10 Reasons Why You Should Not Teach Good Touch Bad Touch to Your Children !
Every conversation that parents have with their children about ways to keep themselves safe comprises majorly or is limited to teaching them about good touch & bad touch. It is a common misbelief that having an understanding of and making children understand about child sexual abuse ends with the comprehension of good & bad touch. Well not only is this notion an illusion, but the concept of good touch & bad touch in itself is facile and does not address the multifaceted nature of the problem.
Good Touch Bad Touch is the most popular and common vocabulary used while teaching child sexual abuse prevention. Especially in India , CSA prevention is synonymous with “ good touch bad touch.” Cactus Foundation India believes that using good touch and bad touch is detrimental to the psyche of kids and stakeholders. It does more harm than good. Ever since our inception in 2001 when the entire country was immersed in using good touch bad touch loosely with CSA , team Cactus Foundation was busy advocating the use of SAFE and UNSAFE touch to create awareness about the topic.
So, if you are using the term good touch bad touch with your children as a parent, facilitator or an activist you need to really understand how this easy choice of words totally minimises the depth of the pandemic called Child Sexual Abuse. We as Cactus Foundation warriors against CSA appeal to all of you to replace the term “Good Touch Bad Touch” with the most apt and sensible term “Safe & Unsafe Touch”
Here are some reasons why you should not teach your children good touch & bad touch but teach them Safe and Unsafe touch instead.
A - Good and Bad is highly subjective
What is good and what is bad is highly subjective and ambiguous. For a preventive tool such as good touch and bad touch to be put to use appropriately for child sexual abuse, it must have a universally and contextually consistent and definitive meaning.
Good and bad is not the ultimate and concrete definition of appropriate versus inappropriate, while safe and unsafe has a single interpretation. A child, when introduced to the concept clearly, can say if they are in an unsafe situation as what is a safe and what is an unsafe situation can be clearly taught and defined. Afterall the choice of words guides our thoughts and actions. It becomes really easy for all the stakeholders to perceive the issue of CSA in the right context without limiting it to ambiguous values of good and bad. Words have the power to lift you up, empower you or tear you down and make you feel your weakest. Good touch and bad touch though seem an easy temptation in CSA preventive education , Safe and Unsafe touch on the other hand help everyone understand the width and depth of this horrific act of CSA . This awareness of the magnitude further helps in making the stakeholders more serious and committed towards CSA prevention.
B - Good and Bad Comes with its Own Baggage
The language around CSA prevention and in this scenario also affects the receptiveness of people of its severity.
When put to practical use, good and bad as terms are no longer isolated but hold socio-cultural, reputation, value and moral defined connotative value. In most cultures across the world being victim of sexual abuse is a matter of shame and taboo and ‘bad’ at the part of the person who has experienced abuse, while it is also ‘bad’ to not obey the elders and ‘good’ if the children do as they say, in cases of elders demanding children to engage in sexual acts, children might think it will be good to abide to them as our culture also highly enforces the importance to be a ‘good’ person and not a bad one and in this cases disclosure of being sexually abused becomes difficult for the children making them more vulnerable.
Using the words safe and unsafe in this situation sheds a lot of complexities as feelings of safe and unsafe are biologically universal.
C- Determining whether it is Good or Bad is Confusing for Children
As difficult as it is for adults to accept that children experience sexual arousal as it is an involuntary physiological feature of humans, it is true. Some children may feel pleasure when being touched, which they may attribute as a ‘good’ feeling and others may feel that they are ‘bad’ because they are being touched in their private areas. Children who naturally feel good being touched and held might have conflicted feelings about reporting the incident, children who feel bad that they are being touched might feel guilty & ashamed and that they are at fault. All of these complex scenarios leave the child confused as to whether or not they are supposed to report the abuse. And the list of how it is a slippery slope with the usage of words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is non exhaustive.
While the pleasure might not feel bad, children can never go wrong with having the feeling of being unsafe. A child’s body can tell unsafe from safe but might not always be able to tell bad from good.
D - Perpetrators Are Often ‘Good’ People in the Eyes of Children
In most of the cases of child sexual abuse, the abuser is a close person to the child who the family of the child usually attributes as a ‘good’ person. The perpetrator is a person who 90% of the time has the trust of the parents, family and the child too. It is this trust exploitation that makes the grooming and abuse easy for the perpetrator. When the child experiences sexual abuse from the member or known person, the child might end up thinking they they are at fault and it is their mistake that this good person is doing bad things to them. Moreover they might not even consider the abuse as something bad or wrong because they believe that whatever a good person does is good.
E - Good Touch Bad Touch is an Incomplete, Superficial and Ineffective Approach
Good and bad does not address the magnitude of the problem of child sexual abuse, it categorizes it in black and white and on the surface. The approach of good & bad touch is incomplete and superficial because the determination of which areas of the body are morally good to touch and which are bad to touch do not incorporate non touching behaviors of the abuser of sexually abusing the child.
