New Delhi: Whom does a child turn to when the one he trusts with all of his tiny heart turns abuser? In a nut-shell, the second episode of Aamir Khan's television show Satyamev Jayate was simply heart-breaking. It brought out a common but rarely talked-about scourge of society - the sexual abuse of children - often by people they trust the most.
Aamir spoke to several such victims, their family members, experts and social workers who came on the show on Sunday to narrate their horrific experiences of being molested, sodomized and cowed into silence with the threat of bodily harm.
Given the seriousness of the issue, the tone of the show was emotional but surprisingly light, with victims facing the camera squarely and even joking with the host who was tearing up often. The heartbreaking story of Anamika, who was sexually abused by her teacher, underscored the importance of parents listening to and trusting their children.
Aamir quoted from a survey conducted in 2007 by the Women and Child Development Ministry and the NGO Prayas in association with Unicef and Save the Children across 13 states and with a sample size of 12,447. The shocking details were laid bare to the entire nation.
The survey found that 53.22 per cent of children reported having faced one or more forms of sexual abuse. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Assam and Delhi had reported the highest percentage of such incidents at that time. In 50% of the cases, the abusers were known to the child or were in a position of trust and responsibility and most children did not report the matter to anyone.
The National Study on Child Abuse is one of the largest empirical in-country studies of its kind in the world. This study also complements the UN Secretary General's Global Study on Violence against Children 2006.
The case of Cinderella Prakash and Harish Iyer
Cinderella Prakash was abused by a 55-year-old man she trusted when she was 12 years old. Not only could she not tell her mother about her tormentor, she spent years running away from him. Similarly, Harish Iyer spent 11 years in trauma, being abused by a man he trusted as a child. He was sodomized and when he went to his mother after much deliberation, he was not taken seriously. Aamir called on Harish's mother who admitted she was wrong in not believing her child.
It is not often highlighted but 53% of children who went through child sexual abuse were boys, according to the 2007 report, the aim of which was to develop a comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon of child abuse, with a view to facilitate the formulation of appropriate policies and programmes meant to effectively curb and control the problem of child abuse in India.
Trust your child
Harish was threatened into silence by his tormentor. Experts Anuja Gupta of RAHI NGO RAHI (Recovering and Healing from Incest) spoke of the child psychology behind keeping silent about abuse. She advised parents watching the show to trust their children when they confided in them about any instance of sexual abuse. She asked parents to "listen to your child, and apologise to your child for letting this happen to him/her under your watch." Nishit Kumar of the agency Childline spoke of the infamous 2001 case of sexual abuse of boys at the Anchorage Shelters.
Good touch, bad touch workshop for children
Aamir conducted a 'Good Touch, Bad Touch' workshop for children across the nation to teach them about the importance of understanding sexual abuse, recognising predators and confiding in their parents if abuse happens. Through interactivity and a series of diagrams he taught the children the importance of having a 'bodyguard' or someone they implicitly trusted to take care of them.
Aamir appealed to people to press the government to pass the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Bill in Parliament and pledge their support against child sex abuse by SMSing Y to 5782711.
Harish gets a surprise
Harish said he was a big fan of actress Sridevi and his obsession with Bollywood, along with his trusted German Shepherd dog, played a big role in keeping him sane through the years of sexual abuse. His surprise was almost comical when Sri Devi was called on by Aamir to meet her arguably biggest fan. She gave Harish a gift-wrapped package and sat beside the flustered fan through the rest of the show.
Aamir has said he would highlight 13 such contentious issues in his show, which has already had the government sitting up and taking notice.