Chruches spoil Tamil Kids in Orphanges

Mahabalipuram orphanages may be hotbeds of child sexual abuse

Arun Ram, TNN, Nov 19, 2008, 04.18am IST

CHENNAI: As the world debates ways and means to curb child sexual abuse on Wednesday, the World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse, the evil may be spreading with impunity in Chennai’s backyard, Mahabalipuram.

What’s more appalling, orphanages, where children are supposed to feel safe, could be turning into hotbeds of child sexual abuse.

An investigation by TOI India has revealed that orphanages – an unusually large number of them for such a small town – are flouting rules to roll out bed, breakfast and more to foreigners, some of whom could be what the world now scornfully calls ‘travelling child sex offenders’.

When asked if child sexual abuse takes place in orphanages, social welfare secretary NS Palaniappan said: “These things happen in private orphanages, not in the government ones.”

For the record, there are 178 private orphanages and 27 government children’s homes in the state, housing 22,000 children. When asked about government monitoring of private orphanages, the secretary hastened to add: “I have not got any specific complaints recently. I will ask officials to inspect all orphanages in Mahabalipuram and take action if there is anything wrong.”

There has been more than one indication that some orphanages in this tiny town of 7th century Pallava fame have been illegally soliciting foreigners willing to make ‘donations.’ Sample this on the visiting card of an orphanage manager: “Dear friends, we warmly greet you to our children’s home which is a walkable (sic) distance from where you stay. You are invited to visit us at your convenience during your stay in Mamallapuram.

The children at this home would like to meet you, talk and play with you. They would further like to know about your country. We welcome generous donation and also accept clothes from kindhearted donors. These are accepted directly, in person, and not through mediators. So, make it a programme in tour list to visit this orphanage. Your visit to this home is most eagerly awaited.”

Meanwhile, a popular travellers’ guide, that suggests snorkelling in Fiji and skiing in Utah as ‘things to do’, offers ‘visit to orphanages’ when it comes to Mahabalipuram.

Sharing trauma can help child abuse victims

Bhama Devi Ravi, TNN, Nov 19, 2008, 04.16am IST

CHENNAI: A wall poster on child sexual abuse helped 18-year old Aditi (name changed) unlock her dark memory vault which contained episodes of sexual abuse by two cousins and a classmate’s brother – for two years continuously – from the time when she was eight years old.

The Chennai girl, who has now relocated elsewhere, said, “I suffered silently for years, but when my college friend blurted out that her uncle had abused her, it helped me get in touch with my feelings,” says Aditi, now 22.

For adult victims of child sexual abuse (CSA), the burden of the physical and emotional invasion remains an unresolved conflict. “Control and trust are shaken. They are replaced with an undeserved sense of guilt and shame, and the abuse is something they can never forget,” says Nazu Tonse, who runs Askios, a networking site in Bangalore for adult survivors.

With no mechanism to cope with the past, many begin to hate their bodies and suffer in many other ways.

“There is a strong connection between child sex abuse and eating disorders. Victims need to come out of the trauma and heal themselves,” says Tonse.

“The long-term trauma of CSA survivors is something no one understands,” says Anuja Gupta of Delhi-based RAHI Foundation, a support centre for adult woman survivors of CSA.

“We need to remove biases, and remove the forbidding silence around the trauma,” she adds. “CSA cuts across all classes and happens everywhere, and the abuse is much more in a society with family culture like ours.”

According to Vidya Reddy of Tulir, an NGO which works with sexually-abused children, the lack of support from society or family is a glaring lacuna.

“Parents rarely know how to respond and hide behind the standard response, ‘Why bring it up now? Why did you not tell me then? He has gone away, you don’t have to worry anymore.’ None of these responses will make the past go away for a victim,” says Vidya. “Listen to them, help them come out of the trauma and make healthier choices.”

Unlike Bangalore, Delhi and Kolkata, there are no support groups in Chennai for survivors of CSA, and Tulir is often approached by adults survivors for help.

It is believed that most of the children are abused when they are between ages of six and 12, and five out of ten children face one form of abuse or the other.

“Society in general is in a denial mode on CSA and although we have respect for homosexuals and women’s rights, we have none for children,” points out 42-year-old Tonse, herself a victim of CSA.

Although mental health professionals and fellow sufferers are tuned into the issue, “there is very little help for the survivors, and we are merely scratching the surface. However, recovery is possible,” says Anuja of RAHI Foundation.

At RAHI, victims are offered individual and group therapy. “We advise victims not to confront their family in the early stages of therapy, until their internal resources are built,” she says. Tonse says a few partners are coming forward to share the burden of the victim, “which is encouraging.” The Internet is a huge comfort zone, she adds. Networking sites offer insight and the anonymity to lay bare the pain and the trauma, which is the first step to healing.


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