In an interview with Femina dated March 5, actor Sonam Kapoor opened up about how a man molested her in a cinema theatre when she was 13. “Before I became a celebrity, I was just a regular pretty girl in public. This happened when I was at a movie hall. I was groped by a guy who I couldn’t see in the dark. I was only 13 years old and deeply disturbed by the whole episode,” she said. Kapoor, who has also spoken about this in a conversation with film critic Rajeev Masand said that she didn’t share this with anyone for two years, and at that time, felt like she had done something wrong.
Her story is the story of lakhs of children in India who have faced similar instances and are often not believed or told to stay silent by their own parents and family members. It also shows how child sexual abuse cuts across class, and needs to be a much bigger concern, to make sure that it is not dismissed or trivialised, as that’s exactly what happened with Sonam.
The actor continued to say that she had to speak with her mother in order to deal with it. The fact that sex education is not a priority in our schools is worrisome because children can grow up believing that abuse of such nature is ‘normal’. “…teachers are not equipped to handle such cases. Our education system just does not know any better. Girls slip into depression. They blame themselves and it’s a horrible place to be in,” she said. It is true – in a society that silences survivors of abuse, guilt, self-blame and low self-esteem stay with survivors for years.
It takes a lot of courage to speak out about an incident like this, and more power to Kapoor for doing so. Stories like this have the power to give strength to many other survivors who many not be able to open up, and re-emphasize that it’s not their fault. In recent times, Bollywood has also come out with films that have broken the silence around child sexual abuse we hope that films continue highlighting the issue.
It’s important that we know how to react if a child ever discloses abuse to us. It can be difficult and confusing, but our response can determine how the child might feel for years to come. Here are a few helpful tips:
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.