All posts by Haseeb Sadiq

It’s Like Breathing

It’s Like Breathing

2018-08-06

Just cause you’re bleeding, doesn’t mean you’re dying!

“Ew… and then oxygen exits your body? Gross.”

Imagine if we talked about breathing the way we talk about menstruating. Imagine if a completely necessary and natural, biological process was made to sound disgusting for no apparent reason.

Yes, girls bleed. It’s part of life. Specifically, part of puberty, one of the most important changes a person goes through during their lifetime– and it’s completely normal! It usually starts between the ages of 10-17.

What’s important is for people not to be alarmed, it is a sign of good health and maturity, all things positive! Menstruation takes place when when the brain sends out signals for the release of hormones into the body. These hormones make your eggs mature and grow larger. While this happens, the hormone levels decrease, and the lining of your uterus begins to break down, which is released from the body in the form of blood. In simple terms, a cycle begins in your body which causes you to bleed, and this keeps you fertile.

Nevertheless, it can be scary. In order for young girls to be prepared, they can predict when their cycle will begin by consulting other women in their family; women within the same family tend to begin their period around the same age. Other signs that suggest the period approaching are the development of breast tissue and growth of pubic hair. All of these changes are normal and part of teenagehood.

Don’t hesitate to talk to your mother and women around you, as it is the first step to understanding and getting to know your period and body. It’s not just you, it’s almost every girl you’ll meet.

Personal experience

Just cause you’re bleeding, doesn’t mean you’re dying!

I first got my period back in the 60s. Uss zamane mein, no one told me anything about periods. Mein choti si thi, only 12 years old. I went to the bathroom and  saw that I was bleeding, my first thought: I was dying. Mein marne waali thi. I decided that it was better not to bother anyone, just wait it out. Eventually, 5 days passed, phir 6 days, 7. Lekin mein zinda rahin. Finally, Ammi asked me what was happening with me. I confessed my secret, hoping she wouldn’t cry. In the end, it was my period. Sab teekh tha

Girl Talk: What to Expect During Puberty

Girl Talk: What to Expect During Puberty

2017-12-27

 

Puberty can really be one of the toughest parts of growing up. Did you know that during puberty your body will grow faster than any other time in your life except when you were a baby? Yes! During puberty the body grows at a rate only slightly slower than a newborn’s first year of life but for some people it may feel like its taking forever.

During this awkward time there are some major changes happening in your body and brain. Relax. The only way to really know what to expect is to read up on it. Here are some physiological changes that every girl should know:

You may sweat more and feel your skin get oilier:

During puberty you may experience oily skin and sweat more than usual. This is because puberty brings maturation of the sweat and oil glands in the skin. As hormones level increase so does the oil production increases in your glands. This oil or sebum then mixes with dead skin cells and bacteria and clogs pores that results in whitehead, blackheads or pimples. This is probably the least fun part of puberty, but the good news is that it will probably eventually go away.

Your weight will increase:

It is normal to put on around 15 or more pounds during this period of development. The body starts producing more fat so that you can develop fuller breasts, hips and thighs. These changes give body the shape of an adult woman. Eating healthy foods and exercising regularly may help you stay fit.

You will have soft hair growing in your armpits and pubic area:

At least one year before a girl gets her period, soft hair starts to grow in the pubic area (the area between your legs) and armpits. At first the hair might be scattered and light in colour but as your body continues to change, it is normal for it to start getting darker, thicker and longer. If the hair really bothers you, find a good waxing walli or a good razor with which you can shave.

Development of Breasts:

As your body develops you will start to take on the shape of an adult woman. In most girls, this development starts with breast growth. It also means that you might need to start wearing a training bra from now on. In my case, everybody else started wearing a training bra years before I had to. I felt there was something wrong with me and that my body would never change! But the truth is that the onset of puberty occurs at different ages depending on the individual’s rate of growth and development, so every experience is unique.

It Is Possible To Heal From Sexual Abuse!

It Is Possible To Heal From Sexual Abuse!

2017-12-07

 

Sexual abuse is a kind of trauma which can cause significant distress and emotional scarring to the survivor. But studies have shown that children who experience sexual abuse tend to recover quicker and with better results if they have a supportive mechanism and a caring adult – parent, teacher, or friend – consistently in their life (Sussane Babbel, 2013).

