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I had avoided contributing to the CSA blog 2012 because I felt that highlighting problems would not help unless it brought a change in the attitude of society and family. How often have victims been silenced by their mothers for fear of being ostracized and criticized by society? How often have fathers and uncles gotten away after abusing a child due to their superior position as providers?
These questions bother me a lot and the fact that I am unable to do much about it makes me feel inadequate. Let me give two examples of girls who grew up in my neighborhood.
The first girl was perhaps in her Kindergarten class when the family moved into our complex. I often saw her father or mother waiting for the school van to pick her up. A few years later the family bought a car and a driver was appointed to escort this girl and her younger sister to school. The two girls studied in different schools and the younger child was dropped off first since her school was midway between our complex and the older girl’s school. Likewise, the driver picked the older girl first and the younger one later.
My contact with the family was limited to familiar nod accompanied by a ‘how do you do?’ when I met her mother on my way to college. My college timings changed and my contact with them was negligible.
I later heard that the older girl, who was now pursuing higher studies in Bangalore, had approached another girl, also from our complex and studying in Bangalore, for money to have an abortion done. She needed it immediately since she was already 10 weeks pregnant. The story became the topic for discussion and soon one heard different versions of her activities as a school going teenager in Jamshedpur.
The driver for instance supposedly approached a lady in our complex and told her that the girl would not attend school and ask to be dropped off near a lake close to her school and picked up around the time school got over. He was scared of her father’s reaction on being informed and wanted this lady to tell the girl’s mother about it. He further added that the girl had threatened to implicate his name and declare that he wanted to get physical with her, if he ever tried to tell on her.
I paid no attention to these stories and felt that it was up to her parents to deal with their daughter.
It was only recently that I heard from the wife of a doctor in our colony that the girl had been victim of sexual abuse from the age of six. Her uncle would abuse her during their visits to her maternal grandmother’s house in Kolkata. Initially she did not understand much but she later began to enjoy it and when the uncle stopped paying attention to her following his own marriage that she began to long for sex and turned to class mates and friends for appeasement. She had wanted to talk to someone about it and felt that S…… (the doctor’s wife) would understand.
She blamed her mother for not having given her proper advice although she had knowledge of her uncle’s interest in her. To her mother, her maternal family’s reputation was primary. At the age of 22, the girl felt repulsed but could not undo the past. Her best years had been wasted and she could not concentrate on her studies or make plans for life ahead.
“The only thing I could do was to make sure that my younger sister was kept out of all this. I hope she leads a normal life like others of her age,” she had said. By then the family had left town, having sold their flat and we no longer heard of them.
The second story is of another girl whose parents have separated. The father is addicted to alcohol. They have three daughters and the mother is now a fashion designer in Delhi. She had initially enrolled all three daughters in a boarding school but the oldest one was expelled from school when she was found in a ‘compromising position’ with a class mate. She was just 13. The mother refused to have anything to do with her ‘shameless’ daughter and sent her back to Jamshedpur.
The girl does not attend school and shuttles between her maternal uncle’s home and her own. The father is never sober enough for any kind of discussion and when the aforementioned doctor’s wife offered to take care of her, provided she was put in school, the girl turned aggressive and asked her to mind her own business.
Having heard the first girl’s story the doctor’s wife feels that this child ought to be given direction and guidance and not be allowed to become a victim of sexual abuse. The mother who ought to have stood by the daughter does not even take calls from Jamshedpur. As far as she is concerned, she has washed her hands off. The school authorities have been asked not to allow the other daughters to talk to this girl.
It is stories such as these that make me feel helpless. Motherhood is a responsibility. While one can feel happy about her child’s achievements it is equally important to give children sound advice and proper guidance when they go through the most vulnerable phase in their lives. Their energy needs to be channelized in the right direction. Abandoning a 13 year old at a time when she needed the comfort of a mother’s lap is not fair.
The Hip Grandma lives in a small industrial town called Jamshedpur and despite all its
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