The news is horrific — a 14-year-old girl allegedly killed her father in Bareilly, after he tried to rape her. The girl reportedly beat him up with sticks and he died on the spot. The girl informed her mother, who was out of town, and the police were called in. The girl has since been detained and an investigation is on.
The details are chilling, but the statistics are even more so. Child abuse in India routinely makes headlines, as we continue to grapple with the huge number of cases of sexual abuse.
An estimated one out of every two children, both boys and girls in India are sexually abused.
A study conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2007 says that 53.22% or every second child reported having faced one or more forms of sexual abuse, where more than 20% children went through sexual assaults like making the children pose nude, making them fondle their private parts etc. The percentage of boys reporting such abuse — from those surveyed — was over 50%, while 42.7% of girls reported abuse.
Fifty percent of the abusers are persons known to the child, mostly family members.
Incestuous sexual abuse is something which has been prevalent in India for a long time. It is the elephant in the room but everyone denies of its existence. In most cases, the child is silenced for ‘moral’ reasons, experts tell us.
Of course it’s not just child abuse, but violence against women as well, where family ties and misplaced “honour” which silences — and re-victimises — the victim.
Satya Prakash from FXB India Suraksha, tells SheThePeople.TV about a case where a brother-in-law assaulted his wife’s sister. When the case was reported, the sister turned against the victim to protect her husband.
The denial factor that a family member cannot do such a thing plays a key role in covering up incestuous child abuse cases.
As Anuja Gupta of RAHI Foundation told SheThePeople.TV in an earlier interview:
Child sexual abuse happens only in “other families” is a myth that puts children at great risk. One of the first steps to prevention is to believe it happens or can happen in our families and is not a problem “out there”.
Khushi Kushalappa, Head, Community Projects at Enfold India, tells SheThePeople.TV about what happens when cases even go to trial. What a child goes through in a court room is extremely traumatic.
“Do you expect a child to stand in the count and literally have to make eye contact with that person and say that is the person who abused me?That person standing there could be a very close relative and if the child is not sounding convincing, there is very little other evidence in terms of medical evidence or marks or bruises. It is not an assault. It is usually stuff that has been going on for years, months, weeks, who knows?” she tells SheThePeople.TV.
“A child is having to talk about a father or a brother, about the things that even a 5-year-old child will think of, forget a 10-12-year-old child. The kid will repeatedly think of what are the consequences of what I say here in the court.”
Child abuse has been a pressing topic in India and it will be years before we can curb it entirely but for now, we need to sensitise people, schools and children — Have a conversation about Good Touch, Bad Touch, and let them know that they can come to you to if anyone tries to “misbehave” or “act funny” or touch them inappropriately.
Here are some signs to watch out for, with thanks to Satya Prakash, and other experts.
SIGNS TO WATCH OUT FOR
- Unusual marks or bruises
- Consistent Hunger
- Poor hygiene or health problems
- High incidents of accidents
- Gives inconsistent versions about occurrences of injuries, burn
- Wears inappropriate clothing, e.g. long sleeves on a hot day
- Extreme behaviour
- Attaches too readily to strangers
- Is compliant and passive
- Has sleep disorders
- Manifests fear of parents or caregivers
- Displays Hyper-sexualised behaviour
These are just to name a few. Each child might show different behavioural changes according to the nature of the child.
The Helpline Number 1098 has been set up as a 24/7 CHILD HELPLINE for children in need of assistance.
In spite of the POCSO Act being in place, and the work dedicated professionals are putting in, at the end of the day, it will be upon families, parents, teachers, loved ones, to keep a close watch — and create a safe environment — for our children.