Introduction

Hi! We are part of Nakshatra, a registered (Reg No: 836/12), non-governmental, non-profit organisation committed to work against trafficking and sexual violence in India. We mainly run a Rape Crisis Centre in Chennai, where we provide free legal, medical and counselling assistance to victims of sexual abuse. Since 2012, we have been mainly working with women, transgenders and children in many downtrodden slum communities in Chennai. We are especially committed to prevent child sexual abuse and trafficking.

Here, we are starting a blog where victims of sexual abuse can share, anonymously if they wish, their trials and tribulations, and their survival stories – not only to increase their self-belief but also to inspire others (https://ngonakshatra.wordpress.com/your-story/). During the course of our work, we realized that many of the sexual crimes, especially multiple assaults, are preventable. Sometimes, low self esteem and poor communication skills, ignorance of the laws of the country, poverty and social pressure can play a major part in victims being silenced, or not coming forward to complain about the abuse. Sometimes, the lengthy legal procedure of India is given as a reason for which a heinous crime went unreported. Under false notions of protection and practicality, Indian society often advises victims in a way that actually goes on to build confidence in the perpetrator! Instead, if each perpetrator knew that there is a high chance of conviction and rigorous imprisonment, this would most likely discourage many of them from committing such an offence.

In many cases, the lack of awareness about these issues on the part of the victim and the family, or the taboo imposed on these topics by society, has allowed situations to take the worst possible turn imaginable. One of the most startling examples is that marital rape almost always goes unreported, mainly because of lack of information. It is extremely regrettable that marital rape is not considered a criminal offence in India. However, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005 does provide protection against marital rape and a civil remedy to the offence. Criminalizing this offence is in the process and there are huge debates going on about bringing in strong criminal laws against offenders of marital rape. If more and more women come out and report about marital rape, this can only hasten the establishment of these laws.

Although people of lower income groups are susceptible to fall prey to sexual abuse, the number of child abuse cases we have come across amongst families with better income or education is astonishing. Also, as many people are aware, it is only recently that transgenders have been legally recognized by the Supreme Court of India. Before this, the public behaviour meted out to transgenders was pathetic and shame-worthy. Many transgenders are vulnerable to sexual abuse and do not have the confidence or the support system to report such abuse. In short, each and every one of us is vulnerable to become a victim of sexual abuse, and in many cases the victims are made to keep quiet about it.

Therefore, our organisation has started to hold public forums to spread awareness about sexual harassment and sexual abuse. Our target audience includes schools, colleges, institutions for children, other NGOs, Government Organisations, slum communities and even Police stations. So far, we have reached out to over 1857 children and adolescents, 455 teachers and 3714 parents, 247 police personals, 213 doctors and 3700 social workers in over 35 cities, towns and villages in India. Criminologists from Madras University, social workers and psychologists of various colleges like Loyola, Queen Marys, Stella Maris, Presidency etc and esteemed lawyers are also associated with us. Through these public forums, not only have we spread awareness about sexual abuse, but we have also reached out to hundreds of victims of abuse and repression.

We try to make the most of the advanced technology of today, to reach out to many more victims, families and communities. We have created a website, https://ngonakshatra.wordpress.com/, as part of this endeavour. On the website there is information, for victims and their kin, about legal rights of victims and contact details for legal help or medical counselling.

Even when the victims are aware that sexual violence is a criminal offence, one of the major deterrents of reports of sexual abuse is family and societal pressure. Victims in India are made to think twice about reporting a case of sexual violence. Many times, children abused by family members are asked to keep quiet by people as trusted as their own mothers. This age-old taboo on speaking out on sexual crimes has to be broken. Yes, the Indian legal process is long-drawn and the system is not very supportive of the victims. However, the only way to stop a sexual assaulter is to get him or her punished by law.

The most heart-wrenching part of our job is to counsel a victim who believes, or has been made to believe, that he or she is partly at fault for the crime committed against them. Victims are made to believe that they have brought the crime upon themselves. Everything from their dress code to the time and place they were in are given as reason for a crime that in no way is their fault.

It is important to us to ensure the victims that perpetrators are the only persons guilty. Irrespective of what others advise them or what comments they hear from the community and beyond, a victim should be convinced that he or she is never at fault. This self-confidence is a must in order to prepare yourself for the lengthy battle of recovery and retribution. Once, victims of sexual harassment or sexual abuse start speaking out about their situations, they will help in spreading awareness to others about these issues. This is the main purpose of this blog. Here, victims or their kin can share(anonymously if they like) their experiences and how they dealt with the situation. You will also be able to communicate with members of our organisation on anything from legal aid to recovery from the traumatic experience, if you wish. Be assured that we believe in you and want justice for you. So please come forward and share your stories. It is your right to be treated with modesty and respect, and no other person can take that right away from you.

