as a caveat in the book.
The Bad Touch has resources, statistics, experiences of the survivors' families, and their own stories of how they tried to cope with the trauma. This is an ideal book for parents who want to know more about CSA, but didn't know who to ask.