Courageous Mother Priyanka: I Will Fight for my Daughter

Initially, Aarti was scared, she admitted.  But she trusted one person—her mother.

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 Above: Priyanka wraps an arm around her daughter. Her thumb is stained purple from the ink used to sign a document on her daughter's behalf.

SOUTH DELHI— Fourteen-year-old Aarti* was at home alone on a Saturday scrubbing her school uniform with soap when she heard a knock at the door. It was Valentine’s Day, 2015.

Her neighbor was at the door and said her father was lying drunk somewhere and needed help. She wasn’t surprised. Her father was an alcoholic. As a close friend of her father’s, the neighbor offered to take Aarti to him.

Instead the neighbor brought Aarti to his company’s warehouse, took her inside and raped her. He threatened Aarti not to tell anyone. Who would believe her anyway?

Many girls Aarti’s age keep sexual abuse silent out of fear that no one, even family, will believe them. They often wrestle with misplaced feelings of shame and self-blame. If they do speak up, often it is only after much time has passed.

Initially, Aarti was scared, she admitted. But she trusted one person—her mother.

“I believe in my daughter,” Aarti’s mother Priyanka* said. Aarti has always been a shy, quiet girl, she said. “I feel proud, even though it’s something people may think is shameful. Because my daughter had the courage to come up to me and speak about it only a day later.”

Priyanka immediately filed a complaint to police. “I asked my daughter if she would tell the truth to the police, and she said yes,” Priyanka said.

After the neighbor was arrested by police, his family began threatening Aarti and Priyanka to drop the case. Priyanka reported the threats to the Child Welfare Committee, a government body, and Aarti was shifted to a shelter home until Priyanka could relocate to a safer home.

When Priyanka wasn’t working as a house maid, she searched for a new home. With a family income of less than Rs. 8,000 a month, she could not afford to pay much. Crushing her spirits more, landlords denied her when they heard she was pursuing a criminal case for Aarti. They thought if police began visiting, neighbours would doubt the area’s safety and their reputation would suffer.

Meanwhile in the shelter home, Aarti missed her mother and brother. Priyanka also wanted her daughter home again, but worried about her school admission if she shifted to a new home.

Aarti’s father took her eight-year-old brother to their native village in Bihar. He insisted Aarti and Priyanka come to the village too, but Priyanka feared that her mother-in-law would arrange for Aarti’s marriage. She told the family they could not visit because they needed to attend court hearings. The extended family pressured Priyanka to drop the case, and her husband threatened to beat her. She frequently called a HAQ/CSJ social worker for advice and never stopped supporting Aarti.

"I will fight for my daughter,” Priyanka said.

As the case went to trial, HAQ/CSJ advocates attended all hearings and assisted the Public Prosecutor on the case.  HAQ/CSJ advocates and a social worker worked with Aarti and Priyanka so they felt comfortable in the courtroom and could tell the truth. 

A HAQ/CSJ social worker visited Aarti throughout her time in the shelter home, encouraging her to share her feelings. Priyanka also often visited Aarti in the shelter home and encouraged her to study often. The shelter home helped Aarti gain admission to a private school.

“I don’t want my child to be like me, to not be able to read or write,” Priyanka said. “I can’t sign my name. I don’t want that to happen to my daughter.” Aarti eventually wants to attend vocational classes and become a tailor.

In March, after Priyanka found a safer place to live, she welcomed her daughter back home. When asked if she’s happy to be reunited with her family, Aarti smiled, looked at her hands and nodded. “I’m feeling good,” she said.

 

 

*Name changed to protect identity.

 


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  • commented 2016-05-25 16:24:02 +0530
    There will always be some earnest people to do good in this world infested with evil doers.