Why are our children so vulnerable to Psychopaths?

Authors: Nazrana Yusufzai & Dr. Asim Yousafzai


“Zainab’s rapist-killer has been arrested”. This is the news I woke up to this morning; I didn’t feel anything, to be honest, there are times when you just go blank, but I know what people want to see, to see him hanged, stoned and ripped apart in public. And here I am thinking, what after he is ripped apart publicly, what would be next? It might give a temporary relief to those who want justice to be done, but it certainly doesn’t answer the questions raised by Zainab`s and many unnamed little girls’ brutal killings.

Why is rape so prevalent, yet not discussed in public? Whose primary responsibility is it to protect the children? What is the role of the family and the government? Why is mental health completely ignored? What is the role of the schools and curriculum? How could ethics and faith play a role? How can we empower children? How can the society be more forthcoming? Is there anything that can be done about pedophilia? These are all the questions which have baffled us for long and it is high time to have an honest discussion on how to provide a safe environment for our children.


Knee-jerk reaction kicks in

“Hang the APS perpetrators publicly!” “Hang the Kasur rapist publicly!”  Sounds familiar? Yes, that’s the knee-jerk reaction we see every time a heinous crime or an act of terror is committed. But is it the solution or part of the problem?

A recent Twitter poll conducted by the principal author indicates that 60% of the 411 respondents favor a public hanging for the Kasur rapist, another 13% favor hanging while only 22% opted for imprisonment with a psychological exam.



Victim-shaming and incitement to violence will not work anymore. It is time to get serious about child abuse. It is time to change the way we approach rape and child abuse. Child abuse, of both girls and boys, is more pervasive than we think; there are no accurate reported numbers; but the numbers are staggering, to say the least.

Rape and child abuse is not specific to one country or one culture; it is an issue all over the world and it is up to us how we approach it in a meaningful way.


We need to share our experiences

To look for the answers, we have to give ourselves a little time to think, analyze and be honest with our own past. We have to come to terms with ourselves first. We as adults, as someone who know so many people around us are child molesters, what have we done about it?

In the aftermath of Zainab`s brutal killing in Qusur/Kasur, we witnessed some painful and most needed conversation on social media, mainstream media and in many families among parents and children. That’s an encouraging start; admitting the problem amounts to half the solution.

Some of our friends have chosen to discuss their childhood experiences with each other to find a closure and know to what extent it has happened to other friends in their circle.

It was shocking to learn that all of our friends have gone through more or less the same experiences- whether touched, molested, groped or grabbed in childhood.  Most of us have been successful to keep it to ourselves, as if abuse was our “personal secret”. It seems, not to talk about it is to pretend it has never happened. But the past haunts all of us, deep down.

Having said that, not everyone wants to share his or her horrific experiences with others. Some people are at peace with their past; for others its not worth it. There are also people who are psychologically vulnerable to not handle this type of conversation.  The suggestion, no doubt, goes out to those who want to share and are hesitant just because its taboo or they don’t have the courage to share.


Who are potential perpetrators? 

Some of the perpetrators are related to children, someone they have seen around them growing up, someone they or their parents trust, as uncles, as guardians and protectors, these perpetrators react on their desire to touch and get pleasure from little bodies of children, some as young as one-year-old.

There should be ‘no-trust on strangers’ policy when it comes to your children.

Many studies have concluded that children are easily controlled via threats of harm to anyone in the family or to the child. Also, most children blame it on themselves and are conscious about the stigma associated with sexual abuse.

A recent study by Reuters indicated that child abuse is widespread at Pakistani Madrassas and cases of children being beating to death have recently surfaced. However, government-run primary schools are also not immune from this menace. Widely unreported cases of pedophilia are very common at primary schools.


Psychology of child abusers

While talking about child sexual abuse, we should always consider talking about psychological conditions of abusers. They are reacting on their urge but not as blind as it sounds; they are extremely cunning, manipulative and careful when they plan to attack a child. They know how to lure little children; they know how to control and keep them under guilt-trip.

Unfortunately, there is much more to be researched and understood about pedophilia and serial killers.  But all child abusers are not pedophiles and all killers are not serial killers. To understand pedophilia, here is a link that explains it in less than 5 minutes.


It comes down to Parents to protect the children

As a parent, it’s your responsibility to notice any changes in your child behavior- know your children mood, no matter how young your child is.

Don’t leave your children alone with your relatives, tutors and Qaris – I know it sounds creepy but you don’t want to risk your child safety, which should be your priority. What would be the society’s reaction if Zainab’s parents were gone on a shopping trip to Dubai instead of Umra?

Discuss matters of concern with your children regularly; don’t assume one time talk is enough. Make it a routine to ask your child if someone has touched him here and there till your child gets comfortable. It is important for children to know the difference between ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’.

In the end, if you think having a child is too big a responsibility and you cant protect your children from the bad people around them- don’t reproduce. Numbers do matter!

Nazrana Yousufzai

The author is from Swat, Pakistan, currently based in Washington DC. She is a Human Rights lawyer by training and a journalist by profession. She tweets: https://twitter.com/NazranaYusufzai

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