Dark and lonely road for survivors of sexual abuse

Before she was allegedly sexually assaulted last year, the teenager from Sarita Vihar was a topper in her class. She aced virtually every exam and was looking forward to sit for the Class-X boards.

But after the incident, the teenager decided not to write her exam and stopped going to school altogether.

The accused was booked and held by the police, but the mental trauma suffered by the girls was such that she has not resumed studies since.

A similarly horrific incident happened to a seven-year-old boy in another part of South Delhi.

One of the most active ones in his class, he now needs his mother near him round-the clock, even for basic activities such as going to the washroom. He too has stopped going to school.

These are just two of the many stories that counsellors working with abuse victims shared with The Hindu as they warned that even though numbers show that the rate of registration of cases under the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act have come down marginally this year, it does not represent the complete picture.

Don't go by numbers

Counsellors, including those empanelled with the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW), say that many cases of sexual abuse are still going unreported, and psychological recovery of the victim — which can take anywhere between a few years and a lifetime — is extremely important to help them resume their life.

Experts say that despite the limited deterrence that a law like POCSO has ensured, the tendency of stigmatising the victim prevents discussion and more often than not results in the victims blaming themselves.

“This is more common in the 16-18 age group and especially with girl victims who are on the verge of adulthood. During counselling, I have encountered numerous girls, who start believing in the very irrational stereotypes that the society tries to reinforce. Our sessions are comparatively shorter and the fact remains that they spend more time with families, who associate things like ‘family honour’ with these incidents,” said a counsellor.

Manju Upadhyay from Community Aid & Sponsorship Programme, who has counselled many victims, recalled an instance where a 15-year-old girl was found dead months after she was allegedly raped by a group of men.

Take care

Ms. Upadhyay is not entirely convinced that the incident was a suicide, as claimed by the police. She says that the events post the alleged sexual assault had a lot to do with it.

In certain cases, even the family’s efforts are not enough.

“For instance, in the case of the seven-year-old boy, the class teacher made fun of him when he rejoined school after a long gap due to the incident. His parents had taken great pains to make him forget the incident, but that mocking pushed the recovery back,” said another counsellor.

Experts said that the initial sessions in the immediate aftermath of the incident are very important.

Another counsellor said that part of the blame lies with the media.

When a traumatised child watches TV, which continuously talks about his or her plight at a time when they are trying to forget, it creates a lasting impression and can cause potentially irreversible damage.

The counsellors added that the sessions have to be followed up with regular intervention. It is here they believe that the institutional mechanism has to be improved.

“Private schools and even KVs have an edge in the form of in-house counsellors, but more work needs to be done as far as the government and MCD schools are concerned,” said a counsellor.

In April this year, the Delhi Police made a submission before the High Court that over 5,000 cases had been registered under the POCSO Act since 2012.

There was a case of a seven-year-old boy, who was sexually assaulted. He did not go to school for a long time. When he finally did, the class teacher made fun

of him. His parents had taken great pains to make him forget the incident, but that mocking undid all recovery

Sexual abuse counsellor

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 12:04:33 AM |

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