Tragedy of the innocent

BY AISHWARYA KADAM, ALETTA D’CRUZ, RESHMA EMMATTY

Ayesha D’mello (Name Changed) is a 22 year old master’s student in one of the reputed colleges of India. A girl who has everything going for her, right from beauty, to intelligence, self confidence and a personality that pleases all. Ayesha however has her secrets, dark ones as she may call them. She was sexually abused as a child. She was a kid who lost the innocence of her childhood, even before she discovered it.

At an age, where children were supposed to be outside playing and enjoying themselves, Ayesha found herself indoors, allegedly ‘playing’ a different game, that was enjoyed by a man thrice her age.

Ayesha was seven when he first touched her. She was his playmate, as he called her – his doll, whom he would dress up and make pretty. He wasn’t any stranger that just walked into her life. He was a neighbour, a family friend she trusted – a trust that faded with time; a trust that changed a lot for her as she grew older.

India has the largest number of children (375 million) in the world. 69% of Indian children are victims of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse (or read it as every 2 out of 3). New Delhi, the nation’s capital, has an abuse rate of over 83%.89% of the crimes are perpetrated by family members (65%). More than 70% of cases go unreported and unshared even with parents/family. This is the magnitude of child abuse in our country.Abuse against children can be of 4 types, Sexual, Physical, Emotional and Mental. In India, we have just started recognizing child abuse as a problem and of the four types, only sexual and physical abuse are even considered as abuse.

Legally, sexual abuse towards a child is defined as inappropriate sexual behaviour with a child. The sexual abuse of some children can be so brutal, as to induce temporary amnesia.

Nine year old Priya was brought to Jagruti (an NGO working on this issue) by the police. She knew nothing about herself, her parents, or her past, apart from her name. She had cigarette burns all over her body. She had forgotten how to perform basic everyday functions, such as brushing her teeth, going to the toilet and wearing clothes. She would continue eating and drinking until told to stop. She didn’t know the difference between rice and curry. Priya would, however, discard her underwear every ten or 15 minutes and then come and stand in front of the people in the room to indicate that she was ready for sex. It is anybody’s guess how much this child was abused at an age when children are supposed to dream and be carefree.

Emotional abuse is also known as verbal abuse, mental abuse, and psychological maltreatment. It includes acts or the failures to act by parents or caretakers that have caused or could cause, serious behavioural, cognitive, emotional, or mental trauma. Less severe acts, but no less damaging, are belittling or rejecting treatment, using derogatory terms to describe the child, habitual tendency to blame the child or make him/her a scapegoat.

Physical abuse is the inflicting of physical injury upon a child. This may include burning, hitting, punching, shaking, kicking, beating or otherwise harming a child. The parent or caretaker may not have intended to hurt the child. It may, however, be the result of over-discipline or physical punishment that is inappropriate to the child’s age

Though Ayesha has come a long way from her experiences, her scars still remain. However, unlike most abuse victims, Ayesha has not confined herself. She is a normal girl, with dreams and aspirations. What worries her is the fact that she has no scar.

Could it be that Ayesha’s experiences made her indifferent to her pain? She might just look at it as a normal part of her life – and what could be a bigger danger than that.

Child protection rights talk about  protecting children from child labour, forced beggary, violence, sexual exploitation and abuse, abduction for child marriage, organ trading, superstition etc., Drug abuse, torture and deprivation of liberty, armed conflict, protection from interference with privacy and protecton from discrimination of any kind.

Though these make good statements on paper, we find them being violated at large all around us.

Children should be taught to respect elders, until they act wrongly. Monitor, screen, and filter if necessary, the way your children use the Net. Teach them about the importance of privacy when using instant messaging, email, or social networking sites.

Finally, spread the word. Spread the awareness. We owe it to the next generation.Let every child born into this world enjoy their innocent childhood.

 Picture: google.com/images

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