‘They Said It Was My Fault,’ Says 8-Month-Old Rape Survivor’s Mom

“I used to feel proud that I was earning my own wages and helping my husband. But who knew this would happen to us?”

6 min read
Hindi Female

Podcast Editor: Deepthi Ramadas

On 28 January 2018, a regular Sunday morning, one mother came home from work to the worst fathomable sight – her eight-month-old baby lying in a pool of her own blood and stool.

She had been raped – allegedly by her 28-year-old cousin, Suraj.

That mother's baby quickly became immortalised in newsprint as the "8-month-old rape survivor". Perhaps you've heard of her. The Quint had called her ‘Chhutki’ as it aimed to raise funds for the family in need.

I'd reported on the struggles myself.

Today, while Chhutki's father still shows up at work at various construction sites in Delhi, her mother – a domestic help – has dropped out of the workforce.

I went back to chat with her, months since the rape.

For the purposes of this podcast, I will call her Geeta*.


Urmi: Did anyone ask you that morning why you weren’t at home?

Geeta: Suraj. Suraj began to tell me, when he saw me – “Chachi, where had you gone off to? Your kids were crying. Don’t leave your kids alone.” Then, in a state of panic, he began to follow me upstairs to my room.

“I used to feel proud that I was earning my own wages and helping my husband. But who knew this would happen to us?”
A photo of Geeta* with her baby (hidden) in her lap.
(Photo: The Quint)

Urmi (voiceover): Incidentally, Suraj, the man who berated her for leaving her kids, is the alleged rapist.

Geeta: When I took off my baby’s pyjamas, I saw that she was covered in blood. The bedsheets, covers were all smeared in blood. I began to feel faint. I immediately realised that something bad had happened to her. Suddenly, my sister-in-law came upstairs – I hadn’t called her; she came of her own accord. She began to tell me: “Yuck, it looks like your baby has excreted. Why weren’t you home? Why do you need to go to work? Does (your husband) not earn enough?” Then, she left.

Urmi: So didi, like people at home and your neighbours berated you for leaving your kids at home, did they ever berate bhaiyya (your husband) for doing the same?

Geeta: No, they never said anything to him.

Urmi: They didn’t tell him anything?

Geeta: No, nothing.

Urmi (voiceover): The thing with the flak levelled at Geeta is that, it was levelled ONLY at her. As if it was obvious. As if it was expected that, as the man, her husband must be the breadwinner.

Urmi: When was the last time you went to work?

Geeta: It happened on 28 January – I haven’t been to work since that day.

Urmi: So you haven’t been to work in more than 6-7 months?

Geeta: No, I left it.

Urmi: Why did you leave it?

Geeta: I left work because of what happened to my baby. I was also worried that something like this might happen to my older child too if I wasn’t home. That’s why I left. How can I go back until they grow up?


Urmi: Did bhaiyya ever ask you to stop going to work?

Geeta: Yes. After all this happened, he said, “Our child’s case is ongoing, it won’t be right for you to go to work right now. There are lots of troubles. Let her grow up a little. And after what happened to the younger one, what if something like this happens to our older daughter too? If our own family can do this to us, then who can we trust?”

Urmi (voiceover): What does ‘working mom guilt’ feel like? Geeta was forced to work to supplement her husband's income. It's another thing that she grew to enjoy it. Yet – 8 months later – she still battles guilt.

That guilt is the result of what other people have told her. But mostly? It is the guilt that she has fed herself.

“I used to feel proud that I was earning my own wages and helping my husband. But who knew this would happen to us?”
Chhutki was raped, allegedly by her 28-year-old cousin.
(Photo: The Quint)

Geeta: It had only been three months since I started working. I’d started on 6 November. Many people had told me, “You have little kids, don’t leave them to go to work. Anything could happen.” How could I tell people what compulsions had forced me to go to work? I wouldn’t tell anyone. He (my husband) had fallen ill and couldn’t go to work.

We had taken loans because we were in need. That is why I had started going to work, thinking that if I could earn a little money on my own, we would be able to repay the loans and also buy household necessities like vegetables. We had no money to buy those things ever since he’d fallen ill. He couldn’t go to work for three months. That is why I’d gone to work.

Urmi (voiceover): Geeta hasn't been to work in many, many months. But she has fond memories of the time that she did.

Geeta: I used to like the fact that I could earn my own wages. No matter what work I was doing, I was happy that at least I was working, and that I was getting paid for that work. I liked that I was earning an honest living; I wasn’t stealing from anyone or borrowing money to keep my house.

Urmi: You said that you haven’t been back at work since 28 January. Do you ever miss it?

Geeta: Yes, I miss it a lot. But I keep thinking that how can I ask my old employers for work again? They might tell me, “Such a tragedy has befallen your child, how will you work in this situation? You take care of her and don’t work until she grows up.” Everyone says that to me anyway. That is why I have stopped asking for work. However, I know my old employers would still be ready to hire me back if I went to them.


Urmi (voiceover): According to a study conducted by the Genpact Centre for Women's Leadership, 73 percent of Indian women leave their jobs after giving birth. Even among those who return, 48 percent drop out within four months.

BUT – this study was for women who work in the development, media and corporate sectors. What about those women whose labour is undocumented? What about women like Geeta?

“I used to feel proud that I was earning my own wages and helping my husband. But who knew this would happen to us?”
Chhutki’s case is currently being heard by a POCSO court in Delhi.
(Photo: The Quint)

Urmi: At the time when you were working, did you feel proud of yourself?

Geeta: Yes, I used to feel really proud. I was making good use of my time and I would be able to come home to see my kids too. I was happy that I was being able to earn even a little. It was only for a couple of hours everyday, close to home.

But I could never have imagined that this would happen to me….

Urmi (voiceover): Chhukti's case is currently being heard in a POCSO court, while the accused is currently in judicial custody. Chhutki is recuperating and can now walk on her own two feet, but her medical follow-ups continue.

In all of this, Geeta's entity as a working woman has vanished. She has made a quiet, unnoticed exit from the workforce. Will she ever return?


(*Name changed to protect identity.)


(The Quint is trying to investigate what makes it easier or harder for women to be at the workplace. Can she return to work after a maternity leave with equal support from workplace and home? Does she carry the guilt of being away from her children while at work, and vice-versa? Even with or without baby, does the family share household responsibilities with her? Share your story, if you have one to tell, and we’ll publish it.)

“I used to feel proud that I was earning my own wages and helping my husband. But who knew this would happen to us?”

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Motherhood   working women   Rape Survivor 

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