If you have ever been sexually abused, you may feel that the world has become a dirty place. You may start doubting everyone’s intentions towards you which may affect your ability to sustain other healthy relationships. It may not be easy for you to cope with this incident. In fact, you may find it difficult to describe this incident to someone you trust the most. But what you need to keep in mind always is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE and IT IS POSSIBLE TO HEAL.

Yes, it is possible to heal if the survivors adopt self healing strategies such as practicing self compassion, allowing oneself sometime to heal or seeking psychosocial help or professional assistance. One can learn to cope with what has occurred and proceed to have healthy relationships in the future.

So today, we are going to tell you about how you can support yourself in this difficult situation:

Allow yourself some time to heal:

The recovery from sexual assault varies from individual to individual. Do not stress if it’s taking you a longer amount of time to recover because this is normal. Some may need weeks, months or years to recover depending on factors such as the intensity of abuse and whether it involved violence or not.

In fact, you may find difficulty in talking about abuse to someone especially in situation where abuser is none other than your relative. You may feel shattered and embarrassed. But what you need to believe here is that YOU CAN COME OUT OF THIS TRAUMA and for this you will need to give your body and mind some time to heal no matter how long it takes!

Practice self care and self compassion:

Often we treat ourselves unkindly when bad things happen to us. Instead of offering ourselves same empathy and support that we would give to a loved one, we usually end up criticising ourselves (“I was abused because I am bad”), we start hiding from others in shame (“I am worthless”) and we get stuck with our thoughts such as “Why ME”.

Such reactions make our suffering more complicated but it’s not our fault. This is how our brains are wired to function. However, if we respond to our sufferings in a soothing and healing way we can recover smoothly and quickly. Self compassion and self care are one of the tools that can help us to become more emotionally resilient.

(Read more about Self compassion and Self care at: https://chrisgermer.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Transforming-Trauma.pdf)

You are not responsible for what happened:

Often after the incidents of sexual abuse, survivors end up blaming themselves. No matter what the situation is, everyone’s body is supposed to be respected. Everyone deserves the right to dignity, choice, equality and respect. You need to accept the fact that you did not invite the abuser. You did not encourage him/her to touch you inappropriately. It is not your fault. It is their fault, because they should have respected your body and your boundaries no matter what.

Don’t shy away from making healthy relationships

It is indeed difficult to trust people if an assault has taken place. But we need to understand the fact that everyone is different. What is more important here is that you need to know your boundaries and if these boundaries are being respected than these are signs of a healthy relationship and you may continue to trust that person. This may include your parents, friends, teachers etc.

Seek help from a Psychologist or Counsellor:

Seeking psychosocial support is really helpful and is strongly recommended for children and caregivers struggling with an incident of sexual abuse. Psychologists and counsellors are trained to use age appropriate strategies that can support individuals to cope with such trauma. Everyone needs emotional support and a professional can help you come to terms with the insecurity and doubts arising inside you after any abusive incident that has taken place.

In a nut shell, it is essential that you do not suppress your feelings related to the incident. Many a times we suppress our emotions which is unhealthy because it does not let the healing process to begin in our body. If you feel like crying, then allow yourself to cry and just be there in that moment with yourself. Offer yourself some empathy as you would like to offer to your friend who is in pain. Grieve your pain and but don’t let it define your life.

Learn SMART Rules to Protect Yourself from Sexual Abuse

Learn SMART Rules to Protect Yourself from Sexual Abuse

2017-11-28

 

As we grow older, our parents and caregivers cannot be with us all the time. They may drop us at school but they cannot be with us while we are studying in school. Similarly, when we are studying with a tutor, our parents may be nearby but they can’t stay there with us to ensure that we are safe. In situations like these, one might be interacting with somebody who may be a potential abuser. It is very important for all of us to empower and protect ourselves from abuse. Let’s look at five SMART ways that can help us stay safe.

1 . Secrets – can be fun but if they make you feel sad, confused or uncomfortable then it is best to check them out with your parents or caregivers whom you trust the most. Our parents and caregivers such as teachers can help us to distinguish what’s safe and unsafe for us.

Mates – are there to help. So wherever you go, always take your mates with you. It is perfectly alright to request your friend to come along with you if you are going somewhere alone. And if you notice your friend is feeling uncomfortable going alone with someone then join them, maybe that’s what they need.

