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RAPE AND SEXUAL HARASSMENT

As your daughter steps into her teens, it is also advisable to inform her about other forms of sexual abuse such as rape, 'date rape' and sexual harassment. Unfortunately, in these times, she needs to be cautioned about these issues early on, so that she is prepared for any untoward incident that may occur just about anywhere in school, college, at one's work place, in public places, at social dos. Sad, but it is best to work with the premise that one can never be too careful, and prepare your daughter likewise.

Rape is a forced sexual act, which can be perpetrated on a person of any age or gender, and at any place. Mostly the rapists motive is not to enjoy sex, but is a way of expressing anger, hostility, power or aggression towards a victim, or a class of people whom the victim represents.

A woman who has been raped is affected both physically and psychologically. Her initial reactions in the aftermath may range from numbness and disbelief to extreme anxiety and fear. Once she is removed to a safe environment, she is likely to experience depression, anger and humiliation, feel guilty and defiled at her body being violated. Women often feel that they are no longer worthy of their partners or families, having brought disgrace to them.

While we would like to think that such violence cannot touch our or our daughter’s lives, it happens only to unfortunate others that would be an extremely unwise premise. Like child sexual abuse, rape too is mostly perpetrated by people known to the victim, in presumably safe places like one's own home, place of work or study or even at a friend's party. The phenomenon of 'date rape', so far a western phenomenon has become a harsh reality which youngsters increasingly have to face. Typically, the young girl or woman going out on an innocent date with a partner, is encouraged to get drunk or try drugs, or even drugged with substances mixed with drinks. When inebriated and with no control over herself, she is an easy victim of rape. It is common for a victim of date rape to consider herself guilty and responsible for whatever happened. Mostly out of fear and shame she does not inform any adult and suffers in silence, while the perpetrator hardly faces any consequence.

Mothers must believe that it is better to be safe than sorry, explain the imminent dangers that exist and the need to be prepared in every situation. Being forewarned is being forearmed and mothers must, must instill the need to practice basic measures that will help their daughters to avoid any untoward incidents. Some of these include :

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Learning to be assertive, being able to say No when she wants to.
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Learning how to practice some self defence techniques (for instance spraying cologne in a rapist's eye, or kicking him hard in his genitalia) or acquiring martial arts skills.
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Avoiding lonely areas, or travelling / driving alone late at night, or being out until very late.
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Avoiding excessive drinks at a party or accepting drinks from strangers or less known people.

Being alert and aware, your daughter can protect herself from unfortunate incidents of any form of violation. However, despite our best interests, as young women, they are often at the receiving end of unwanted sexual attention or what is commonly termed as sexual harassment. This may be in any form from touching, catcalls, obscene gestures or phone calls. This usually happens when someone has power over another (usually, a man over a woman, but the reverse is equally possible) such as a doctor over his/her patient, a teacher and a student, but is mostly an occurrence in the work place.

We would like to conclude by reiterating the need to be able to talk to your daughter from as early as possible, and to continue doing so. By developing open, honest and ongoing communication about responsibility, sex, and choice, you as a mother can help your daughter learn about sex in a healthy and positive manner, which will enable her to grow and develop as a confident young person, able to negotiate her way through life.