You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2007.
Ok 1997 was a decade ago, things have changed since then.
Or have they really ??
To Think The Unthinkable
The judiciary, like the rest of society, dangerously downplays the reality of child sexual abuse
Wives who make allegations of sexual abuse of their children by their husbands suffer from “some peculiar psychiatric condition”. The alleged sexual abuse of an “infant child (who would have just passed her suckling stage then)” is a “seemingly incredulous” accusation to make. An allegation of child sexual abuse by a mother will be “concocted to wreak her vengeance” on her husband.
The medical examinations carried out at the behest of a mother which reveal “a wide vaginal opening—wider than would be expected of their age group” will at most support the probability of “what a mother might do with the little female child for creating evidence of sex abuse”.
“A father is a father…and even if he is a bad father he still has the right to his children…”
THESE are no old wives’ tales. These are the observations, made by the Supreme Court, on wives, tormented children and allegedly abusive husbands. Uttered as observations in the Satish Mehra versus Delhi administration case filed by the former—challenging his wife’s allegation that he had repeatedly sexually abused their eight-year-old daughter from age three onwards—these words speak of a typical judicial attitude towards cases of child sexual abuse.
“Instead of addressing the legal and social problems related to child sexual abuse, such observations coming from the country’s apex court reaffirm the myths about the heinous crime,” says Maya Ganesh of Sakshi, an NGO working with women and children in the area of violence. Verdicts such as these, the agitated activist points out, only add to the outdated beliefs that a mother who accuses her husband of this crime either doesn’t sexually satisfy her husband, wants to take revenge on him, is insane, or doesn’t take care of her children. “It’s quite a task anyway to convince people that bus conductors, drivers and domestic help are not the only ones who abuse children. That this is a crime that has children suffering in many apparently ‘normal’ homes. It would certainly help if the judges didn’t feel the same way too,” she says.
Unfortunately, the hope seems misplaced. Even as the National Commission for Women conducts a National Consultation on Sexual Exploitation of Children in Goa this week with ministers and justices as speakers, a survey conducted by Sakshi just last year had 50 per cent of the 109 judges questioned from all over the country saying that child sexual abuse is not a common crime. They felt that the offence exists only amongst “uneducated, depressed and over-sexed people and/or people with a prostrate gland problem”. A 48 per cent of the judges felt the perpetrators of such crime were not from within the family, but strangers and domestic help. Comforting beliefs, perhaps, but ones that are easily shattered even with the very meagre documentation done on the subject in the country. Bangalore-based NGO Samvada’s study—titled Preliminary Report of a Workshop Series and Survey on Childhood Sexual Abuse of Girls—carried out with 348 girls from schools and colleges in the city revealed that 83 per cent of the respondents had experienced some form of sexual abuse.
Two-thirds of the victims said their abusers were known to them, the majority of them being male members from the family.
THE case then is hardly overstated when the judiciary and the executive are asked to recognise that child sexual abuse is a grave reality that needs urgent attention. “The entire system—the judiciary included—has to do its bit towards finding a solution. There should be a ruling making sex education mandatory in our schools. A child should be taught to differentiate a good touch from a bad one,” observes Sana Das of Samvada.
Till that happens, however, it is left to the judiciary to interpret touches and decide on the nature of offences. Which interpretations, often, are appalling. In the case of the government under-secretary, who was accused of repeated sexual abuse of his daughter, the abuse involved vaginal and anal penetration with a finger and forcing the child to have oral sex. Neither the district court, nor the high court or the Supreme Court was willing to acknowledge any of the penetrations as rape. The district court ruled in the CBI versus K.C. Jhaku case: “The word ‘penetration’ does not connote penetration of any foreign object. There must be penetration of the male organ, and that too in the vagina, otherwise, the act would constitute a carnal intercourse.”
“The problem with the existing law on child sexual abuse is that there is no existing law on the subject,” says lawyer Niti Dikshit. The absence of a separate law on child abuse means that sexual assault on minors is tried under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which makes the crime punishable for being “voluntary intercourse against the order of nature”. Moreover, the minimum sentence for rape is 10 years while the maximum sentence under Section 377 is 10 years.
“What of the minor boy who is being forced into oral sex or the girl child who is being fondled and used as an object to masturbate…we always need a sympathetic judge to interpret the law favourably. We could do with a solid law,” argues the lawyer.
THIS vagueness regarding the crime spills into police stations that are sought as the first refuge by harassed victims of the crime. The lack of specialised cells for a crime that needs to be treated sensitively has most such victims coming into the Crime Against Women Cell (CAWC). “We hardly have any investigative powers to deal with this crime. Nor do we have any counsellors to handle the complainants,” admits deputy commissioner S.S. Grewal of Delhi’s CAWC.
“We often end up asking harsh questions but then we are not trained in the field.”