Sexual abuse is not only performed by engaging with the private parts of a child but is also performed by engaging with non private parts and or in other ways like making children engage with the private parts of the abuser, showing children pornographic material and more.
When taught appropriately, a child can feel and determine if it is an unsafe situation very early on, even before being touched. Using safe and unsafe touch as the right terms always helps kids and adults gain a thorough understanding of body autonomy, consent and communication.
F - Good Touch Bad Touch Does Not Hold the Abuser Responsible
Categorizing touch as good and bad does not entirely hold the abuser accountable. This approach blurs lines and can put the ball of blame in the court of the victim of the abuse. The touch can be pleasurable and feel good to the child but it is in no way their fault on their part. Categorizing touches as safe and unsafe puts the onus of responsibility on the person who gives the touch. It is the abuser who made the child feel unsafe. Good touch and bad touch terminology actually favor the perpetrator and abuser in more ways than one. In our societies the blame of sexual abuse is always put on the victim. Touching a child inappropriately cannot be good or bad . It is UNSAFE whether the child gives consent or not, whether the child feels aroused or not. It doesn't matter. And when you use good touch bad touch to self comprehend this concern or teach stakeholders you are just empowering the abuser and perpetrator.
G - Abuser can Easily Manipulate the Good and the Bad
While grooming a child, an abuser of child sexual abuse can easily manipulate and gaslight a child into identifying things as good or bad as the abuser wants them to. An abuser might emotionally and psychologically manipulate a child into thinking engaging privately with them is good and is a favor in return to giving them a chocolate. The abusers use threats ,punishments and rewards and can easily groom the child into sexual abuse.
Distinction of good and bad is one of the biggest loophole in prevention of child sexual abuse that abusers take advantage of.
H - Right of the Children to Learn the Right Terms for Their Safety
As adults we are answerable and accountable to practice child rights. As per the the UN Convention of Child Rights (1989), the Convention says childhood is separate from adulthood, and lasts until 18; it is a special, protected time, in which children must be allowed to grow, learn, play, develop and flourish with dignity. In order to prevent and protect kids from the clutches of child sexual abuse, its really important as parents, educators , caretakers and adults around children that we use the right vocabulary that can combat child sexual abuse and secure safe childhoods. Everyone has rights. Children do too. It is their right to know the right vocabulary and content that can keep them safe from predators who are so close to them in their environment. Graduation from the stranger danger theme while using the right terminology for CSA prevention is the need of the hour. Dont fracture the need and call of CSA prevention by using terms like good touch and bad touch. The whole struggle of CSA victims is diluted and minimized. Children deserve their dignity with safety and we shouldn't restrict them in molds of good and bad.
I - Using Good touch Bad touch creates barriers for victims to heal
Good touch and bad touch are words that damage the self esteem of the victims of CSA. At Cactus Foundation we clinically advise therapists, counselors, social workers to use safe and unsafe touch through their counseling process too. In absence of using the right words like safe and unsafe, the scars inflicted on the victims go deeper and are more painful. Young child victims as well as adults with whom we have worked often associate the good bad touch to themselves and question their worth. However, when we use and introduce the term safe unsafe , most survivors are able to choose healing and understand that it wasn't their fault and they should not hold themselves accountable and guilty. So when you use the word safe unsafe it creates a healing buffer incase if kids do somehow experience any form of sexual abuse.
J - Using Good Touch Bad touch creates resistance to other aspects of CSA prevention and awareness
Good touch and bad touch are so sparingly used by so many and most people think they know everything about the topic. Whereas good touch bad touch in some way only gives a vague idea of the subject making people believe that they know it all. This oversimplification always acts as a block when you want to introduce several other aspects surrounding CSA. People become over confident and less receptive to understanding the other vital important sub topics that are of huge relevance. Especially as an organization if you are into community work you lose out more if you use the term good touch and bad touch while you will be able to strengthen the cause of CSA prevention if you use safe and unsafe touch as stakeholders become more vigilant, alert and would always want to know more about keeping kids safe. Afterall safety is a basic need of every individual as per Maslow's hierarchy.
The psychological association with the words safe and unsafe, rationally and psychologically helps the children understand what is happening to them, helps boost their morale and of their parents to take action and not let the cycle of abuse form of continue instead of shame and guilt that good and bad brings to the table due to its cultural connotation.
Cactus Foundation since its inception in 2011 , has been using and advocating the use of safe and unsafe touch instead of good and bad touch as we understand the significance of using right language and semantic in prevention of child sexual abuse and the impact it has on the comprehension by the community.
Use of the words safe and unsafe empowers not only children but adults as well while also giving clarity about how prevention is possible. Safe and unsafe touch activates the decision making capacities in the vigilant systems of children, equipping them to be able to decide on their own what is safe and what is not. Afterall parents and adults do want their children to be ‘safe’ and not just ‘good’.
So get ready to raise your kids with this tool of SAFE UNSAFE and get rid of the good and bad touch vocabulary as you finish reading this.