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Within families and homes, the determined silence on child sexual abuse is one reason it continues to happen.
This post contains instances of abuse that may be triggering for some readers. Please use your discretion.
Perhaps all these years I have lived in denial mode. But as it is said, you cannot run away from the past. Somewhere, at some point of time, you are revisited by the ghosts of the past.
Child sexual abuse is a topic which is NOT to be discussed. Pretend that it never happened. The guidelines of our Family. Indian Culture that comprises of respecting our elders and even if sexually abused, let’s just pretend it never happened. The Family Reputation is at Stake.
We maintain Omerta throughout; the Code of Silence about abuse in Indian households prevails. Aren’t we all proud of it?
Vinco Vici Victum, we have conquered, overcome, mastered, won, surpassed, and excelled at concealing cases of child sexual abuse happening around us. A lot many of us have been at the receiving end too. A home is the safest place for a child to be born and brought up in, but what happens when the child grows in an environment of fear? A fear that the child cannot explain to anybody, cannot or does not know how to voice it.
I hail from a reputed middle class family in North India; a joint family to be precise, consisting of doting uncles and aunts, of many relatives and neighbours.But then too, there is an instance when I felt unsafe, did not know what happened or preferred to shift-delete that experience from my memory.
It is just not me; many of us suffer similar mortifying experiences. These experiences are then followed by experiences of silence, deleting the memory and what’s more, pretending that it never happened.
It was the year 2012, I was living in an upscale society in Bandra West, Mumbai.I had good neighbours, though usually, not much socialization happened other than at society meetings or festivals. I have always been loved by children. I bond with them easily and there too, I developed close bonding with a ten year old girl S.
She used to play in my flat and usually ended up bringing her school homework to my place and completing it in the night. She hailed from a separated family. I knew her mother and we too became good friends. It was during one of the conversations that S started asking me about rape and what it is. Totally taken back by her innocent question, I dismissed it as the product of watching news. It is an era of sensationalist journalism, after all.
But eventually she confided in me about her fears. Harrowing details of what that paedophile was doing to her. He was her mother’s boyfriend, who used to visit them often and when her mother was not around too. He had the keys to their home. She did not know what was happening to her, was as confused as I had been but more determined in the fact that she did not want more of it and needed help.
She did not know what was happening to her, was as confused as I had been but more determined in the fact that she did not want more of it and needed help.
Where I had the privilege to be born in a family which was full of people to love and protect me, while S was from a separated family. All the more difficult to seek help and support. I confronted her mother, and what broke me was that her mother, instead of supporting her ten year old daughter, supported her boyfriend stating that her daughter is jealous and possessive.
Her mother in a mild rebuke added that single girls like me should focus on our lives rather than snooping around. What disturbed me most was that before this incident I was their favorite, charming neighbor. Now I was a neighbor who was a possible threat to her reputation. S’ mother dismissed me with eye-rolling disdain. I kept on wondering how a mother could be so detached, so indifferent to her daughter’s pain. Mothers are the caretakers of children they bring in to the world.
I could never let this happen to anybody’s daughter nor should be allowing anybody to let it happen to their daughter. Alas, these were just thoughts in my mind which I never acted on.I proudly consider myself as having very strong maternal instincts towards children, which explains their natural affinity towards me but until today, I remain ashamed of how I reacted here. Maybe that’s why I am confessing it here.
Work occupied most of my waking hours but this incident gave me sleepless nights. Unfortunately I was afraid, convinced myself that I was helpless and that I had done enough. As expected, the little girl was not allowed to visit me and long hours at work did not give me time to check on her.
My maid informed me after a few months, that the mother and daughter duo had moved out – possibly to that pervert’s home. No forwarding address left.
Life moves on; now I have relocated to a new city. However there still remains that guilt of not protecting S, of not being able to do anything about the fact that she trusted me enough to confide in me. I did not even discuss it with anyone. I too convinced myself that soon it will get over and Silence is the best option. I did not raise my voice against child sex abuse.
What next, I ask myself. I had an alibi all these years. I was working and hence did not have time. Time or no time, shying away from responsibility towards our children is a crime. The guilt still haunts me. But yes, I have decided to speak up.
Time or no time, shying away from responsibility towards our children is a crime. The guilt still haunts me. But yes, I have decided to speak up.
Our children are not safe. Do I want to bring my child into this world where I constantly live under the fear of his/her safety? What is the solution?
I am sure most of us agree very strongly that the increase in the number of child sexual abuse cases is a result of one thing, the lack of voice. We hush the topic, we do not discuss it – it is a taboo. The experience of abuse is hidden from the society. We are not supposed to discuss sex with our parents and neither are our children allowed to open their mouths when they have so many questions. Sex education in India is still a taboo and so many mothers still tell their children that children are gifts of God.
Innocent children still fail to understand what happened to them. In most of the cases, children who are abused fail to express what happened to them. Most of the children still do not speak, they suffer in Silence. Children are receptive to adult’s feelings. They begin to understand about the general pattern of adults. They know when they will be trusted and when they won’t.
Our Children are not safe in the home nor are they safe in school. The recent case in one of Bangalore’s reputed schools where a six year old girl was molested by school teachers is an eye opener. It is one of the cases reported. There are so many children out there who are the victims.
Just because we are silent, just because we do not think this topic needs to be discussed, our children are subjected to the trauma.
Speak up; it is the need of the hour. I feel ashamed that I did not have the courage to stand up for a ten year old girl. But not now. There has to be a limit. We have to end this Omerta!
We need to provide our children a safe and happy childhood. All the mothers and the would-be mothers raise your voices, do not deprive your child of a happy childhood.
Some Facts below:
A survey conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (PDF) in association with the United Nations Children’s Fund ( UNICEF) and a few Indian NGOs working for child rights found that more than 53% of children in India are subjected to sexual abuse, but most don’t report it. The survey was conducted in 2007 and covered 13 states across the country with a sample size of 12,447.
20% of these children admitted to being aggressively assaulted: they had either been penetrated; made to sexually fondle an adult; or been forced to display their own genitals. And clearly, gender is no bias where child sexual abuse is concerned: of the 57% of children who said they had been abused, more than half were boys. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a child goes missing in India every eight minutes. 48, 838 children were raped in just 10 years. This figure is a National Crimes Record Bureau statistic. Child rapes have seen a chilling 336 percent jump from 2001 to 2011.
Pic credit: Jemma (Used under a CC license)
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