Always – tell your friends and parents where you are going and with whom. This is imperative. Its your parents and friends who can support you and save you. They can then keep an eye out for you.
Respect – your body. Always remember that your body is yours and no one has the right to see or touch your private parts. If anyone does that, say “No” firmly or seek help from elders.

Tell – your best friend and parents if any person makes you feel uncomfortable. Trust your instinct because if you feel uneasy in any person’s presence then they’re most probably not good for you.

The Truth About Child Sexual Abuse

The Truth About Child Sexual Abuse

2017-11-13

If you often find yourself calling an abuser ‘he’ or thinking of them as strangers with a creepy black hood on, then think again. A child sexual abuser can be a female, and they can be someone whom we know very well. They might be a close relative or a complete stranger, but you must identify them and warn your parents and peers immediately.

Abusers need to be exposed and the only way you can do that is by knowing the truth behind child sexual abuse.

So, today we are going to bust some of the most common myths related to sexual abuse:

Myth 1: Children are most often abused by males:

Fact: That is not true. In actuality, abuser can be a male or a female. According to a recent US study, one out of every five children is abuse by a female offender.

Myth 2: Child Sexual Abuse most often occurs in lower class families:

Fact: Child sexual abuse knows no boundaries. It occurs in all social and economic classes of society.  According to a report by Sahil – an NGO for child protection, 74% cases from the rural areas while 26% cases from the urban areas of Pakistan were reported during January to July 2017.

Myth 3: Boys are safe from sexual abuse

Fact: They’re at as much at risk as girls. In 2016, 850 cases were reported by male children in Pakistan which is still underestimated (Sahil, 2017). This is because in our cultures boys are expected to be tough and strong and its hardly believed that boys can also be the victims of sexual abuse.  .

Myth 4: Children often lie and make up stories about sexual abuse:

Fact: It’s very rare for children to lie about sexual abuse. In fact they try to give many hints to their caregivers that indicate an abuse is taking place with them

Myth 5: Sexual abuse is a onetime incident. It cannot happen again

Fact: It is very likely that abuser will abuse his/her victim again. Hence, it is very important to report the incident to someone you trust the most!

How To Tell If Your Friend is Going Through Abuse

How To Tell If Your Friend is Going Through Abuse

Do you find your best friend feeling low and depressed? Has he or she become fearful of certain places or an adult who they were not afraid of before? Have they suddenly started to avoid coming home or going to school? Do you often spot them spacing out in the middle of a conversation? Have they started feeling insecure? Have they ever referred to having secrets with an adult that they cannot share?

If the answer to any of these questions is YES, then you need to help your friend.

Often signs of sexual abuse are not obvious because there are usually fewer physical symptoms than the emotional ones. However, children/teens who are being abused/ or are survivors of abuse often exhibit certain characteristic symptoms that we all should keep in mind.

So today, we are going to tell you when to suspect abuse in children or your peers so that you can help them fight the battle.

  1. Are they having trouble falling asleep?

If nightmares have become too common and they cannot go to sleep as easily as they used to in the past, then this hints towards emotional turmoil. The reason may not always be sexual abuse, but it is essential that you speak to them about it and rule out sexual abuse.

  1. Have they become sad, aloof, or clingy?

If you notice your friend, who earlier used to make group conversations so lively with jokes and laughter has suddenly become passive or quiet then you must speak to him/her.  Explore if anything is bothering them or if they are scared of someone they know.

  1. Are they suddenly too secretive?

If any of your friend or class fellow refers to ‘secrets’ that he/she has with an adult and cannot share it with you then try to find out that the secret does not relate to any kind of abuse.

  1. Do they lose their temper on petty things?

If you notice your friend has suddenly become excessively aggressive or display intense anger and rage in little things or towards someone specifically then you need to help your friend.

  1. Do they have inappropriate knowledge of sexual content and behaviour?

If you notice that your friend has suddenly started discussing inappropriate sexual content with you or tries to show you such content then you must stop your friend and explore where did he/she got access to such information? If they hesitate to share with you then you must inform an adult to help her/him out!

Is there an injury or a mark which wasn’t there before?

