The recent rape of a 9 year old in Goa has once gain brought to fore the extreme vulnerability of children who are easy victims to lurking predators of all kind. The perpetrators of the heinous act have been arrested. Will they be convicted or with they one gain easily slip though the gaping holes of inadequate laws? One does not know. The sad truth is that in crimes against children, adults often go scot free. Rape is undoubtedly the extreme aberration. What we often do not see is the innumerable insidious crimes that are committed each day against innocent and hapless children. And what is even more dangerous is that children far too often accept the offense in total silence, each wound simply scarring their little souls forever. The perpetrators on the other hand, carry on the abuse with impunity, protected by written or unwritten laws that cover them with a cloak of false respectability.
Sadly again, the worst crimes on children are committed by people who the child trusts, looks up to and sometimes even loves. Is not the adult child equation one of trust and credence?
Last week a little girl came to one of our centres with a bruise on her cheek and a cut on her lips. When questioned she simply answered that the one on the cheek was a blow by her father and the other by her mother. There was no anger, no wrath, nothing.. the child simply accepted it.
My mind went back many years, to the day when I had seen a little girl in her school uniform crying copiously as she walked back from school. When i asked her what had happened she answered she had been beaten by her teacher. When asked why she simply added I must have done something wrong. The need to challenge a wrongful act was absent. The child seemed once gain conditioned to accept abuse when it came from an adult you trusted. And with each act of abuse that misplaced belief is alas strengthened. When things get too bad children take the unthinkable step and end their lives. Helplines are of no real help. An abused child has scant self esteem. She or he are incapable of seeking help. Abusive adults ensure that, and if that is not enough the family and social environment extol the code of silence.
How then does one get the child to break out of this vicious stranglehold? How does one get the child to break the unjust code of silence she or he are compelled to accept? It is not easy and that is where civil society, or at least those who have not abdicated their power to defend what is right, should stand up and shatter the oppressive silence. One of the most effective campaigns against domestic violence has been the Bell Bajao or Ring the Bell campaign. It urges each one of us to ring the doorbell when we come to face to face with an incident of domestic violence. The bottom line is do not keep quiet and walk away.
The same needs to be done when one sees child abuse in any form: bet it in homes, schools or on the street. Only then will innocent abused children begin seeing a glimmer of hope at the end of a dark tunnel and will slowly regain their lost innocence and take their first step on the long road to healing. Only then will they be able to pick up the pieces of their broken self worth and start believing that each one of them carries withing her or himself an invincible summer no one can rob them off.
So what are we waiting for…..