By Abhik Mukherjee:
I was three when I was sexually abused for the first time, and it continued until I was 21.
One of my worst experiences was in Class 6 in a well-reputed school in Kolkata. Every day, I would be forced into the bathroom where one boy would cover my mouth while the others took turns to sexually assault me. This continued for about two weeks till I finally spoke up and complained and one of my perpetrators was suspended. I finally felt safer in my school. But this was not to last for long. I was again abused by a different set of boys on my way back from school in the school bus.
During this phase of my life, I did certain things that I shouldn’t have. I lost all hope and attempted suicide. A major problem with male sexual abuse is that it is not socially accepted and people sometimes make extremely insensitive comments or pass over-simplified solutions to a much deeper issue. Some of my closest friends made fun of my abuse making me suffer even more.
Recently, things have changed though and I have found a lot of support. I am extremely lucky that I have understanding parents who helped me survive; unfortunately, most children in our country don’t find anyone to rely on. Back then, I could not share my trauma with anyone, not even my parents, even though I knew they were there for me. I could only tell them a few years later. It was difficult to accept that I had been abused. When I told my mother about this, she gave me the emotional support I needed. It helped that she was a Psychiatrist. I sought professional help from a counsellor during my counselling course. It was only after these personal counselling sessions that I have been able to accept my abuse and dared to talk about it publicly. It took me 16 long years to come out of my shell and I never reported the case to the police, being uncomfortable in opening up about my abuse to strangers.
A study by the Ministry of Women and Child Education in 2007 revealed some shocking statistics about child sexual abuse in India. The study was based on a questionnaire sent out to 12,447 respondents. The children belonged to 5 different categories including those who belonged to a family environment, schools, institutions, and work. Some of the major findings are listed below:
• 53.22% of the respondents had reported one or more forms of sexual abuse
• Among them 52.94% were boys and 47.06% were girls
• Delhi reported the maximum figure of sexual abuse amongst boys with 65.54% respondents
• Gujrat reported maximum figures of sexual abuse amongst girls with 63.41% respondents
Such outrageous statistics reveal the need for age appropriate Personal Safety Education in school curriculums so that students and teachers can identify abuse and know how to deal with it appropriately. This includes teaching students to differentiate between “Safe touch” and “Unsafe touch”. Children should be able to open up to their parents (something I could not do for two years but should have). Schools must take responsibility to avoid such scarring incidents at all cost and children should be taught self-defence tactics to protect themselves in such circumstances.
Being sexually abused as a child has made me stronger and it is because of what I went through that I decided to be a counsellor so that I can help others and heal myself. Being a survivor, I can empathise with other survivors and can facilitate coping strategies for them. From the next month, I will be starting Kolkata’s first Child Sexual Abuse Support group in collaboration with Pranaadhika Sinha Devburman and Dr. Rima Mukherj, a Psychiatrist who runs an organisation called Crystal Minds. This group will provide survivors a space where they can share their experience of abuse in a supportive environment. In the future, I plan to do a course in Drama Therapy and specialise in sexual abuse counselling so that I can help survivors of abuse in a novel and structured manner.
If you are a survivor, parent or guardian who wants to seek help for child sexual abuse, or know someone who might, you can dial 1098 for CHILDLINE (a 24-hour national helpline) or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.