Child abuse survivors need parental support more than anything, to deal with the psychological and physical aspects of their ordeal. Such children aren’t old enough to fully comprehend the magnitude of the traumatic experience. Yet conditioning and threats from abusers often prevent them from speaking up. Hence, many children around the world endure sexual abuse in silence. However, those who do dare to come forward, expect parental support. But what do they do when their parents turn hostile? What if they are more concerned about protecting their own social image and are willing to risk the life of the survivor for that?
- What do minor victims of sexual abuse do, when their parents side with their abusers to protect family honour instead?
- A huge amount of child abuse happens at the hands of family, friends, acquaintances or relatives.
- Research says that around two-thirds of all Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) occur at the hands of a family member or someone close to the child.
The heartbreaking case of a 13-year-old from Coimbatore, makes one wonder, how does a minor survivor of sexual abuse deal with parental betrayal.
As per The Times Of India, a 13-year-old girl got pregnant after her 18-year-old brother raped her on multiple occasions. When the parents found out about it, they took their daughter to a private hospital for an abortion. The doctors, however, refused and advised them to go to Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital (CMCH). The doctors there told them that their daughter was eight months pregnant and also informed the police as well. However, the survivor’s parents refused to cooperate with the police and Child Protection Society Unit officers. Not just that, they even refused to file a complaint against their son.
While, in the end, it was the survivor who filed the complaint against her brother, it is clear that the parents chose to favour the abuser. Despite knowing that abortion is a risky procedure after a certain stage in pregnancy, the parents showed no care for their daughter’s well-being. All they wanted was to protect their family from a scandal, even if it came at the cost of their daughter’s well being. Their reluctance to file an official complaint against their adult son will also resonate with many survivors who have been victims of intra-familial child sexual abuse.
There is a reason why so many cases of child sexual abuse go unreported in our country. A huge amount of abuse happens at hands of family friends, acquaintances or relatives.
In fact, a research published on Centre Of Expertise On Child Abuse says that around two-thirds of all CSA reported to the police is perpetrated by a family member or someone close to the child. We read about such incidences in newspapers or hear whispers in our friend circle. The reflex action amidst families, when such incidences come to light, is to cover them up. No one needs to know, because a family’s reputation is clearly more important than a child’s well-being. Not many care that they are betraying a child’s faith and telling him or her that those who are to protect them will go to any extent to protect those who harm them.
I cannot imagine the emotional toll this entire episode must have taken of that 13-year-old girl. Will she ever be able to forgive her parents for protecting her brother over her? For helping him avoid legal and social repercussions that he should have faced, being an adult? Yet, she won’t be the first child in our country to undergo such a betrayal.
Patriarchy has us on such a tight leash that we cannot think beyond family honour. And because they have a womb, young girls often end up losing more than dignity and trust in such cases.
Yesterday, a 40-year-old man was booked for allegedly raping his 13-year-old daughter twice in two days in Rajasthan. There was another report about a 17-year-old girl from Punjab who was found to be seven months pregnant after being repeatedly raped by her father and his friends. So many girls might have been forced into risky abortions in our country to shield their brothers and fathers and uncles. Numerous may have endured social shame, physical abuse, unwanted motherhood or hasty matrimonial alliances to cover up the deeds of their male blood relatives.
This willingness to protect predators and turn on abuse survivors is an enabler of abuse. So many perpetrators use such consequences as a threat to silence their victims. It is always tougher on survivors who dare to speak up. Organisations which work to protect children from abuse, need to create awareness among parents, as to why it is important to put the well-being of children and justice above familial honour. By not speaking up, they are only making more kids vulnerable to abuse. The only way they cannot be accomplices in one of the most heinous crimes against humanity, is by choosing what is right over what is less scandalous.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.
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