Written by: Aaheli Gupta
Note: This article is based on Prerana’s on-ground experiences of working with child victims of sexual violence.
Jasmeet (name changed) entered the juvenile justice system as a victim of child sexual abuse. She currently stays with her parents as she is over 18 years of age and Prerana follows up on her to check on her well-being. Jasmeet’s family belongs to a low-income household. Her parents worked as street hawkers before the Covid-19 lockdown, but had to find alternative means of income later. They are often busy making ends meet and unable to find time to look out for their child.
Amid the Covid-19-induced lockdown, a social worker received a frantic call from Jasmeet’s mother. She was crying and sounded worried about her child. She shared with the social worker how Jasmeet had not been keeping well and was facing violence from the person she was seeing. Jasmeet had been in a relationship with a boy, Hari, from her community. She rarely stayed at home and preferred living with him. Hari, however, was violent towards her. He had been trying to end the relationship and was engaged to be married to someone else.
A victim of abuse goes through a lot of trauma and may become dependent on people who support them through their traumatic situation. When Jasmeet was sexually abused, she went through a deeply traumatic experience that changed her. The social workers observed that because Jasmeet feels Hari stood by her then, she was unwilling to recognise his current actions as violent.
Jasmeet’s trauma made it harder for her to be able to leave her abuser. During the lockdown, Jasmeet also got pregnant with Hari’s child and subsequently went through a medical termination of pregnancy. She had limited support system and started exhibiting self-harm tendencies. Jasmeet’s vulnerability was heightened after she was abused, so did her need for a support system. The team continues to help her and provide her with psychosocial assistance.
Jasmeet’s story indicates that when working with victims, social workers must acknowledge the intersection of different forms of violence.
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 email@example.com. You can also call NGO Arpan on their helpline 091-98190-86444, for counselling support.