The Many Forms of Victim Shaming

I often get to see that people are sympathetic towards victims of sexual abuse, especially child victims. But it’s not exactly what the need of the hour is. We want people to empathise with the victims of sexual abuse. Now to understand what it is to empathise, let me tell of some of the ways in which we are actually victim blaming and victim shaming, and sometimes unknowingly siding with the accused:
1: First, stop victim blaming and victim shaming . How?
In a recent crime against a female child of age 7 where she was raped, murdered and then put on fire to destroy the evidence, I read posts of how irresponsible a parent, especially the mother, could be to go for shopping while letting the child play with her peer group. Well, this is victim blaming.  Because the most important point to be noted in this situation is that there was a predator in the building. And all efforts should go into stopping these predators! Also, let’s not forget most of the sexual crimes happen within the households. Incestuous crimes. In the above incident, the only person who was at fault was the beast who preyed on the little angle. God alone knows how many more children were subjected to his insanity.
2. Encourage reporting of crimes. When I say encouraging I emphasize on encouraging ones own children to speak. Help children to open up. Stop believing and making others believe that being sexually violated is a shame to the girl. It should be the other way round. We as a society should learn to shame and blame the culprit. We as a society should learn to punish the ones who believe that the victim can be silenced for fear of being shamed. Allow our children to talk. Know and let others know the rights to speak on being abused sexually.
3. Let’s not feel that we have done our part after being part of candle light protests. The real work lies in getting maximum conviction of the accused, and that should be the aim for every citizen if you care for your own safety and for that of your loved ones. Only quick and fitting punishments for the predators can bring about a change in our society. While I say this, I condemn the judiciary and our legal system to let the accused of a sexual crime involving children , out on bail. In many cases, these bails are given within a period of just 30 days of being arrested and remanded. Shame on those who speak of child sexual abuse and police negligence but dare not speak against the legal system which grants bail on humanitarian grounds, forgetting the child who is completely neglected of her humanitarian rights. More terrifyingly,  quite often the accused let out on bail lives quite close to her , thereby terrorizing her every single day. Imagine the accused buying out the politically appointed and ignorant public prosecutor who will favour the accused and get him acquitted. How can we sit back and rely on a judicial system that lets this happen to the most innocent amongst us? To all those who light candles and march out on streets shouting slogans on child rights, take a minute and think about questioning why there are so many cases of acquittal in POCSO related cases. Should you not focus your energies towards extracting an answer for this? Why does the child who gives a formal complaint and gives her statement to a magistrate turn hostile in the later part of the legal process, which in most cases takes years to complete? What makes the child and her family back off? Shame on the judicial system for being highly irresponsible for not completing the case within the mandated time frame. We are not doing our part if we don’t question the judgment based on a baseless argument of the defense lawyer. We are not doing our part if we allow a public prosecutor neglect his or her duty to defend the victim.
I have often heard people wash off their hands by saying “A child would never speak of an abuse, what can anybody do”. This attitude should change.
Fear for the legal system can make wonders happen. In a recent case of Nakshatra NGO assisted the prosecution and got the accused the minimum punishment of 10 years for the crime of putting his genitals into a child’s mouth. In the end, the defense lawyer was visibly furious that I, being the petitioner, was so cruel to put an “innocent boy” of only 26 years behind bars, thereby ruining his life! So to him , who is a well established senior lawyer ,the accused did not commit any crime by putting his genitals into the mouth of a helpless 6 year old, and it was more concerning that the 26 year old would not be able to live life to the fullest! I burst out laughing at the ridiculousness. Each one of us should laugh at such morons. This should change. We as a society should focus on not just reporting crimes but it’s also our duty to ensure justice for the victim, which is a tedious process in our judicial system. But let’s not think for a minute that it is impossible. Let’s all help to make it possible.
Sherin Bosko

 

