It is a harsh reality that is often swept under the carpet. But it is time to take a stand and make a difference when it matters.
Anyone who is a regular reader of the papers would have commented about the increasing regularity with which child sexual abuse (CSA) cases are reported. Rapes and molestations have become day-to-day parlance.
Earlier this month, there was an article in a newspaper that went on to describe how a school security guard sexually abused a student studying in LKG. Ten days later, another told the story of a young tribal girl who was sexually assaulted by random villagers as punishment for falling in love with a non-tribal boy.
Child sexual abuse is a phenomenon that is surrounded by various myths and social stigma. The truth is, it doesn't have to be violent and it doesn't have to be by a stranger. Victims don't always become abusers as adults and no family is “immune” to the situation. Victims often face difficulties in learning to trust and may feel like a worthless liability to those around them. These feelings and emotions can be the effect of emotional or physical abuse or neglect.
Small steps are being taken to improve the situation. Organisations like Tulir are working actively to prevent and heal child sexual abuse. The Chennai Corporation, in association with Tulir, has assembled boards in various schools to give students the opportunity to come forth and tell teachers about the abuse that they are victim to. Students of Bhavan's Rajaji Vidyashram conduct an annual event called ‘Cyclone', a cycle rally to increase awareness about the issue.
Asked why they chose CSA as their topic, organisers Sagar Malhotra, Akhil Prakash, Mansi Krishnakumar and Sahana Shekhar passionately explained that they believed that awareness was the first step to prevention and that abusers, and not victims, should be penalised. The event, which saw the students approaching Tulir for guidance and advise, tried to educate the masses on the difference between trafficking and abuse. It was chosen as the topic for the year because, unlike trafficking, CSA could even be “just a touch”.
Act on it
The National Study on Child Abuse in April 2007 discovered that more than 53 per cent of the children reported to facing sexual abuse in one form or the other. Fifty per cent of the abusers were known to the victim and were in positions of trust.
CSA is a reality. We can no longer brush it deep under the carpet of social stigma and pretend to look the other side. Victims are all around us and they need our acceptance and empathy more than anything else. Organisations like Tulir and small pockets of students like those at Bhavan's are doing their bit. Yet, their actions need to be supported by so many others to form that collective ocean. The onus is on us to make a difference and make it when it matters. Now.
Yashasvini has just finished her A Levels.