Mumbai doctor gives insights on sexual abuse and prevention

Updated: Feb 14, 2019, 11:07 IST | Hemal Ashar

Mumbai doctor smashes stereotypes and defines abuse as act of violence; talks about victim and perpetrator

Mumbai doctor gives insights on sexual abuse and prevention
Dr Armaan Pandey makes his point. Pics/Bipin Kokate

The Nehru Science Centre at Mahalaxmi is celebrating the cerebral with an ongoing Brain and Mental Health Week. Top mental health professionals have been talking and interacting with the audience about a host of subjects from dealing with gender dysphoria, to achieving that elusive elixir to stress - work-life balance.

Defining abuse
On Wednesday afternoon, psychiatrist Dr Armaan Pandey addressed health professionals, students, teachers, and counselors on 'Sexual Abuse - Insights and Prevention'. Dr Pandey's focus is on sexual abuse in children, but he did touch upon adults and spoke about both victim and perpetrator. The doc began by saying, "The mind is the concept. The brain is the organ. Let us define sexual abuse - it is an action by a person who fully understands what he or she is doing. It may be verbal or physical but it is sexual in nature and is unwanted by the person it targets."

Pandey said, "There is a feeling amongst people that some sections - men for instance, or the upper class - are never victims of sexual abuse. That is simply untrue. It can be inflicted on anybody - men, women, the young, the old and of course, children too."

The audience at the Nehru Science Centre auditorium
The audience at the Nehru Science Centre auditorium

Not harmless
The Chembur doctor concentrated on what some people may categorise as the more innocuous forms of abuse. "They are not harmless though and they too qualify as abuse." Pandey cited passing lewd comments, singing songs (with double entendre, suggestive lyrics) within earshot of the victim, stalking someone both physically and online, and physical touch in the guise of an 'accident' as sexual abuse. The professional warned, "Girls are often cautioned about their safety by parents. Boys are not spoken to, at least not as often as girls. We err in that because boys are equally at risk of sexual abuse."

Pandey rapidly smashed stereotypes about abuse, "It happens in upper class society too. In homes, we have cases where women have been perpetrators of sexual abuse," What he wanted to emphasise though is that, "Sexual abuse is an act of violence or aggression. The perpetrator knows what he is doing, but is simply not empathetic enough to consider that his victim is hurt by his words or action. Often, there is a thrill at seeing the person uncomfortable. Like other abuse, this is done to establish authority, it is an assertion of the sentiment that you are now at my mercy."

Wired differently
The doctor's talk spanned the emotional effects of abuse in children, empowering young adults to recognise and say no to child abuse, and the role of schools. He also stressed on calling out the perpetrators. "Expose them, as perpetrators do not stop at one crime or one victim. If you cannot report it to the police for whatever reason, at least try and expose them in your way so that they know they cannot get away with it," he said.

While that was a salute to the MeToo movement, the doc also pointed out that a lot of men simply did not acknowledge that the abuse in certain cases cited in the MeToo movement qualified as abuse. "They simply do not have a clue that this can be offensive and so, abusive," said Pandey.

He also said Science was examining whether perpetrator's brains, a rapist's for example, were differently wired. "Certain neuronal circuits in the brain are different, but, having said that, there is a moral dilemma too, because then are we, as men of science, absolving the accused of the crime?" The talk closed on that introspective note by Pandey, followed by a spirited interaction between speaker and audience.

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