“I Thought I Was Wrong – Till He Did It Again” #ProtectOurChildren
(The Quint is supporting #ProtectOurChildren, an initiative by Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Member of Parliament, to find lasting solutions to the problem of child sexual abuse. As a part of the campaign, Devanik Saha will be writing a weekly column where he will talk to survivors of abuse and share their stories. The campaign intends to encourage people who have faced abuse to share their stories and thoughts.)
Earlier this week, as a part of the #ProtectOurChildren campaign, Rajeev Chandrasekhar organised an Open House event titled “Why do we need to start talking about Child Sexual Abuse and Protect Our Children” – which included NGOs like HAQ Centre for Child Rights, RAHI Foundation, Change.org, etc.
The number of registered child rapes rose 151% from 5,484 in 2009 to 13,766 in 2014, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. 8,904 cases were registered nationwide under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and 11,335 under the category “assault on women (girl child) with intent to outrage her modesty under Section 354 IPC (which includes stalking, voyeurism, use of criminal force with an intent to disrobe, etc)”.
The Open House event was quite powerful as some panelists and participants confessed that they had faced abuse at some point of time in their lives. Hearing those experiences and confessions sparked an idea within me.
I realised that we needed to talk to more child abuse survivors and convince them to share their stories – each more harrowing than the one before. The Quint was kind enough to support this and here we have the first of our stories.
Richa Gupta (name changed on request), a recent graduate from one of the top law schools in India, agreed to share her experience once I told her about the series.
“I do not want to share my real identity because I believe my name isn’t as important as the story. However, I have tremendous respect for those people who come out openly.”
Richa was just four years old when she was enrolled in kindergarten. Her parents, both working, kept her at a crèche while they were away. Only a few days after she started living in the crèche, the lady’s son – who was around 17-18 years old – started sexually abusing her.
I treaded rather carefully on the next question – asking her if she wanted to share what he’d actually done to her. Richa’s response was laudable:
“Sharing the details of the actual act overshadows the essence of the conversation. We’re adults, we know what sexual acts entail, we understand how scarring it can be. Also, I do not want the reader to start painting pictures in their head of what he did, how he did it, why he did it... The fact that he did it is the most relevant thing.”
A critical point was raised at the Open House event – that children in most cases don’t even know that they’re being abused or molested.
This was true in Richa’s case too.
“At that time, I didn’t even know what was happening. I was just a four-year-old child, utterly confused about the turn of events. He kept telling me to do certain things, and as an innocent child, I just complied.”
I was so clueless that after it got over, I would go back home and assume that nothing had happened – till he did it again. Although I felt weird and shameful about the whole thing, I never told anyone. It continued for almost a year until I left the crèche and joined a full day school. A couple of years later, when I started reading newspapers which featured such incidents, I realised what I’d been through. However, I still chose to stay mum.Richa Gupta (name changed on request)
“It was only when I turned 18 that I shared the experience with my parents. They were utterly shocked, but remained as supportive as ever. They never used my ordeal as an excuse for me to stop pursuing my dreams.”
How has it changed her as a person?
“The incident made me more empathetic towards people’s sufferings. In a way, I believe, it played a strong part in helping me choose a career in environmental and human rights laws. I focus especially on gender.”
Richa also has pertinent questions on the issue of child sexual abuse.
“Given my experience, I would like to ask NGOs who deal with child sexual abuse this one important question – do we tell children about sexual abuse from an early age, thus destroying their innocence? Or are we going to take the risk of not doing so?”
Sadly, Richa’s story is only one among the many that The Quint will be sharing every week. We also invite you to join the initiative.
If you want to share your story or that of a friend’s who has faced abuse in their childhood, write in to email@example.com. You could alternatively also tweet to us using the hashtag #ProtectOurChildren.
Let’s take a stronger stand against child sexual abuse, starting now.