Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Science and Signs of Emotions: Workshop that proved to be changement de vie

Perhaps all these years I have lived in a denial mode. But as it is said you cannot run away from the past. We maintain OMerta throughout; Code of Silence about abuse in Indian households prevails. Aren’t we all proud of it?

Vinco Vici Victum, we have conquered, overcome, mastered, won, surpassed, and excelled at concealing cases of child sex abuse happening around us. A lot many of us have been at the receiving end too. A home is the safest place for a child to be born and brought up in but what happens when the child grows in the environment of fear. A fear that the child cannot explain to anybody, cannot or don't know how to voice it. I hail from a reputed middle class family of North India. To be precise a joint family consisting of doting uncles and aunts, of many relatives and neighbors. But then too there is an instance when I felt unsafe, did not know what happened or preferred to shift-delete that experience from my memory.

It is just not me; many of us suffer similar mortifying experiences. These experiences are then followed by experiences of silence, deleting the memory and what more pretending that it never happened.

It was the year 2012 when I was living in an upscale society of Bandra West, Mumbai. I had reputed neighbors, usually not much socialization happened other than society meetings or festivals. I have always been loved by children and I bond with them easily. There also I developed close bonding with a ten year old girl Srishti.
Srishti used to play in my flat and usually ended up bringing her school homework at my place and completing it in the meantime. She hailed from a broken family. I knew her mother and we too became good friends. It was in one of the conversations that Srishti started asking me about rape and what it is, totally taken back by her innocent question; I dismissed it as the product of watching news. It was an era of sensationalism journalism. But eventually she confided about her fears. Harrowing details of what that Pedophiliac was doing to her.
 He was her mother’s boyfriend, who used to visit them often. He also used to visit them when her mother was not around. He had the keys to their home. She did not know what was happening to her, was as confused as I had been but more determined in the fact that she did not want more of it and needed help if at all. Where I had the privilege to be born in a family which was full of people to love me and protect me, Srishti was from a broken home. All the more it was difficult to her to seek help and support. I confronted her mother, what broke me was her mother instead of supporting her ten year old daughter, supported her boyfriend stating that her daughter is jealous and possessive. Her mother in a mild note added that single girls like me should focus on our life rather than snooping around. What disturbed me most was before this incident I was their favorite charming neighbor and then I was a neighbor who could be a possible threat to her reputation. Srishti’s mother dismissed me with eye-rolling disdain. I kept on wondering how can a mother be so detached, indifferent to her daughter’s pain. Mothers are the caretakers of children they bring in to the world. 
I could never let this happen to anybody’s daughter nor should be allowing anybody to do it to their daughter. Alas they were just thoughts in mind which I never actionated. I proudly call myself as having very strong maternal instincts towards children that explains their natural affinity towards me but how I reacted then till date I remain ashamed of it. May be that’s why I am confessing it here.
Work occupied most of my waking hours but this incident gave me sleepless nights. Unfortunately I was afraid, convinced myself that I am helpless and that I did enough. As expected the little girl was not allowed to visit me and long hours at work did not give me time to check on her.
My maid informed me after few months that the mother and daughter duo have moved out possibly to that pervert’s home. No forwarding address left.
Life moves on, infact now I have relocated to a new city. However still remains that guilt of not protecting Srishti and not being able to do anything about the fact that she trusted me enough to confide in me. 
I did not even discuss it with anyone. I too convinced myself that soon it will get over and Silence is the best option. I did not raise my voice against child sex abuse.
What goes around comes around. This Saturday was such a day. A workshop which I attended purely by chance by cancelling the non refundable flight ticket to Mumbai. Till the ninth hour, I was not sure if I would attend the workshop. The reason was not my plans for Mumbai but the fear from the past.
The workshop was conducted by Srishtilife Foundation. It was titled Science and Signs of Emotions. The particular name reminded me of my dear friend Srishti and brought back floods of unpleasant memories. I became afraid yet again. But this time I decided to face the reality and attend the workshop. Miracles happen when we expect least. It happened for me. As I write this I send my prayer of thanks to the divine for finding a way for me to fight the ghosts of the past.

