Srinagar: She is just ‘she’. She doesn’t want to be named. She wants to dis-remember the day she fell prey. She couldn’t differentiate between a good and a bad touch; that is what cost her too much. She was barely seven when she was sexually abused by her father’s uncle. Now she is 26 and has lived with the trauma for more than 19 years.
Sitting in her room, a streak of light coming in through a jar window makes her wet eyes shine.
“Being a part of the society where talking about sexual harassment is strictly prohibited, I am finding it a bit awkward (to talk) but I have to open up. I have to speak. I have to tell this society to aware the children about a good touch and a bad touch,” she says with tears rolling down her cheeks.
Recollecting her gory memories, she says, “I was about seven-year-old when I along with my family was travelling to Goa. It was our family routine to visit there during winters for business. During that trip, my father’s uncle also accompanied us and we were sharing the same apartment. Whenever he found me playing with siblings, he would offer me for a scooty ride to market and every Friday he used to take me to Madgaon city to purchase household products.”
“Then he would hold me from back and touch me in an inappropriate manner (which I realised later), sometimes on my back and sometimes on my chest. As a child, scooty ride and colourful candies never made me think why he always offered ride to me only. How could I know that he was playing a different game by telling me to sit in front of the scooty. My mother easily permitted me as she blindly trusted that monster. I came to know about the good and bad touch only once I grew up. Then I realised what he had been doing to me. Today, I feel guilty as to how I let anyone (sexually) touch me.”
Taking a pause for a minute, she resumes, “Those memories still haunt me, disturb me. I want to disremember that past.”
She pauses again, takes a glass of water. “He (her uncle) was a 40-year-old and I was just seven. Had my parents made me aware of the good and bad touch, it would not have happened to me.”
For all these years, she has kept it secret from her parents because of the social stigma attached to the abuse. “I never told my parents about the incident as I know that in Kashmir, family is never wrong. They will think I was wrong, so I chose to be silent.”
“I don’t trust men now. I don’t even want to marry…. as I don’t trust men,” she says. “Even today, when I see him (uncle), all those thoughts come back, and whenever he is around I make sure no girl from our family is alone with him.”
Another victim, a 22-year-old girl, says she was abused by her family doctor in her childhood.
“Whenever I was unwell, my father used to take me to our family doctor. He always pampered me by saying that I’m now a grown up girl and used to tell my father to wait outside. No matter whether I had a knee pain, elbow pain or headache, he always examined me by putting stethoscope and would rub his hand on my chest. While growing up I began to ask myself why he always examined my chest whatever the ailment I had.”
“During that time I was unaware about the bad touch, but whenever my father left me alone for checkup, the colour of my face always changed into pale,” she recalls. “Even the very thought of those childhood memories makes me feel low. All those details of the incidents are etched in my mind. I find hard to let them go.
She says almost every girl goes through such situations but hardly does anyone share it. “We keep it to ourselves; there is no question of sharing these dark memories with parents.”
“Nowadays everyone stresses upon the need of imparting sexual education to children particularly to a girl child, but only a few parent s do it,” she says.
A couple of months ago, a group of 12th class girls caught a male music teacher molesting the girls of 2nd standard in one of the renowned schools of the valley.
The minor girls, in half sleeves and skirt, according to 12th class girls, were feeling uncomfortable when the accused was rubbing his hands close to their groin. The girls rescued the children and logged a formal complaint against the accused teacher at the principal’s office.
To protect the name and reputation of the school, the matter was not highlighted and was resolved inside the premises by expelling the teacher. However, the students of the institution are not satisfied with the decision but want the matter to come in public so that everyone becomes aware and cautious.
“We suspected that music teacher as he always passed dirty comments on girls. We caught him red handed committing this shameful act,” says a student wishing not to be named. “Our principal has warned us not to disclose it outside, for the reputation of the school.”
The higher secondary girl students said parents as well as teachers should counsel the children about the good and the bad touch. “Otherwise how could our kids come to know about these things?”
Social analysts and commentators acknowledge that young girls being sexually abused by relatives, doctors, teachers etc is a widespread phenomenon in Kashmir. They opine that the problem isn’t openly discussed due to various reasons.