If so, then speak to your friend about it, check if everything is okay and if they want to talk about anything that is pressing-

Some of the behaviours and psychological reactions listed above can be a result of emotional upheavals that your friends may experience inevitably. The death of a loved one, problems at school or with personal relationships can make your friend exhibit symptoms which do not necessarily mean that they are being sexually abused. However, if you notice all of the symptoms from the list above then it is essential to explore further if abuse has taken place.

Remember, sexual abuse can dent anyone’s confidence and self esteem. Your friends may be reluctant in sharing the incident with you but you need to assure them that you are there to help them out. So HELP your friends!!

Don’t Go Shhh! Learn the Formula of Protecting Yourself!

Don’t Go Shhh! Learn the Formula of Protecting Yourself!

2017-11-06

It is a natural human instinct to be cautious in situations that may cause us harm. Don’t we look both ways before we cross the street? However, there are several situations that can be more difficult to navigate, such as when our physical boundaries are violated. We get confused and don’t know how to respond. In such circumstances, we are not comfortable and become unsure of whether such behaviour is okay. As a result, we are unable to stop the action or say “No”.

But don’t worry! Today we will guide you on how to set healthy physical boundaries and protect yourself in such situations.

First things first! Everyone needs to remember the golden rule:

“My Body is mine and I have the right to protect my body”.

It is very important for us to learn that we all have our own physical space and comfort zone which is supposed to be respected and taken care of.

But now the question arises: How do we identify if our physical space has been broken?

One of the main ways to determine this, is by learning the difference between a good touch and bad touch. Any touch that makes you feel comfortable is a good touch, such as a hug from your mum or friend. However, a touch that makes you feel uncomfortable or causes you any sort of discomfort is considered a bad touch, such as a tight and lingering hug from an aunt/uncle or touch on the private parts. So if you sense an uncomfortable feeling rising within your body while someone is hugging you or touching you, then you need to stop that person right away!

Another important aspect is to develop ownership over our bodies. This can be achieved by developing a conceptual understanding of public and private body parts. Public body parts are the parts that can be seen by anyone such as face, hands and feet. Private body parts are those that cannot be seen or touched by anyone unless it is for health and hygiene purpose.

However, in situations where doctor wants to examine your private body parts then you need to question and understand the purpose of the examination. For instance, if your complaint is cough and sore throat, the doctor shouldn’t request to examine your genitals. If he says that he needs to do overall body examination and you start feeling uncomfortable, then you have to say NO explicitly.

Do not wait for someone to come and stop the doctor from examining you. You can always call for help but also remember that it is you who can stop the doctor because your body is yours!

Lastly, whenever you experience situations where your physical space has not been respected, don’t feel ashamed or guilty – remember, it is NOT your fault! Instead be brave and strong, and stand up for yourself against the abuser by saying NO – as this is your right! Don’t hesitate to share this situation with someone you trust the most. Always remember that keeping such body secrets are not healthy.

6 Signs To Spot A Sexual Abuser

6 Signs To Spot A Sexual Abuser

“Don’t talk to strangers,” our mothers often warn us with an expression that swears us off unknown people for life. However, what we are not told is that we need to be equally wary of people we do know. And that’s because it is a very common myth that only strangers are the perpetrators of sexual abuse.   BUT the truth is that in most cases the victim/child knows the abuser. The very fact that most abusers are trusted individuals often results in their actions going undetected.

So how do we spot an abuser?

The bad news is that abusers are not easy to spot. There is no typical abuser. They interact in a very friendly manner in front of others and abuse their victims behind the closed doors only.

BUT the good news is that they do have certain attributes which may indicate us about his/her evil intentions.

So today we are going to tell you about the most common attributes of an abuser:

Abusers prey on the naivety of their victims

Abusers often prey on children because they are naive and trusting.  Similarly teens are also particularly at risk because they are likely to engage in communications revolving around intimate relationships. It is important to note that abusers always take advantage of their victim’s innocent.  Instead of using physical force, they use the basis of their relationships to keep their actions a secret.

Giving gifts for NO reason

Gifts are great but getting gifts for little things or no reason can be manipulative! Abusers often strategize ways to become closer to children or teens. In order to develop their trust, they may bring gifts and presents and make them feel appreciated. This lays the ground for the abuser to begin a manipulative relationship of give and take with the victim.

