In a welcome move, the Lucknow police have set up a support cell for rape survivors. Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury finds out more

Eight-year-old Sarita (name changed) sits on the edge of the ‘charpai’. She is completely silent. Her mother has run back home after hearing that the police are visiting. SI Suman of the Uttar Pradesh police has been periodically visiting this house in Tikad village near Lucknow after Sarita’s rape in January this year.

Suman is trying to talk to Sarita. “Did you go to school today?” she asks. Sarita nods without speaking. Her 10-year-old brother explains that they still receive threats from the relatives of the assailant, a teenaged boy from the neighbourhood. Suman gives the family moral support: “Kuch nahi hoga (nothing can happen). Don’t worry. We are with you. They can’t do anything to you now”.

Sarita does not even raise her head. Suman hugs her, asks more questions, but Sarita does not say a word. We are greeted with the same silence in Nupur’s (name changed) house in Natkur village in Lucknow. Nupur was raped in June this year. She has just returned from school, and her mother tells Suman of how neighbours and relatives of the assailant blame them for the crime and threaten the family, since they did not hide the crime but went to the police.

Suman is part of a new team set up by the Lucknow police to extend support to rape survivors. The police women visit their homes periodically to extend moral support, and offer medical, psychological and other support to the survivor and her family. The scheme was started by Lucknow’s Special Superintendent of Police, J. Ravinder Goud, after the particularly gruesome rape of an eight-year-old girl in his city earlier this year.

A team of police officers evolved a plan to give moral support to rape survivors as well as to family members and give them courage to get back to normal life. The team includes psychiatrists and social workers. “We see these highly traumatised victims and families. We all felt we had to do something to bring them back to life,” says Goud. “We have minimum resources. We can only protect them from the assailants and their families who make life even more miserable for them. But we are still trying, with a few of our officers and a few councillors whose services we have engaged,” says Goud.

A study done by the state police in Lucknow finds that 89 per cent of rape survivors are aged between three and five, while 65.7 per cent are aged below 18. According to Babita Singh, the nodal officer for the ‘support group’, the state figures for UP are likely to be similar. The National Crime Bureau report records the highest number of rape cases in recent times to have come from Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

The support group set up by the Lucknow police shows some initial success. The survivors reached by it have returned to school, the families are no longer fearful; they are fighting to stay in the mainstream. This fledgling effort, if supported and extended, can go a long way towards sensitising the police force as well as communities.

The caption of the photo used in this story has been edited to incorporate the following correction:

The caption of the photograph that accompanied the story, “Help arrives in uniform” (The Yin Thing page, Sept. 22, 2013), failed to establish that it was a representational image.