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Events » Counselors Workshop Report
Counselors Debate Protocols for CSA Cases
Sneha Kupekar, Communication and Strategic Initiatives (CSI) Department
Mumbai, April 9: The workshop for Counsellors at Heritage Hotel, Byculla for debating minimum protocols for handling Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) cases; saw 36 counsellors' take a day off from their busy schedules to participate. Resource persons from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore took the counsellors through a refresher on the issue of CSA and counselling methods that can be employed for survivors.
Starting with the simple question of 'Why are you here today?', Dr. Shubhada Maitra, Associate Professor at TISS helped the participants realise that though their work is with people from diverse backgrounds, whether visually impaired students, children from remand homes or adult survivors, CSA had been experienced by all, cutting across all barriers. Discussing how CSA is not a stand alone issue but is interlinked with issues such as the economic dependence of women, as well as being a domination and power issue, Dr. Maitra took the participants through the various stages of a survivor's emotional state, starting from the abuse experience, internalisation and the resulting behaviour.
Picking up from the effect of abuse on the emotional state of a survivor, Dr. Preeti Kandasamy, Child Psychiatrist- NIMHANS held the participants interest as she took them through the basics of forensic interviewing, intervention strategies and the importance of rapport building with the parents and the child. Dr. Preeti also stressed the importance of making the setting of the interview as child friendly as possible, with toys, art material, ensuring that the child and the interviewer are at the same eye level and informing the child of the processes involved. Drawing from her experience at NIMHANS, she also said that in legal or paralegal proceedings, it's crucial to record the testimony of the survivor verbatim, without interpretation; while in chronic assault cases the first and the last incident has to be documented.
Post Dr. Preeti's session, participants were given a brief overview of CHILDLINE and how it works and the CSA Awareness Program currently operational in Mumbai. The counsellors were then divided into groups and given 45 minutes to discuss minimum protocols for volunteers, counsellors, children and schools, while handling CSA cases. This session was moderated by Mrinalini Rao- Country Director, India, Railway Children with Sandip Shinde from CIF as a support facilitator.
For volunteers, participants recommended that the minimum protocols should include teaching volunteers basic rapport building and reassuring the child in case of disclosure that whatever happened was not the child's fault. In the case of counsellors, participants supported Child Rights by stating that the child's consent has to be taken into account and only then should adults be informed. The group also recommended basic legal training for the counsellors', so that they can counsel the parents as well as inform them that cases of CSA can be prosecuted. Recommendations for protocols also included workshops, story telling and play methods, to introduce the concept of safe and unsafe touch to children; while ensuring that schools have a tie-up with Child Protection agencies and should work in collaboration with the school management to see what is best for the child.
Participants realised, that though the groups they were discussing were diverse, they were deeply interconnected. As Group 1rightly summed up, "Volunteers should be a critical first step in spreading awareness and in identifying signs of possible sexual abuse, while in the second step i.e healing, counsellors could be brought in; while in the third step i.e legal proceedings, schools and CHILDLINE teams can be involved."
The workshop was organised by the CSA Awareness Project team of CHILDLINE India Foundation (CIF) and included school counsellors, psychiatrists and therapists. It was inaugurated by lighting a lamp, by the two resource persons, Dr. Shubhada Maitra and Dr. Preeti Kandasamy and Nishit Kumar, Head - Communication and Strategic Initiatives, CIF.