“First is that children are not imparted proper counselling regarding the good and bad touch; second is that parent-child relationship is not so friendly so that children can share everything with their parents. And third reason is the social stigma.”
Dr Shabnam Ara, who teaches Sociology at Amar Singh College, says there are always social conditions for girls. “If somebody follows a girl, the society blames her only. That is why, for her respect, she chooses to remain silent. During childhood, parents should make their children aware of what is right and what is wrong for them. The social stigma has to be removed.”
Dr Shabnam explains further: “In most of the cases, these girls slip into depression which leads to behavioural problems in them. Its aftermath can impact their social behaviour as well.”
“Nowadays mostly of the parents are working; they don’t get proper time to make a good bond with their children. And due to this lack of bond, children never talk about these issues with their parents. The parents must open up little discussions with their children particularly girls over such matters.”
Experts say that sexual assaults on children can hamper the normal personality development and they develop serious issues when they reach adulthood. They say in the absence of any counselling or “cathartic sessions”, such assaults remain embedded in the individual’s mind causing long-term mental trauma.
Talking about the physiological impact of sexual assault on young girls, Psychiatrist at Rainawari Mental Hospital Dr Sabreen told INS, “We are used to such cases, most of the victims struggle with depression. They can hardly trust anyone as their trust is broken during childhood.”
Dr Sabreen says the victims don’t directly reveal that they have been abused because of the stigma attached to it. “We usually get patients (victims) having symptoms like anger, irritability, fear, dissociation, self-harming behaviour, etc. who open up and talk about the harassment/assault they have come through, only after the counselling sessions.”
“In such cases, we advise the parents to keep their children (victims) away from the abuser as this helps in checking further exploitation, the Psychiatrist says. “The victims usually suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and in most of the cases, such girls develop abnormal sexual behaviour in later age. These incidents also lead to neurobiological changes wherein the volume of some structures of the brain changes which is a lifelong phenomenon.”
The sexual abuse victims suffer from a condition which psychologists term as “Affective Flattening”. In such a condition, Dr Sabreen explains, the victims don’t feel any sort of emotion. “So it is very important to get proper counselling and treatment as such abuse results in psychological impact at multiple levels.”
Sexual abuse is clearly a criminal act but there are no specific laws to deal with these crimes.
Sabreen Malik, a lawyer says if a victim files a case against her abuser, she has to follow the routine sections of RPC (Ranbir Penal Code) and a normal trial will take place.
“In 2012, the Parliament of India passed a law ‘The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act’ which covers such offences but the Act is not applicable in Kashmir due to the Article 370. The state government has not brought in any substitute law to cover these crimes,” Sabreen says.
“These cases are common but only one percent is reported. These days, parental care is missing and small girls get overwhelmed when they are pampered by anyone who later abuses her.”
Advocate Sabreen adds, “We start discriminating our female child right from her birth, she always faces inequality. She is always taught that men can never be wrong and that is why when she is assaulted she recalls the line ‘men can never be wrong” and choses to be silent.”
She talks about a case in Srinagar in which a 13-year-old girl was abused by her father. The girl, she said, was living along with her sister and druggist father. “Her mother was a non-local and due to ill behaviour of her husband, she had left him and her daughter.”
“The girl was abused for a year and she was so young to understand what is going on around. Every night her father made her unconscious by making her to drink some kind of medicine. It was girl’s neighbour who observed changes in her physique and took her to a doctor where from it was confirmed that she has been raped for months and the girl was pregnant. Later, by court orders the girl went through abortion.”
“The parents should make such a relationship with their daughters so that they share everything with them,” Sabreen suggests.
Khalida Parveen, Station House Officer at Women’s Police Station Rambagh says though the cases of sexual abuse by family insiders are prevalent in the society, hardly any are reported to police.
“During my time, not a single case has been reported. Even if parents are aware about it they hardly report it, just for the sake of being in the stupid society. If they will come forward, we will take action so that the accused will think hundred times before committing the crime,” Parveen says.


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