The anatomy of good touch and bad touch

Abuse against children and adolescents, especially sexual abuse, has been alarmingly high during the last few years.

The anatomy of good touch and bad touch

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Abuse against children and adolescents, especially sexual abuse, has been alarmingly high during the last few years. It is evident that reported cases of the issue have significantly increased, yet many cases still remain unreported due to societal stigma, fear and limited awareness.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), India has seen a 26 per cent increase in crimes against children over the past two years, based on cases registered under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The number rose specifically amidst the backdrop of the pandemic, which induced lockdowns, highlighting a disturbing trend in crimes against children. India, in 2022, witnessed a staggering 8.7 per cent increase in child abuse cases, reaching a total of 162,000 incidents.

‘Touch’ is a positive experience that gives a safe feeling from a loved one. Good and bad touch are two very crucial aspects that a child must be taught at an early age, both for protection from any potential harm and to prevent them from becoming a threat to others in society.


‘Good touch’ gives reinforcement and makes you feel loved, safe and comfortable; for instance, warm hugs from family and friendly handshakes from friends. Whereas ‘bad touch’ is something you don’t want and will make you feel uncomfortable, scared, unsafe and unwanted. Bad touches include touching parts that are normally covered by undergarments. A bad touch is not only limited to touch; it also extends to views.

Dr Sarmishtha Chakrabarti, a consultant psychiatrist at Manipal Hospitals and founder-director at Insight Medical Centre, shed light on the traumatic after-effects of inappropriate touches experienced during childhood and adolescence. “Bad touches have a significant impact on mental and emotional well-being. First are anxiety and depression, emotional distress, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Next come trust issues; therefore, such people may face challenges engaging in emotional and physical relations with their partner. Self-esteem and body image issues are also there. Besides that, victims may have anorexia nervosa (an eating disorder) as an outcome if not treated properly. There are also physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, backaches, and other physical ailments. Sometimes, victims do deliver self-harm by cutting themselves as they feel emotionally empty.”

Child abuse in India thrives on a complex web of social and economic factors. Sometimes, due to poverty, lack of education, and stressful living conditions, it creates pressure for carers, therefore increasing the risk of outbursts and violence. Additionally, deep-rooted social stigmas surrounding mental health and a general lack of awareness about child abuse make it difficult to identify and address the issue.

As childhood is the most important stage in the development cycle, it should be kept in mind that the child acquires knowledge from their surroundings. Accordingly, they learn good touch and bad touch through the environment of their upbringing. Therefore, sex education is a fundamental need of our children for their bright future. It becomes a problem if the parents or the utmost caregivers of the child feel shy about taking up such sensitive topics with their own children.

Sudeshna Roy, an advisor in the West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights (WBCPCR), says, “This has been something that NGOs, commissions, and the government have been working on for over 5–6 years, and gradually it is gaining momentum. It is even included in the curriculum of government schools early in junior classes. Awareness of touch should be taught to both girls and boys; it’s not just girls who get molested. Most importantly, parents should also be made aware of it. Parent-teacher meetings should include a talk about it.”

She adds, “Parents, especially in rural and semi-urban sections, should be taught and made to understand the importance of talking to their children about sensitive topics because it is seen that they are often not careful when discussing such matters, which can have negative consequences. However, I must say that change is taking place and age-old stereotypes are gradually being eliminated.”

The SPK Jain Futuristic Academy in Newtown, Kolkata, hosted a crucial workshop on ‘Good Touch and Bad Touch’ on 15 May 2024. Organised by Young Indians, the session aimed to educate and empower young students about personal safety and boundaries. The institute considers such education an essential component of education.

Children with disabilities are at least three times more likely to be abused than those with abilities and are more likely to be seriously injured or harmed by maltreatment. The Statesman reached out to an individual (who requested anonymity) working on community-based programmes to protect abled children and children with special needs, providing home-to-home teaching and guidance for children, families and extended families.

She said, “The modules for teaching abled and disabled children are the same. It is only for those who are visually and hearing impaired that we use an ISL (Indian Sign Language) interpreter. We start by introducing the male and female bodies by drawing charts and making posters. In most cases, children could only recognise body parts that were noticeable, and then we made them learn about the private body parts. We teach them rights over one’s own body and how to differentiate good and bad touch through various stories and incidents.”

“It’s not only the child who must be made aware, but also the immediate family and beyond them. Bad touches come in every form and are irrespective of gender. Societal stereotypes often portray young boys as strong and hard. This can create a culture of silence around abuse, as boys may feel hesitant to speak out or discouraged from addressing it due to societal pressures. We see cases, such as in family gatherings, where the parents fail to recognise inappropriate touching of their children by strangers or relatives, even in front of their eyes, due to a lack of awareness. There are many cases where the mother abides by their in-laws and cannot speak blatantly when her child is touched inappropriately. Moreover, many parents or primary caregivers leave for work and entrust their children to the care of extended family members, which can sometimes lead to the child facing such issues. Such touches might also be unintentional or habitual due to a lack of awareness, making the child feel uncomfortable, unwanted, and scared,” she added.