Boy, you aren’t safe either! – Padmalatha.

Boy, you aren’t safe either!

Patriarchy is designed to protect men. But it leaves out vulnerable young boys. They meet the same fate as girls when it comes to sexual abuse. 

The fact that patriarchy is as much a man’s problem, as it is a woman’s is not fully understood. It is often considered to be a clever turn of phrase by ‘devious feminists.’

It is no secret that when a woman comes forward with an incident of sexual abuse or rape, the denial and prejudices of the society comes to the forefront. Is it any different if the victim is a boy? Apparently not! I was unfortunate enough to witness the drama unfold at very close quarters. Here are some of the shocking observations from that episode.

The first instinct of those in authority, even those not in sarkaari positions, is to disbelieve the complaint, which sets the tone for the rest of the episode. They ask for witnesses of a Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) and seek to talk to the victims directly without a trained social worker or a trusted adult.

The grown ups –the parents of the victims, other parents and the authorities expressed concern over the safety of children. But the fact that the alleged molester was an old man, was good enough reason for most people to dismiss or doubt the complaint.

The child was made to repeat the incident, even to complete strangers with utter disregard to the havoc it must be wreaking on his mind. And when the petrified child changed some details or refused to talk about, he was accused of manufacturing the truth in the first place.

Though this particular incident brought forward other victims from the past, they were asked ‘why did you not complain earlier?’ No thought was spared to answer the question – is it that simple to come out in the open about an abuse?

Any parent, who showed the slightest of determination to go to the police, was reminded of the ‘consequences’ of doing the same. These lessons on consequences brought down the number of complainants to less than half which further strengthened the belief that there was no truth to the complaints in the first place. Vicious cycle indeed!

Only a handful of people supported those who came forward. The other parents though extremely worried for the safety of their own children, didn’t want to stand by the parents of the victims because they were not entirely sure if it happened. There was also anger expressed at the fact that the parents chose to speak up and make noise about such a shameful act. Would they have gone public if the victims were girls?

The most scary and shocking discovery was that the complaint is taken very lightly, if the victim is a boy!

It was a textbook case of how not to handle Child Sexual Abuse. There was apathy towards the victim, there was a lack of courage to take a stand, there was this dangerous ignorance that boys don’t get affected by sexual abuse and there was this not so new – absolute lack of faith in law, which played out in this situation.

Although everyone kept saying it would have been taken more seriously had the victims been girls, experience shows otherwise.

Often, one hears the refrain that education is the answer to such problems. This situation that I just described happened in an educated and what we could call a fairly affluent society. It just goes to prove that access to education or improved economic or social status does not change detrimental patriarchal attitudes that have been normalised over the centuries. And that it affects boys as much as girls.

The NCRB’s  HYPERLINK “http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/juvenile-homes-are-hellholes-says-report-on-child-rape/article4637540.ece” statistics of CSA should scare us into action. But it doesn’t. Majority of us want to believe it won’t happen to our child, especially if it is a boy. Even when it does happen, the denial continues. What sort of education (not the textbook kind) and / or empowerment drive will fix this problem?

 

Postscript: The parents eventually did go to an NGO who sent social workers to get the affected children’s statement. The matter is now pending before the Child Welfare Committee.

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