Waging a pitched battle against sexual abuse
Considering the vulnerable condition of girls in India, the nation is gearing up yet again to stand along with the feminine power and fight against the social evils. The celebration of Girl Child Day, on January 24, is expected to spread awareness about the inequalities faced by girl child in the nation. On this day, one needs to recall that we have the highest number of sexually abused children in the world. Since girls are more vulnerable to such abuse, we can gift girl child the much-needed voice to fight against sexual abuse.
According to the most recent statistics of the National Crime Records Bureau, a child is sexually abused in India every 15 minutes. Under 'Protection of Children from Sexual Offences' (POSCO), the reported cases have grown from 8,904 in 2014 to 14,913 in 2015, ultimately rising to 36,022 in 2016. There could be a silver lining of enhanced reporting in these statistics.
However, given the general reluctance to talk about sexual abuse in India, this seems to be only the tip of the iceberg.
Though the sorority of the abused is gigantic, there continues to be a huge silence on the issue in our country. We only wake up for a while when a case of girl child rape and brutality is reported before being regripped by the amnesia.
Sachhi-Saheli, a non-profit organization has worked with more than 35,000 girls on good-touch and bad-touch in Delhi government schools. With the war cry "tu boolegi, muh kholegi, tabhi jaman badlega" (the society will change when you will open your mouth and speak up), it has successfully motivated girls to speak up if they face sexual abuse.
Survey of girls belonging to the 12 to 16 years age group was conducted by Sachhi Saheli. The reports reveal that sexual abuse of girl child in the national capital is pervasive. 40% of the girls surveyed have admitted that they have been abused.
In many cases, the perpetrator was a close relative.
The girls were also encouraged to speak up in the class about the abuse they suffered. Thousands of girls have shared quivering accounts of their sufferings.
What comes out is that the girls are targeted at a very tender age. Initially, many of them did not even understand what was happening to them. Surprisingly, 60% of them did not divulge this to anyone and have suffered silently. Those who could muster the courage to share the ordeal, preferred to tell their mother in 35% of the cases while 33% confided in a friend. Also, 23% of the victims told their teacher about the torment.
Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CSAAS), according to the Psychologists, is a reason for display of secrecy. In India, the stigma attached to sexual assault further dissuades the victims.
Fear of the culprit is another reason why the girls did not speak up. Many of them were beaten up or threatened by their tormentor to give in to his advances.
Trust deficit at homes is the main reason why the girls could not overcome these hurdles. Victims felt that either they won't be believed, or they will be held responsible for whatever had happened.
For many parents who trust the child, family honour comes in the way of reporting the case to police. Mothers often play a pivotal role in letting this abuse happen by keeping mum and/or by scolding an assaulted child.
Sexual abuse is a harrowing, unpleasant, disgusting and dreadful experience for the girl child. Studies reveal that the victims of abuse had significantly higher rates of childhood mental disorders, personality disorders, and anxiety disorders.
It is high time to break this code of silence about abuse of young girls. The effective strategy is to talk as much as possible. Let's encourage our daughters to speak up if anything untoward happens to them.
It's critical to identify signs of sexual abuse initially. This is possible if the parents and teachers are vigilant and notice subtle behavioural changes associated with the abuse.
They include sudden withdrawal from socialising, aggression, as well as sleep and eating disorders. Unusual fear of certain places or of certain people could also be a sign.
The need of this hour is to wage a pitched battle against sexual abuse of girls. Let it begin it with full vigour from the National Girl Child Day this year.