The absence of trained professionals in the police stations and the courts while these cases are on, insists child psychiatrist Vinay Kshetrapal, can be detrimental to the mental health of the victim who is already traumatised. “Disbelieving questions and harsh attitudes can ruin a child’s confidence when he or she has just about mustered enough courage to speak out the unspeakable,” says Kshetrapal. He insists that all such cases abroad are conducted with a counsellor monitoring the mental health of the minor victim.
“Sympathy is an imperative in this case.”
So are laws.
As also a healthy judicial attitude.
Healing is necessary, not only for people who have endured abuse, but also for people around them who have borne the brunt of behavioural changes, relationship problems etc. that have resulted from the victim’s reaction to trauma.
The reason as to why it is imperative that people address and heal from their childhood experiences of abuse is because even a single act can result in a number of emotional barriers, loss of self-esteem and a number of “hidden” disorders that take shape later in life.
The battle against CSA is often a lonely one, owing to societal walls, ignorance, apathy and the usual bunch of adult idiots who think that not talking about it or blocking it through marriage and education (haha how ironic) will “solve” the problem. However,there are means and ways by which victims of abuse can begin strengthening themselves from within.
- Reading up on the issue – This is an important step towards acknowledging what happened and also realizing that YOU are not to be blamed for it.
- Writing about it – Whether in an online journal or on paper, “getting it out” in words in a sense, lightens the emotional burden. Emailing someone helps too, im currently e-counselling 5 people who write in to me about how they’re progressing each day.
- VENT – Scream, Shout, tear paper, listen to angsty music, go out on a long drive, take the weekend off or invest in a punching bag *non-human*. The anger needs to get out, it’s done enough damage already. Self-harm is NOT healthy venting.
- Joining a support group – There is strength in numbers, and just the knowledge that you will be in an understanding environment with people who have been through similar hell, will help the healing process immensely.
- Speak with a friend – Ok so the family isn’t too keen on being there for you and hearing you out. A friend might be a better choice. Look for someone who is unbiast and a good listener, and not one of those horrible opiniated types who will complicate things. Obviously confidentiality will have to be promised before you start talking. It would help if people put themselves through a “dealing with disclosure” workshop.
Elaan is organising a Dealing with Disclosure workshop in the first week of February. Those who are interested in attending/would like their schools and colleges to attend, email.
Adult Survivors of Sexual Abuse: What We Would Like You to Know about Us
1. We grew up feeling very isolated and vulnerable, a feeling that continues into our adult lives.
2. Our early development has been interrupted by abuse, which eitherholds us back or pushes us ahead developmentally.
3. Sexual abuse has influenced all parts of our lives. Not dealing with it is like ignoring an open wound. Our communication style, ourself-confidence, and our trust levels are affected.
4. Putting thoughts and feelings related to our abuse “on the backburner” does not make them go away. The only way out is to go through these emotions and process them.
5. Our interest in sexual activity will usually decline while we are dealing with this early trauma. This is because:- we are working on separating the past from the present.- pleasure and pain can sometimes be experienced simultaneously.- it is important for us to be in control, since control is what we lacked as children.- sometimes we need a lot of space. Pressuring us to have sex will only increase our tension
.6. We often experience physical discomforts, pains, and disorders that are related to our emotions.
7. We often appear to be extremely strong while we are falling apart inside.
8. There is nothing wrong with us as survivors — something wrong was DONE to us.
9. Sometimes others get impatient with us for not “getting past it”sooner. Remember, we are feeling overwhelmed, and what we need is your patience and support. Right now, it is very important for us to concentrate on the past. We are trying to re organize our whole outlook on the world; this won’t happen overnight.
10. Your support is extremely important to us. Remember; we have been trained to hold things in. We have been trained NOT to tell about the abuse. We did not tell sooner for a variety of reasons: we were fearful about how you would react, what might happen, etc. We havebeen threatened verbally and/or non verbally to keep us quiet, and we live with that fear.
11. Feeling sorry for us does not really help because we add your pain to our own.
12. There are many different kinds of people who are offenders. It does not matter that they are charming or attractive or wealthy.Anybody — from any social class or ethnic background, with any level of education– may be an offender. Sexual abuse is repetitive, so be aware of offenders with whom you have contact. Do not let them continue the cycle of abuse with the next generation of children.
13. We might not want or be able to talk with you about our therapy.
14. We are afraid we might push you away with all our emotional reactions. You can help by: listening, reassuring us that you are not leaving, not pressuring us, touching (WITH PERMISSION) in a nonsexual way.
15. Our therapy does not break up relationships – it sometimes causesthem to change as we change. Therapy often brings issues to thesurface that were already present.
16. Grieving is a part of our healing process as we say goodbye to parts of ourselves.
From Triumph over Darkness by Wendy Ann Wood, M.A.copyright Wendy Ann Wood 1993
Courtesy the Askios e-group. Thank you !
Women are as capable of being perpetrators of sexual abuse as men are. An article on Human Rights Violations in Prisons highlights one of possibly many cases of sexual abuse by a woman.
