Forgiving Offenders: Tanvi's Story

forgiveness.jpgFrom April 6-30, we're telling stories of women and children we help to show what True Justice looks like. We hope to raise $50,000 to help more girls like Tanvi.

When Tanvi* was 11, her father tried to force her to perform oral sex. When she was 13, Tanvi’s younger brother began touching her breasts. Then Tanvi’s grandfather raped her.

Tanvi told her mother about the abuses, but her mother refused to believe her. Eventually, Tanvi confided in an NGO worker who tutored children after school in her neighbourhood. The tutor helped Tanvi register a police complaint.

Since Tanvi’s family was pressuring her to take back the case, the local child welfare authorities shifted Tanvi into a shelter home. Her mother has repeatedly tried to regain custody, but Tanvi has remained firm in her decision to live apart because no one in her family believes she was abused.

Despite her family’s lack of support, Tanvi told CSJ she has forgiven her father and her brother. She doesn’t want them to know about her forgiveness because they haven’t admitted their guilt yet, but regardless, Tanvi feels at peace.

Forgiveness is not only about victims releasing the burden of guilt from those who have abused them.  Sometimes it can be a significant step towards true justice, helping victims release any power the abuse has over them, so they can move forward with their lives. It’s a process that occurs over time and cannot be forced.  Counsel to Secure Justice allows each child the choice to forgive an offender or not, at her or his own pace. 

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True Justice as Reconciliation: Naba and Zohra’s Story

reconciliation.jpgFrom April 6-30, we're telling stories of women and children we help to show what True Justice looks like. We hope to raise $50,000 to help more women and girls like Naba and Zohra.

Naba* panicked. Her 14-year-old daughter Zohra* was missing, and she had no family in Delhi to help her search. Naba’s husband was working in the Middle East, unable to return because his employer illegally seized his passport.

Alone, Naba asked the police for help. Zohra eventually returned home and told her mother she had left with an older, married neighbour who had sexually abused her. Naba filed a report, and the police quickly arrested the accused.

Zohra thought she had loved the neighbour, who had spent months building trust and grooming her. Meanwhile, Naba was furious at her daughter, who in her view had disgraced the family and ruined her future. She locked Zohra in the house and forbid her from meeting friends outside or even going to school.

Oftentimes, when young girls like Zohra suffer abuse, on the surface it appears like a consensual relationship.  The family often blames victims for the abuse and there is pressure to keep it hidden: responses that isolate the victim and divide the family. 

True justice requires families to acknowledge that their children are victims of sexual abuse and to reconcile with and support them so they can move forward with their lives. Counsel to Secure Justice helps victims and their families understand the manipulative nature of sexual abuse and reconcile relationships so victims are validated and receive family support, when possible.

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True Justice as Restoration: Tara and Lekha's Story

lekha_resized.jpgFrom April 6-30, we're telling stories of women and children we help to show what True Justice looks like. We hope to raise $50,000 to help more women and girls like Tara and Lekha.

Tara* moved to Delhi from her village as a newly married teenager. The bustling city thrilled but scared her. Tara’s husband, an auto driver, said the streets are not safe for women to venture alone and that she should not shop or run errands without him, so she remained content in her small corner of the neighbourhood.

Soon Tara became pregnant and enjoyed staying home with her baby, Lekha*. Ten years and two babies later, Tara found herself trapped inside her own home in a spiralling cycle of violence.

When Tara’s parents would knock on the door, she wasn’t allowed to answer unless her husband consented. If he discovered Tara had talked to the neighbours, he would beat her.

True justice requires a restoration of a victim’s security, independence and dignity.  Counsel to Secure Justice works to empower abused children and their families to repair harm that’s resulted from sexual abuse and support them along a path of healing.

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True Justice is Accountability After Gang Rape: Juhi's Story

accountability.jpgFrom April 6-30, we're telling stories of women and children we help to show what True Justice looks like. We hope to raise $50,000 to help more children like Juhi.

Fourteen-year-old Juhi* was fetching milk in the early evening when five men in a truck abducted her. They drove her into the outskirts of the city and gang-raped her inside empty buildings for two weeks.

