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.