Srishtilife Foundation’s website says Srishti is on its national campaign to Save A Child, Save A Smile. I would not be able to do justice to the idea behind Srishtilife in one post, but humble request to all of you to visit their website www.srishtilife.com and check for yourself.
What moved me was that how maturely and in sensitive way the whole issue of creating awareness against CSA (child sex abuse) was dealt with in a short span of time. In the last part of session, in just limited time, the whole idea was explained.

The workshop didn’t get too heavy for me as I had expected. Nor did it deal just with the Do you know facts or retelling of the horrifying incidents one by one. The whole workshop was designed in such a way that when after the workshop one stepped out from the hall, he/she had gained a Mantra which if used is going to empower and change his/her life forever for good. I did not mean that we need to change the way we are but on introspection we would realize that how a simple mind shift helps in dealing with particular issues that are constant threat to our peace of mind.

What took my breath was this  team of dedicated amazing people united in a cause, volunteering together to create society free of child sex abuse. The website says that they are neither funded nor they accept donation of any kind. These workshops are conducted on a regular basis on various issues. I repeat the experience which I had on Saturday is an experience which can be experienced but not explained. The positivity and the aura in that whole room were angelic. The lady who is the speaker herself is the product of divine intervention.

Why am I putting her on pedestal is for once there is a person I have met who defines the term Angel. She is the epitome of perfection. I correct myself, she is Perfection.
While I write the experience of workshop I attended on Saturday, certainly I am not doing justice to the content of the workshop. From CBT (Cognitive Behavior Theory to Child Sex Abuse) several topics were addressed. From frontal lobes  brains has one,I might have studies at some point )contribution to the emotional patterns, there were topics discussed which are powerful enough to impact person’s holistic development. Needless to say everyone who attended the workshop would term it as changement de vie, as it indeed was!

Worth mentioning is one of the tasks in the session where every attendee was asked to write down the challenge in a piece of paper and then apply the techniques told in the workshop and check for themselves if the challenges are solved or not at the end of the session. After few hours, She asked if there is anyone whose challenge is not resolved and everybody in unison said No!

The idea of writing this long article is just my way of summarizing the inner turmoil which I had gone though and how that day I got the answer.

I whole heartedly thank Srishtilife Foundation for conducting such a value adding workshop.

I appeal to everybody who is reading this, to every mother, to the victims, to the survivors, to all the single girls' like me don't hesitate to speak up. Let’s give children a safe society. Let’s make our homes/schools safe. Let’s give our children a happy childhood, beautiful memories and smiles. I wish to bring my child to the safe society, abuse free society and in an effort to do so I have to start now.

For more information on Srishtilife Foundation, please visit their website and also attend their workshops. Trust me, it would be a true value addition!

Some facts worth mentioning:

India - a nation of child sex abusers?
A survey conducted by Ministry of Women and Child Development in association with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and a few Indian NGOs working for child's rights found that more than 53% of children in India are subjected to sexual abuse, but most don't report it. The survey was conducted in 2007 and covered 13 states across the country with a sample size of 12,447. Twenty percent of these children admitted to being aggressively assaulted: they had either been penetrated; made to sexually fondle an adult; or been forced to display their own genitals. And clearly, gender is no bias where child sexual abuse is concerned: of the 57 percent children who said they had been abused, more than half were boys. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a child goes missing in India every eight minutes. 48,838 children raped in just 10 years. This figure is National Crimes Record Bureau statistic. Child rapes have seen a chilling 336 percent jump from 2001 to 2011.
I gathered these data over internet. Meanwhile as I google, I read many articles from the Survivor of Sexual Abuse to the horrors of Child Sex Abuse. Needless to say it is depressing to read about the plights of so many children who have had to suffer because of our Lack of Voice.