The very first incident I can remember goes back to the time I must have been six years old. We used to live in a township. I went to our neighbour’s house. They were a family of five – mom, dad, two sisters and a brother. The kids were all in their teens.

I clearly remember that that afternoon, their mom was in the kitchen and the girls were in the front yard. This boy called me to his room and told me let’s play a game!

‘A game’! Sounded interesting! He said as he starts stripping down, I should do the same. I had no clue about his intentions. I just felt that it was a stupid game. I told him that and ran home!

The second incident occurred around the same time. I had a Barbie doll. I was playing with the little kids in our neighbourhood. A high school boy, also our neighbour, approached me and asked me for my doll. I gave it to him and right in front of me, he did the most detestable things to the doll. I grabbed my doll and ran!

I was in eight grade. My parents enrolled me for weekly piano lessons. The teacher was a 55 year old church organist. He had daughters in their twenties. The lessons were supposed to happen in our home at 5:30 am. Ours was a small one bedroom house. My parents would be in the other room. How much safer could it get?

This pervert took advantage of me in my very home despite my parents being right there in the other room.

For two weeks I did not know what to do. I would get very nervous when the day for my piano lessons would approach. I kept telling my mom that I wasn’t interested in the classes. She got the hint and spoke with me. She asked me what was wrong? I gathered my courage and shared with my mom! That was the end of that episode!

Growing up as the daughter of a psychiatric counsellor had its advantages. It was my mom’s profession to council the weirdest weirdos. She used advice me a lot. At times I used to get annoyed. Then she would say, I have heard stories many moms would have no clue about. It is my responsibility to do all that I can to protect you. All the above incidents happened despite the measures she sincerely took to keep me safe!

However, I would say, the way my parents approached ‘protection’ and ‘safety’ was very different from many other Indian parents of my time.

They DID NOT put rules on with whom I could talk, especially boys.

They DID NOT set curfew timings.

They DID NOT accompany me everywhere. I remember travelling to different cities all by myself from the age of 14 in government buses.

They DID NOT set regulations on what I could wear and what I shouldn’t.

BUT this is what they did!

They taught me what type of people are out there, the warning signs that accompany such people and what I need to do in such instances!

They taught me to be wise and bold – what are the things I should be aware of and could do to ensure my safety.

They taught me modesty and gave me the freedom to wear what I like.

They taught me that if someone took advantage me, I SHOULD NOT passively endure it, but FACE IT, STARE INTO THE EYE OF THAT DEVIL AND SAY NO TO IT!

Above and beyond everything, they gave me the freedom to share EVERYTHING with them!

Post my grade 8 incident, I do recollect a couple of incidents while travelling by bus. Each of those times, I remember standing up and sternly telling those perverts they dare not mess with me always ensuring every passenger in the bus, the conductor and the driver got to hear it!

Once in high school, my best friend was abused by a stranger in broad daylight inside our school campus. She came running to me in panic. I immediately took the issue to one of our senior teachers. The school appointed security guards at the gates thereafter.

My mom spoke with this teacher regarding the incident and suggested some ideas on how girls should be more aware of such predators and they could handle such incidents. The teacher then came to me and said, “Michelle, you are truly blessed to have a mother like that!”

I truly believe I have the best mom. Now being the mother of two girls, I wish I could be like my mom.

I do not want to be an over protective mom raising insecure girls. I want to raise tough girls who can face the world – the GOOD, BAD and UGLY!

I want to give my girls freedom and the will power to choose right from wrong, good from evil, safe from unsafe.

I want my girls to wear what they want and do what they wish while being fully aware of WHO THEY ARE and how they would like to portray themselves to the world!

I want my girls NOT TO hide within the four walls scared and paranoid, but travel the length and breadth of the world BRAVE and FEARLESS!

More than anything, I want my girls to know that there is nothing too bad that cannot be shared with me!

Let’s raise conquerors and not cowards!

“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” ― Albert Einstein

As parents, while we strive to protect our children, here is what we can do to prepare them!