Shocking! Journalist Barkha Dutt opens up about sexual abuse she faced as a child

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"It feels like yesterday. And even sitting here today, I am 44 years old, but I feel like I am eight years old again. I can see that man’s face in my head every time I talk about it,” says Barkha Dutt

You won’t believe it at first, considering that she is such a big journalist and a personality that everybody looks up to. At the seventh annual Women in the World Summit in New York, journalist Barkha Dutt openly accepted that she was sexually abused when she was 8 years old and that she was in an abusive relationship with a man she was dating in college later on.

Barkha says that she finally decided to come out in the open as she could not proclaim to be a feminist to the world and not talk about issues that she has faced in her life. She even said that the event is still fresh in her memory and has put her under a lot of emotional stress over the years.

“It feels like yesterday. And even sitting here today, I am 44 years old, but I feel like I am eight years old again. I can see that man’s face in my head every time I talk about it,” she said at the event as reported by a popular news website.

Previously, Barkha Dutt had opened about her childhood trauma in her book, The Unquiet Land, which was released in 2015. Writing the book was also difficult for her, she says, “I did not want to be the story, I wanted to tell the story. When something like this happens and when you’re a child — I was younger than 10 years old— you bury it. You bury it and you try and forget it.”

How to ease your child’s anxiety

Dutt’s statement "You bury it and you try and forget it" is quite thought-provoking and points to a situation that can be worrying for parents, especially those who’re facing the pressure of explaining their 4 to 5-year-olds about child sexual abuse.

While it is quite an ordeal to explain your child about sexual abuse as it is a sensitive topic and one that they don't understand that well, it is very important for parents to be as communicative and as open with their kids from early on in childhood. One positive step in this direction could be by easing your child's anxiety and eliminating any fears that he might have.

One positive step in this direction could be by easing your child's anxiety and eliminating any fears that he might have. Anxiety could play a havoc on your child's psychology and make him take the flight, fight or freeze mode under unforeseen circumstances.

The minute a child’s brain perceives any danger, threat or stress then the amygdala (a small almond-shaped part of the brain) shuts the brain down immediately and then the brain triggers the primitive brain that can have only 3 reactions- Fight, Flight or Freeze. Flight means you want to flee from the situation at any cost, you don’t want to face it. Fight means resorting to aggression, violence against others or oneself to avoid facing the situation and the last is freeze- also called brain fog- wherein everything that the brain knew is suddenly not recognized or remembered. The child just freezes unable to speak, think, understand, or react,” writes Parenting guru and President of Podar Education Network, Swati Popat Vats, in her blog.

This is why it is very important for you to ease your child's anxiety to make him feel more confident so that he does not even hesitate for a second before telling anything to you. Here's how you can do it:

  1. Be gentle in your behavior: As mothers, we have to handle so many things in a day that we often don’t pay much attention to the way we speak to our kids on a day-to-day basis. Avoid being hyper or too aggressive in your tone as it only stops your child from opening up. If you tend to get angry at every small thing or mistake that your child has committed, he might be scared to tell you about other “real things” that bother him.
  1. Share your own experiences: If you want your child to open and be carefree in front of you, make him more comfortable by sharing what you go through during the day. It would be great if you could talk about your own daily experiences and how do you handle them.
  1. Take timeouts: If you are a working mum or someone who usually has a packed day. Take time outs every now and then and spend some quality time with your child. You needn’t go out to a mall or a watch a movie, just relax at home and spend some time with your child and tell him that he means the world to you. Spend the day colouring, painting or just playing board games and make him feel more comfortable and carefree at home.
  1. Don’t make a mountain of a molehill: If your child breaks your favourite glass or a toy that you recently bought for him by mistake, don’t make a big issue out of it. While you must ask him to be careful in the future, look at other big issues that need more attention and must be handled instead.

Also Read: Child sexual abuse: Teach your kids about ‘The Underwear Rule’

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