Pain

Pain​ can​ teach​ us​ a​ lot of​ ​ things,​ ​ like​ ​ love.​ ​ It​ ​ gives​ ​ us​ ​ a ​ ​ new​ ​ perspective​ ​ to​ ​ look​ ​ at​ ​ the​ ​ people, the​ ​ world.​ ​ ​ Surprisingly​ ​ enough,​ ​ it​ ​ teaches​ ​ us​ ​ to​ ​ appreciate​ ​ the​ ​ smallest​ ​ of​ ​ things​ ​ in​ ​ our​ ​ lives. We​ ​ learn​ ​ a ​ ​ lot​ ​ from​ ​ that​ ​ pain,​ ​ ​ we​ ​ become​ ​ something.​ ​ Something​ ​ new,​ ​ a changed/different person.​ ​ Unfortunately,​ ​ what​ ​ we​ ​ don’t​ ​ realize​ ​ is​ ​ that​ ​ we​ ​ build​ ​ a ​ ​ personality​ ​ around​ ​ that​ ​ pain.​ ​ Or
keeping​ ​ that​ ​ pain​ ​ as​ ​ a ​ ​ foundation​ ​ and​ ​ build​ ​ ourselves.​ ​ I ​ ​ did​ ​ not​ ​ realize​ ​ that​ ​ about​ ​ myself​ ​ until recently.​ ​ The​ ​ pain​ ​ that​ ​ I ​ ​ had​ ​ in​ ​ me​ ​ has​ ​ helped​ ​ me​ ​ grow​ ​ and​ ​ bring​ ​ out​ ​ a ​ ​ different​ ​ person​ ​ in​ ​ me. The​ ​ pain​ ​ gave​ ​ me​ ​ a ​ ​ life,​ ​ a ​ ​ personality.​ ​ It​ ​ built​ ​ me.​ ​ It​ ​ is​ ​ something​ ​ that​ ​ pushed​ ​ me​ ​ away​ ​ from​ ​ my hesitant​ ​ self.​ ​ It​ ​ gave​ ​ me​ ​ the​ ​ freedom​ ​ to​ ​ do​ ​ what​ ​ I ​ ​ want.​ ​ It​ ​ let​ ​ me​ ​ experience​ ​ things​ ​ that​ ​ I ​ ​ would
otherwise​ ​ be​ ​ doubtful​ ​ and​ ​ scared​ ​ to​ ​ do.​ ​ ​ It​ ​ created​ ​ me.​ ​ It​ ​ let​ ​ me​ ​ be​ ​ the​ ​ person​ ​ I ​ ​ wanted​ ​ to​ ​ be. But​ ​ if​ ​ you​ ​ take​ ​ that​ ​ pain​ ​ away,​ ​ then​ ​ I’m​ ​ nothing,a​ ​ no​ ​ one.​ ​ I’ve​ ​ grown​ ​ with​ ​ that​ ​ pain.​ ​ ​ It​ ​ has nurtured​ ​ me.​ ​ How​ ​ can​ ​ I ​ ​ let​ ​ go​ ​ of​ ​ something​ ​ that​ ​ created​ ​ me?

I​ ​ need​ ​ that​ ​ pain​ ​ to​ ​ do​ ​ something,​ ​ anything.​ ​ ​ The​ ​ pain​ ​ is​ ​ the​ ​ only​ ​ thing​ ​ that’s​ ​ keeping​ ​ me​ ​ alive. It’s​ ​ the​ ​ only​ ​ thing​ ​ I ​ ​ can’t​ ​ talk​ ​ with​ ​ full​ ​ confidence.​ ​ It’s​ ​ my​ ​ only​ ​ topic​ ​ of​ ​ conversation.​ ​ How’s​ ​ it possible​ ​ you​ ​ ask, but​ ​ that’s​ ​ the​ ​ case​ ​ with​ ​ me.​ ​ ​ I ​ ​ get​ ​ tired​ ​ and​ ​ stressed​ ​ thinking​ ​ about​ ​ it constantly.​ ​ But​ ​ in​ ​ the​ ​ end,​ ​ it’s​ ​ my​ ​ only​ ​ console.​ ​ ​ The​ ​ same​ ​ pain​ ​ that​ ​ messes​ ​ up​ ​ my​ ​ head​ ​ during the​ ​ day,​ ​ is​ ​ what​ ​ puts​ ​ me​ ​ to​ ​ sleep​ ​ at​ ​ night.​ ​ There​ ​ were​ ​ days​ ​ when​ ​ I ​ ​ used​ ​ to​ ​ wake​ ​ up​ ​ crying.​ ​ Not
because​ ​ of​ ​ a ​ ​ bad​ ​ dream​ ​ or​ ​ a ​ ​ nightmare​ ​ but​ ​ knowing​ ​ that​ ​ the​ ​ pain​ ​ still​ ​ existed.​ ​ ​ That​ ​ it’s​ ​ going​ ​ to be​ ​ there​ ​ with​ ​ me ​ for​ ​ the​ ​rest​ ​ of​ ​ my​ ​ life.

