Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Importance of Semantics - Safe and Unsafe vs Right and Wrong or Good and Bad

Our take on the terminology used as part of prevention programs. We understand that the terms "Good Touch" and "Bad Touch" “Right and Wrong Touch” has often been used to help children understand these concepts, and such usage has been in existence in various countries as well. Very often, in India as well, child rights organisations often use the vocabulary of good/bad touch and right/wrong touch to refer to different kinds of touch. However, we at Tulir tend to use a different approach. We refer to these touches as "Safe Touch", "Unsafe Touch" and "Confusing Touch". The reason behind this approach is, that we feel "good" and "bad" , “right and wrong” are absolute terms, having strong connotations. When we teach children about "bad or wrong touch", it does not guarantee that they will never receive such "bad touch". In the unfortunate incident of them receiving such "bad" touch, they may associate such experience with the connotative value of the word, thereby tending to believe that because they have received "bad" touch, they themselves are "bad", "impure", "defiled", "dirty" etc. However, the words "safe" and "unsafe" are neutral (or relatively neutral), and therefore may not lead to such negative feelings in children's mind when encountered with an experience of this sort. Also, these terms put the onus of responsibility on the person who gives the touch ("s/he made me feel unsafe"), thereby pre-empt the possibility of the child blaming himself/herself for the act. There is more likelihood of children reporting an “unsafe touch” than a “bad or wrong touch” for the reasons as well. Moreover, children may confuse the word "good" with it's culturally defined connotative value, and may confuse it with "pleasure". However, "pleasurable touch" may not always and necessarily be a "good touch". In order to address these concerns, we use "safe", "unsafe" and "confusing" as opposed to other similar terms, even though in principle we are referring to the same concept.


vasuda said...

wow, thanks for sharing this. It really makes so much sense and definitely serves the purpose of taking the blame away from the child.I am so glad you shared this...will help chnage our perspective and go a long way in making a positive difference in how effective awareness sessions are, apart from the therapeutic sessions of course.

Ipsita said...

ITs grt way safe and unsafe.I want little help in teaching my child all these I am in Mumbai can you suggest books or links explaining how to teach safeand unsafe for 2-6.
thanks for sahring and its so inspiring to read and know change happening.

Viji Ganesh said...

Very well thought out and analysed .. However when I am trying to tell a 4 year old ..it is difficult to explain a safe / unsafe touch or uncomfortable touch ..Need to figure out that ..whereas "bad" is easily understood by them ..However looks like in the long run the word may leave emotional scars which may lead to self-critical feelings ..