Becoming closer to the family of the child

Some abusers try to become closer to the family of the child so that they may eventually be left alone with the child.  They may visit their place with no obvious reason and spend long hours unnecessarily in order to gain their trust.

Abusers slowly cross their boundaries

Once the abuser establishes the access to his/her victim, they slowly cross their boundaries, sometimes with accidental touch, sexual jokes or by kissing and hugging the child repeatedly. In some cases, children become more comfortable with the abuser and desensitized to his/her touches and comments. The abuser can then increase the intimacy of his/her acts if there is continued interaction with the child in private spaces.

Threaten their victims to hurt them or their family

Some abusers take different strategies to make sure that children do not tell someone what is happening to them. They use outright aggression and threaten to hurt the child or their family. This frightens children into keeping the abuse a secret.

Abusers make their victims feel guilty

Often abusers manipulate children by making them feel ashamed and guilty. They usually blame their victims and make them feel that it’s their fault and that they are responsible for such situations.

After reading this blog, if you feel that you or your friend is experiencing one of the situations mentioned above, then you need to inform your parents or any trusted caregiver right away. Tell them what exactly is happening with you or your friend so that they can support you in getting out of this situation.

Your Abuser is Most Likely to Be Someone You Already Know!

Your Abuser is Most Likely to Be Someone You Already Know!

2017-10-13

Make sure everyone knows where their limits lie.

Did you know that around the world as well as in Pakistan, numbers prove that a sexual abuser is most likely to be an existing acquaintance or family member? A report published by Pakistani NGO Rozan analyzed 200 letters sent in by child abuse survivors. This information revealed that a whopping 49 percent of these crimes were committed by a relative, 43 percent were acquaintances and only seven percent were strangers.

Here is a graph created by Sahil that shows every perpetrator of the 1764 sexual abuse cases that were reported in the media from Jan-Jun 2017.

Why does this happen? No one can really say for sure why relatives and acquaintances are most often the perpetrators, but Shehneel Gill, Senior trainer from Aahung, an organization which seeks to improve access to sexual and reproductive health information and services says it may be because of easy access: “relatives and people known to the victim have more opportunities than anyone else to find themselves alone with these children.”

Mehnaz Rehmani from Aahung adds, “the abuser also takes advantage of the trust factor that they have developed with the victims family. They will assume that nobody will suspect them of abuse given the nature of their relationship,” she says, “which is why we need to be even more careful about close relationships.”

Hence, set healthy boundaries in the relationships that you build, because eventually these boundaries will help you to identify what is safe and unsafe for you. Here are some pointers:

  1. Learn to say “No”in situations that make you feel uncomfortable. Always remember that your body is yours and you ALONE have complete ownership over it.
  2. TRUST your instincts and say no even if it is a hug from your friends or relatives that make you feel uncomfortable. And most importantly.
  3. DO NOT hesitates to share such instances with a trusted relative, teacher or parent who you feel comfortable with.

We Will No Longer Stay Silent

We Will No Longer Stay Silent

You’ve probably heard of the saying “Silence is golden?” Well, we’re here to disrupt that myth. It’s time to scream, shout and let it all out.

Pakistani teenagers often find it difficult to talk openly about sexual abuse. In our society having discussions around sexual abuse is considered a taboo, which makes it difficult for everyone to talk about it openly.

 

But we’re ready to talk.

Bad news first: Sexual abuse is happening all around you.

Good News: A little awareness goes a looong way and we’re here to give tons of information on this topic so you know exactly what to do if you or your friend experiences abuse.

It is estimated that around 15-20 percent of Pakistani boys and girls from all backgrounds will be exposed to sexual abuse before the age of 18, and as teenagers we are all at high risk. According to a study done by Pakistani NGO Sahil, 1764 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in the media between January and July 2017. This number is 17 percent less than the number of child abuse cases that were reported last year, which might mean that sexual abuse incidents are decreasing, or simply that newspapers thought that writing about politics instead would make a better story.

We’re here to tell you that each and every one of you reading this blog has the ability to help prevent child abuse and harassment. Through Qadam Uthao we will be sharing some vital information about sexual abuse, including recognizing the signs, how to identify abusers as well as victims and who to call when faced with a similar challenge.  And YOU have to help us spread the message. Why? Because silence perpetuates this crime.

It’s time to start talking.