I​ ​ came​ ​ to​ ​ this​ ​ realisation​ ​ during​ ​ process​ ​ lab,​ ​ it​ ​ was​ ​ a ​ ​ part​ ​ of​ ​ a ​ ​ course​ ​ I ​ ​ was​ ​ doing.​ ​ ​ We​ ​ talked about​ ​ forgiveness.​ ​ Forgiving​ ​ oneself​ ​ and​ ​ others​ ​ for​ ​ the​ ​ hurt​ ​ or​ ​ pain​ ​ caused​ ​ to​ ​ us,​ ​ consciously​ ​ or unconsciously.​ ​ In​ ​ order​ ​ to​ ​ forgive​ ​ others,​ ​ one​ ​ had​ ​ to​ ​ forgive​ ​ oneself.​ ​ I ​ ​ had​ ​ to​ ​ forgive​ ​ myself​ ​ for all​ ​ the​ ​ things​ ​ I ​ ​ had​ ​ put​ ​ myself​ ​ through​ ​ to​ ​ even​ ​ consider​ ​ forgiving​ ​ others.​ ​ ​ How​ ​ cruel​ ​ was​ ​ it.​ ​ ​ All those​ ​ things​ ​ I ​ ​ had​ ​ made myself​ go ​ through, created​ ​ me, changed​ ​ me.​ ​ And​ ​ I ​ ​ had​ ​ to​ ​ forgive​ ​ myself​ ​ for​ ​ doing so.​ ​ ​ I ​ ​ had​ ​ hurt​ ​ a ​ ​ lot​ ​ of​ ​ people​ ​ while​ ​ trying​ ​ to​ ​ handle​ ​ my​ ​ pain.​ ​ ​ Shouldn’t​ ​ I ​ ​ seek​ ​ forgiveness​ ​ from them​ ​ before​ ​ I ​ ​ can​ ​ forgive​ ​ myself?​ ​ Is​ ​ it​ ​ easy​ ​ to​ ​ forgive​ ​ oneself​ ​ and​ ​ others,​ ​ knowing​ ​ well​ ​ all​ ​ that has​ ​ been​ ​ done?​ ​ ​ The​ ​ answer​ ​ for​ ​ me​ ​ atleast​ ​ is​ ​ a ​ ​ NO.​ ​ ​ But​ ​ letting​ ​ go​ ​ of​ ​ that​ ​ pain​ ​ is​ ​ essential​ ​ to move​ ​ forward.​ ​ It​ ​ is​ ​ the​ ​ toughest​ ​ ​ thing​ ​ we’ll​ ​ have​ ​ to​ ​ do.​ ​ But​ ​ it​ ​ is​ ​ the​ ​ biggest​ ​ favour​ ​ anyone​ ​ could be​ ​ doing​ ​ to​ ​ oneself.

Mansa Devi
Coordinator
Nakshatra NGO

What My Rapist Taught Me.

Rape has never been about pleasure. It is about power and authority one gets over another. It is about taking charge, having control over a situation. It is about being able to attain what you want at any cost. It is about being able to realize your super stalking skills, your techniques to probe and collect information about your prey. It is about discovering the side of you that you thought never existed. It is about self-confidence, to be able to not judge or analyse what one has done. It is about accepting our mistakes and still standing by our misdeeds. Not letting the society bear you down with the rules and laws made to make it function. Standing tall and strong, knowing in the back of your mind that the society will help you blame and shame the one you raped. Drive them to madness with judgements spewing from all corners. Staying strong knowing that even the law will save you from jail time.

Unlike the victim, you don’t have to worry about people calling you names on social media or sharing your story. You are but gaining leverage and popularity. The filthiest lawyer will be on your side, for he has helped far worse people walk free and have a life. Oh, if you can’t afford a lawyer don’t worry. Our government will provide you with one.

You have a lot of people to thank for your achievement. Even though not many would appreciate your gratefulness, but hey, you need to pay your respects. Thank your mom for proving to you more than once that men will always be superior to women. That your dad can abuse her all he wants and it is but her duty to serve him and feed him accordingly. Thank your dad for showing you that you can get what you want by force and consent is anything but a myth. Thank your sister for letting you misuse her opportunities. Thank your friend for teaching you to stalk and encourage you every time a girl got disgusted by you. Thank movies for re-instilling faith in gender stereotypes. Proving to you time and again that men can do anything they want to a woman. Thank politicians for showing that getting away for murdering your wife in our legal system is as easy as killing an ant.

Thank the society for keeping up your hopes by ruining the life of your prey and let you continue doing so. Thank the world for creating and maintaining a false notion that we are indeed safe in this ruthless, hopeless world.

Lastly but most importantly, on behalf of all victims I would like to thank you for making me realize that to see a change in the scenario, I should fight hard to not let anyone like you walk free. Also, it will take a lot more people other than just me to prevent people like you from walking scot-free.

Mansa Devi,
Coordinator,
Nakshatra NGO.