“Shhhh”, they say or “don’t speak about it”. When you hear a story about sexual assault, abuse, or inappropriate behaviour, it remains a story. Believe it or not, the youth are facing these issues not just at public places, but in safe havens too like homes, schools, colleges, and churches.

Most women and girls have a radar for unscrupulous characters. While entering and leaving a crowded church in Bandra, there was a guy who would brush against my hand. First time around, I gave him the benefit of the doubt that it was a crowded place. However, it happened multiple times and it was the same guy. How do you prove opportunistic perverts who brush against you?

The worst part is that he gets off happy, and I am left with disgust, anger, emptiness, and helpless.

Talking about families as a safe haven; there is always a weird uncle. This is another hard-to-prove incident. As a child, aunties and uncles pick you up and cuddle you. When I was around five years, give or take, I had an uncle would hold me tight and carry me, but his hand would press down at an inappropriate place. I was uncomfortable, but could not convey to my mum the exact issue. It was during sex education classes in school that I realised that my hunch was correct. Ironically, he died from a sexually transmitted disease.

In college, rumours would the rounds of classmates in tremulous relationships. Where they were physically assaulted, God alone knows the state of their sexual relationship. Allegedly, the trauma of abuse was excessive to one classmate that she ended her life. May her soul rest in peace.

Parents, most children and youth have a story that they are not going to share with you, but that doesn’t mean it is not happening. Today, in our country a new report of assault is reported every 22 minutes. In college campus’ at least 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 13 boys are sexually assaulted. Worldwide it is estimated that 7.9 percent of males and 19.7 percent of females faced sexual abuse before the age of 18 years.

When victims close their eyes they see fear, hurt, anger, a sense of emptiness, a feeling of being used and loneliness.

Signs To Recognise Sexual Abuse In Youth

  • Self-injury (cutting, burning)
  • Inadequate personal hygiene
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Running away from home
  • Depression, anxiety
  • Suicide attempts
  • Fear of intimacy or closeness
  • Compulsive eating or dieting

Remember these are textbook behaviours, but each youth behaves differently.

What You Can Say To A Victim:

“I believe you. / It took a lot of courage to tell me about this.”
“It’s not your fault. / You didn’t do anything to deserve this.”
“You are not alone. / I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can.”
“I’m sorry this happened. / This shouldn’t have happened to you.”

How To Continue Support:

  • Avoid judgement
  • Check in periodically
  • Know your resources to recommend to a survivor

Crisis helpline:  98330 52684 / 91675 35765 or connect with Sneha Mumbai or RAHI Foundation.

An Andrean Youth