A 10 year old girl, studying in 5th grade was referred for counselling. She shared that a stranger in the neighborhood would touch the girls on their private body parts when they were playing in the garden. He once touched her on her vagina. The stranger continued to visit the garden every afternoon. The child reported feeling really scared and found that she was unable to follow the PSE messages of being assertive. She also wasn’t able to connect to the parents and involve them when faced with an unsafe situation. She felt upset because she enjoyed playing with her friends but it also made her feel unsafe.
We engaged with the child through six sessions. The work began by looking at her emotions related to the experience and the anticipation of it happening again. A safety plan was chalked out. This was a step by step plan that she would follow if she found herself in an unsafe situation. Understanding boundaries and validating her emotions helped her in reflecting upon her experience and contain it. On reflecting upon why she found it hard to be assertive we discovered a blocking belief ‘I cannot talk back to anyone who is elder to me as it will signify disrespect’. This belief kept her from being assertive in most situations. We discussed how being assertive in an unsafe situation wasn’t showing disrespect but a coping mechanism. We did some role plays of how she would like to disclose this incident to her mother. Post this a joint session was conducted with the child and her mother with an aim to open communication channels and strengthen their alliances.
The child reported feeling confident to be able to be assertive. She also stated that she would now share the techniques and strategies that we discussed in our sessions with her friends. She wanted to equip them with similar assertive techniques for any unsafe situations. She also shared how she felt more comfortable and safe in asking her mother for help. The mother also reported saying that she was noticing these differences in the child’s behavior. The mother felt lesser need to constantly guard her or keep a check on her as the child herself had started being more open about her daily activities.