Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Is this news to you?

I have been trying to figure out how to make people realize that sexual abuse of children is not confined to a particular class of society, and also that the perpetrators are very much like any of us. Middle and upper class parents seem to have the belief that such horrible things are done by horrible, uncivilized, deplorable low-class men. So, if we keep our children safe from strangers, teach our little girls never to be out alone after dark, there is nothing else to worry about. 50% of all Child Sexual Abuse cases happen within the safety of the four walls of home, at the hands of father/brother/close relative/friendly neighbour. These statistics I have repeated over and over again, but do they hit home? NO. Why? People are not ready to believe it! As simple as that. People take it seriously only when it's too late, when one of their own loved ones is victimized, when the innocence lost can never be recovered again.

How many cases do you need? Apart from myself, I personally know atleast 5 survivors among my own friend circle, all my loved ones, abused by close family members, right under the nose of their parents. There are hundreds of stories shared by survivors on different websites. Would their stories make a difference to you? I don't know. Maybe stories of famous people - people whom you are awed by, your role models - their stories would hit the right chord. You can't imagine how many of them had been victimized as kids. IT CAN BE DONE TO JUST ANY CHILD, BY ANY MAN.

Let me quote what Pinki Virani says in Bitter Chocolate:

"My research has led me to the works of internationally renowned authors, and others, who have been sexually abused as children. Oprah Winfrey. Maya Angelou who was sexually abused by her mother's partner. 'Mr Freeman
lived with us, or we lived with him (I never knew quite which)' she writes in I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings; Maya first felt something which was 'too soft to be a hand' and was raped by 'a mush-hard thing'. Freeman was acquitted by the court because Maya could not find the words as he stood glowering at her, he was murdered a few hours after leaving the court; the child in Maya simply
stopped talking as a result, well until she was a young adult.

The singer Billie Holiday in her autobiography Lady Sings the Blues reveals that she was raped when she was ten by a forty-five-year-old man. Quentin Bill's biography of his famous aunt, the writer Virginia Woolf, says that she was sexually abused from the age of six in her nursery by her stepbrother Gerald Duckworth and then by his brother George Duckworth from 1888 to 1904, well until she was in her twenties, even as they sexually abused her sister, Vanessa, as well. Centuries of denial and the public's disinclination to speak about the problem except in the most lurid of cases was overcome in America when the former Miss America of 1958, Marilyn Van Derbur Atler, publicly announced in 1989 that she had been sexually abused by her millionaire and socialite father from the time she was five, and right through until the age of eighteen. This led to literally thousands of adults who had been sexually abused in their childhood speaking out too. "

The list goes on...Latino rock guitarist Carlos Santana, Edgar Allen Poe, Edith Wharton, Ingmar Bergman, Alfred Hitchcock...

To recognize CSA and acknowledge its existence within familes. That in itself is such a herculean task. Is any other social issue so unrecognized as this? It destroys lives, precisely one among every 10 innocent lives in India at any given time ( according to WHO). Sit back a while and reflect on that figure. Notwithstanding the fact that most of the cases at home go unreported, can you even begin to imagine what a hell we have made for ourselves around us? Still, the least effort has gone into addressing this issue. How to deal with a problem which has existed for centuries, woven its way deep into our daily existence, feeding itself on the gaping drawbacks of our familial culture, without being challenged at all?

Extremely difficult. But it has to be dealt with. CHALLENGE IT. If you sense anything wrong is being done to a child, DON'T ignore it. Punish the offender, and more importantly, support the wronged child. Ensure that your child is safe, both at home and outside. Empower you children to protect themselves. These are what the few organizations focused on CSA are all working towards. Otherwise, it will silently destroy another life, and then another one, and another...


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. What people need to realize is - if you ignore CSA, dont care to find out more about it, or turn a blind eye to it, you will NOT be betraying your family or its "spotless image" in society. You will be betraying your child, sibling or friend... and millions of children who are suffering simply because NO ONE SPEAKS UP FOR THEM OR ACKNOWLEDGES THAT THEY WERE HURT AND IT WAS WRONG.

    If you are one of the many many individuals who thinks "this does not happen to anyone I know", then think again. Without being judgmental, think - does anyone you know have problems with relationships, are they overly controlling or too suspicious or just afraid to open up? Did you ever ask yourself "why is s/he the way s/he is?"

    The answer may lie in his/her childhood. This is not to suggest that the above are surefire signs of CSA. We just dont like to think of CSA as the answer. But often, it is much closer than you think.