One of the biggest misconceptions regarding CSA is that it “only happens to girls”. That is untrue. Boys face sexual abuse at a higher frequency than girls, say statistical reports.
However socialization patterns prevent boys from speaking about their “emotions” for fear of coming across as “unmanly” or “weird” so there is more dialogue on the sexual abuse of females than there is on the sexual abuse of boys. One male survivor of sexual abuse by his female teacher recalls the confusion it resulted in.. “one minute she was reprimanding me for not doing my homework and the next minute she was all over me. the next day when i went to school, she acted like nothing had happened.this happened till i graduated.” Another survivor says his aunt was very “hot” and said it was a kick for him to have his first sexual experience with her at age 12, but later felt “sick” about it. he now claims to “hate” women and refuses to trust them.
Rennee Koonin writes brilliantly and honestly about her sexual abuse as a child in this online article. What wrenched my gut were these lines :
” When I recalled that I was sexually abused by my stepfather as a child, I was devastated, but I was, not surprised. When I remembered that my mother had also abused me sexually, my world fell apart. Nothing I believed, none of my work as a social worker, educator and activist had prepared me for this truth. ”
The fact that Men and Women are both not immune to Sexual Abuse, and are also equally capable of being Perpetrators is not hot news straight off the shelf. People are well clued into the fact, especially those who come from joint family backgrounds. A separate essay on joint families and CSA is somewhere on this blog, will post the link when i find it.
Jim Hopper is someone i have worshipped ever since i began working on the issue of Child Sexual Abuse. His essays are thorough and well-researched, in a language that is simple to understand. Here is the Hopper take on what he describes as “society’s betrayal of boys“.
In the Indian context, where a lot of children have grown up in joint families, it is unsurprising that 80% of sexual abuse cases fall under Incest.
Elaan kicked off the year’s activities with an invigorating interactive session with the First and Second Year COMPARATIVE LITERATURE students at Jadavpur University.
Discussions and QnA (thats Question n Answer) topics ranged from the Nithari Tragedy to the Legal scenario (good going Rahul) , to our Penultimate goal (Joanna) , to translating campaign material into vernacular dialects and tackling the districts.
Rohit came up with the concept of using Street Theatre to further the awareness campaign in less-developed regions while Debdutta mentioned “jatra” which i am assuming is on the same lines.
A student who lives in Barrackpore and travels regularly by local train told me that the issue was prevalent where she lived (her para) while the person sitting next to her (didnt get her name :( ) said it would help immensely if we got some material disseminated there. We will.
Raka spearheaded the eve-teasing segment which lightened the atmosphere considerably.
Inam spoke of consistent media (newspapers etc) which was a good idea overall(think : bula di), as long as the journalists in question have the same drive and inclination.
Thank you to all those who took the time to be there.
More on the orkut community in a topic titled “elaan at JU”.
The next spate of volunteer interviews is at T3, Park Street, from 3pm. Do email/call if youre interested. Will be working there till 8pm.
Elaan plans on initiating the IPRP and LACSA at Jazzfest 2007. 14th January Sunday at DI (Dalhousie Institute). Those interested in volunteering, you know what to do.
Now that Nithari has succeeded in shocking the nation, stirring the creative juices of media-loving politicians and bringing light to the fact that CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE DOES EXIST, half this youth group’s problems are over.
Firstly, a number of ignorant questions will (hopefully) not be extended in our direction such as “accha, this country is mostly Hindu so how can you say that CSA exists?”/ “accha Pranaadhika (for that is my name), this disease (!) exists only in higher stages of society so why plan rural awareness?/” you got abused because you wear western clothes and indian males get ‘out of control’ with ‘western-minded’ ladied because it is out of their culture”…
Page 3, the National Award winning film , Monsoon Wedding, Everybody Says Im fine , Pinki Virani’s Bitter Chocolate book and now the Nithari tragedy of 2006-7 all serve as public education tools on Child Sexual Abuse.
After Nithari it is interesting to note how perpetually confused the law-making people are looking, especially when it comes to responding to the media. Undoubtedly one of the best articles on Police ignorance of CSA helped pinpoint one of the many reasons as to why a lot of this case is going to be ruined. If the people don’t know what signs to look for, how will they come to a reasonable conclusion as to what happened and why it happened ?
Elaan will be holding an interactive session with the first year students of the Jadavpur University this afternoon. For those who have personal queries or wish to send in their CV’s, the procedure and requirements are as follows –
1. You need to belong to the institute, in simple English – you need to be a Student or Faculty member.
2. You need to devote 15 hours a week for a single week (that’s 3 hours a day) for sensitization lectures and training.
3. You need to report to Elaan on a fortnightly basis.
4. You need to be fluent in the English language.
5. If inducted, you will be required to work exclusively with Elaan in the capacity of a volunteer
for a minimum of 1 year if you desire a letter of recommendation.
CV’s to be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org