Respect, Child Sexual Abuse, & Empowering Rapists With Blind Faith

If the young need to respect the old, the old need to respect the young too.

Updated
Opinion
5 min read
Asaram has been convicted for the rape of a 16-year-old girl. 
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The newly declared rapist Asaram is visiting jail for life, thanks to the verdict by the district court of Jodhpur. Chances are that this is just the first leg. There will be fresh appeals in the High Court for bail.

Now, these options should be open to everyone, including rape convicts, so they have a chance to prove that they are innocent or can appeal for a less harsher punishment. That’s the beauty of our justice system.

While there are sections of the society, like the one I belong to, who are rejoicing over the verdict on Asaram, there is another huge cross-section of devotees that are appealing for Asaram in the hope that he would be found innocent by the higher courts. This cross-section of people cannot be ignored. We need to look into this and understand why they feel the way they feel.

Some have made a request for repeal of POCSO.

Some feel that POCSO has been misused and think this is some sort of conspiracy against Hindus.

Some question the authenticity of the 16-year-old child’s version and refer to her as an adult. They have also taken the effort to have creatives made for the purpose.

The Issue of Too Much Respect

Combating child sexual abuse begins with having faith in our own children.
Combating child sexual abuse begins with having faith in our own children.
(Photo: Erum Gour/The Quint)

Asaram has a very serious fan following. He has devotees. His devotees revere him and respect him. And that’s why, a thing that deserves serious introspection is our concept of “respectable” persons. No, don’t get me wrong.

I am not saying that the knowledgeable, the lovable, the elderly, the talented and others do not deserve respect. I am making a statement though.

When we give too much respect - to an extent that we start believing that a person is a demi-god - we cease to believe that they are capable of any human vices.

All is not well with something like this. This energy that we give them, through our blind devotion, empowers them to exploit their position for sex, or financial loot, or both.

I can corroborate this as one of the first of male survivors of child sexual abuse who decided to speak openly about his ordeal. There are over 3 lakh adult survivors who have opened up to me about some instance of child sexual abuse in their life.

Here are some cases with their, name, age, gender changed to protect their identity.

Seema Was Abused by Her Father’s Best Friend

Seema, 34, was abused as a child when she was seven. The abuser was her father’s best friend who enjoyed the privilege of being called her father’s brother. There were times when this “uncle” had rescued the family from financial crisis. He was a nice man, very kind, very believable and very docile. He also had sexual fondness for Seema. He would “play games” with her and touch her genitals and kiss her lips often. This continued for eight years or so.

Seema opened up to her parents when she was 20. Her parents slapped her. They believed that the “uncle” could do no wrong.

Rahul Was Raped by His Female Math Teacher

Rahul, 26, was groped and raped when he was 10 years old. The abuser was his math tuition teacher. He wanted to excel in mathematics and never would have imagined that it could lead him here. The teacher was a woman whose husband was not at home most of the time when Rahul went there for tuition. One day, she stripped him in the pretext of punishment and behaved a little seductive with him. Slowly this became a regular activity.

Within a couple of months, the 10-year-old was having penetrative sex with this teacher. When Rahul told his friends, they thought he is “lucky” and he should “enjoy”.

When he revealed this to his parents, his father thought that Rahul was “corrupt” for thinking about a “guru” sexually. However, after a few years again when he brought this up, he was asked by his father “if this happened to you, and you are repulsed by it, are you gay?”
Studies suggest that if a child exhibits sexually explicit behaviour, there is a high chance of them being victims of abuse themselves.
Studies suggest that if a child exhibits sexually explicit behaviour, there is a high chance of them being victims of abuse themselves.
(Photo: The Quint)

Neil Is a Survivor of Abuse by a Faith Leader

Neil, 25, was abused by her home pundit when he was five. He used to sit on the pundit’s lap when he conducted the religious rituals at home. The pundit was aroused and made sure Neil felt it. This was done so tactfully that even his close family members didn't understand.

When he complained at 30, he was asked if he is homosexual because he thinks of a “respectable person” in this way. It happens to be that Neil is gay. And even today, his family believes that as a child he seduced the pundit and the curse led him to being “punished” as gay.

If you look at the similarity at all the above stories, you would see a common thread of “respect”. Sometimes, blind devotion. This is something that needs serious introspection.

Empowering Children

Mostly, the abuser is either a respectable person from the family or some close relative or family friend. Uncles, aunts, grandpas, teachers, big brothers, and elder sisters, all fall in this category. The respect that we offer the elderly puts them in a position of power.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we need to disrespect elders. But we do need to empower the ability in children to question authority. We need to challenge ourselves to believe in our children.

What we need to teach our children and learn ourselves is the concept of reciprocal respect. If the young need to respect the old, the old need to respect the young too.

And more importantly, one sure shot way of reducing child sexual abuse cases and ensuring quicker emotional empowerment of survivors, is to teach our children to respect behaviour.

As Asumal Harpalani aka Asaram appeals to higher courts for a bail and freedom, I appeal to you to not empower rapists with blind faith.

Tell your children to respect behaviour over age.

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