Good Touch, Bad Touch

Written By

Ushasi Sen Basu

Good Touch, Bad Touch Loading

I’m so glad we’ve broken out of the middle ages and are taking sexual molestation of children seriously. Earlier it always was, ‘what’s all the fuss about beta, he just loves children… and you especially!’ Like having the beaming ‘uncle’ run his hands all over you at a holiday getaway makes you a very lucky girl indeed. Now, it’s all about explaining the good touch and more importantly, the bad touch.

As a reaction to the horrifying spate of sexual crimes against children last year, I began to recite to my daughter all the Do-Nots I’d collected off Facebook and other sites. Here are some helpful links:

She watches the ‘Komal’ video occasionally, but I’m not sure the message has really gone through. I might be partly to blame because I found it a terrible subject to discuss, and a very complicated one to boot.

At three, my daughter thinks quite literally. So, from the Komal video she gathered that men with French beards were “bad” uncles. “No not really,” I explained, a little frantic, “He’s bad because he touched Komal in bad places.”

Now, the “touch alert” is another discussion. It would be simplest to explain that only her parents can wash her private places, but it’s not true in practice. There’s the maid who helps me with her and occasionally bathes her if I’m not at home or unwell. There are the grandparents in Calcutta who, if she does the big job while they’re baby-sitting, are expected to wash her themselves rather than wait for me to return. And how can I forget her “akkas” back in her school in Bangalore, who I fully expect should wash her should she have an ‘accident’ in her pants? Perhaps a teacher too, should the akkas be unavailable for some reason? Yes, I can hand her a list of all these people and say “don’t let anybody but these people do it” (without even knowing who these akkas and teachers are by name); or explain that an adult can only touch her there for health and hygiene… but she’s just three.

Then comes the ‘hold’ alert. What I am grateful for is she herself does not enjoy physical demonstrativeness except from people she’s close to. I thank my stars for that often. It makes my job easier. But on the one or two occasions that male friends of ours have sat her down in their laps did I ask them not to? I didn’t. I reasoned, and I think, rightfully so, that one could tell from where I was sitting that there was nothing inappropriate. But see what I’m saying? I didn’t really walk the talk. I gave my daughter mixed signals.

Another instance of mixed signals is when other children force physical affection on her. “She only wants to hold your hand!” I’ll say in exasperation, while the other child bawls loudly. “Why can’t you just hold her hand so she stops crying!” On such occasions I just want her to give in to avoid a scene in public. But what I really did was ask my daughter to submit to an unwelcome touch against her will.

For about a month earlier this year, a man would squat on the pavement on the way to my daughter’s school. I began to dread these encounters because he would stare and mutter obscenities at us as we walked past (giving him as wide a berth as the cars zipping past us would allow). I warned my daughter that he was a bad man. Then just as suddenly as he’d appeared, he mercifully vanished. Now everyone who sits on the pavement or looks a little bit scruffy, is in her black and white world, a very bad man.

I’m telling you, to effectively educate very young children on these things is rocket science. For the simple reason, that these should be adult or more pragmatically — adolescent concepts; which our babies’ minds are not equipped to understand. But one must try, one must hope; since it is evidently not a remotely innocent world; that some of what you tell them might help them defend themselves if (God forbid) such a situation arises.

It’s also rocket science because a parent should find the right balance; to educate and reassure instead of turning them into quaking children always looking over their shoulders, distrusting the world.

Then again, the world being the nightmare place a-prowl with monsters it sometimes becomes, it more than deserves our children’s distrust.




Ushasi Sen Basu, 37, lives in Bangalore and is the erstwhile Editor-in-Chief of She published her debut contemporary literary fiction novel, 'Kathputli’ in early 2017, in both Kindle and paperback formats. Ushasi has been a professional writer and editor for over a decade. She also has an unpopular blog called The Crib that pokes fun at everything, including herself. Ushasi (aka Shashi, "U" and 'You-Over-There') loves literature and music, and dances like nobody’s watching. She is the mother of a five-year-old girl, who is the joy of her life and grudging guinea pig for many of her parenting experiments.

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