Juhi tried to run away. After her second attempt, the men locked her inside a store house with three dead bodies. Finally promising to drop her back home, Juhi’s rapists then lured her into a car, beat her, shot her twice with a gun, and dumped her, bleeding, into a well to die.

Miraculously, Juhi regained consciousness and screamed for help.

"I felt a bullet lodged in my chest and yanked it out,” Juhi said. “The other bullet grazed my armpit. I wanted to live and fight the injustice.”

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Drawing Out the Truth: Navni's Story

hands_lower_res.jpgFrom April 6-30, we're telling stories of women and children we help to show what True Justice looks like. We hope to raise $50,000 to help more children like Navni.

Eighteen-year-old Navni* was walking into her community toilet in the afternoon when a boy snuck in and assaulted her. Navni screamed and kicked. He covered her mouth with a handkerchief and forced himself on her.

Immediately after, Navni went home and told her mother what happened. But Navni couldn’t remember all the details of the abuse, a common effect of trauma. In addition, Navni has a mental disability.

Sometimes what victims like Navni need most is for those closest to them to know the truth about the abuse, believe them and acknowledge what happened.  Counsel to Secure Justice provides a safe place for children and their families to speak without fear of stigma and helps them establish the facts of their abuse.  We prepare children to testify so they have the opportunity to speak the truth in court about what happened to them.

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True Justice Begins With Safety: Rhea's Story

girl_and_mom_lower_res.jpgFrom April 6-30, we're telling stories of women and children we help to show what True Justice looks like. We hope to raise $50,000 to help more children like Rhea.

Eleven-year-old Rhea* slept with her parents on their concrete floor to stay cool during hot Delhi summers. One night she woke to her father covering her mouth and taking off her underwear. He raped Rhea and threatened to kill her and her mother if either of them told anyone.

Rhea’s abuse continued for two and a half years. Her mother endured frequent beatings and threats to her life.

A first step toward true justice is ensuring that women and children feel secure in their homes and communities.  A home should provide safety, but millions of women and children in India live with fear inside their own homes. They must seek safety elsewhere. 

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Lend a Hand: Neetu and Leela

Neetu_headshot.jpgTo celebrate CSJ's 4th birthday, we kicked off the third annual Lend a Hand campaign. From 13 August to 5 September, we're sharing stories from our staff about children we help to show how lending a hand changes lives. Click here to learn about the campaign.

The first time Leela* was scheduled to testify before the judge, she couldn’t speak. The thought of answering strangers’ questions about her rape petrified her.

By the next hearing, CSJ Lawyer Neetu had joined the case. She had only one hour at the court to make Leela feel comfortable and open up about her abuse.

“Earlier I was thinking I would just represent children legally,” Neetu said. “But now I realize the legal work comes later. Helping the child to speak out about sexual abuse comes first.”

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Lend a Hand: Rupali and Neeta

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To celebrate CSJ's 4th birthday, we're kicking off the third annual Lend a Hand campaign. From 13 August to 1 September, we're sharing stories from our staff about children we help to show how lending a hand changes lives. Click here to learn about the campaign.

At first Neeta* shrugged her shoulders. She didn’t know what to draw. Beside her, a HAQ/CSJ social worker drew a fish swimming above seaweed. Neeta, 13, asked her older sister which crayons to use to color the fish. Red and brown, her sister decided.

Next Neeta copied her sister’s drawing, a picture of green spikey mountain tops poking into a blue sky. A bright yellow sun smiled between the peaks. “Is the drawing good?” she asked.

Then she reached for a blank piece of paper and sketched. A blue roofline stretched across the page, then walls and a large door closed the space. She added a lock on the door and a man inside the house, with ears but no arms. 

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Lend a Hand: Richa and Reena

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To celebrate CSJ's 4th birthday, we're kicking off the third annual Lend a Hand campaign. From 13 August to 1 September, we're sharing stories from our staff about children we help to show how lending a hand changes lives. Click here to learn about the campaign.

Richa, CSJ’s office manager, remembers the first time she visited a government hospital, to lend a hand to a 14-year-old rape survivor named Reena*.

She sat with Reena in the waiting room. Coughing men, dust clinging to the sweat on their foreheads, and sari-clad women with wailing, feverish babies clinging to their chests crowded the room, some crouching on the floor, waiting for their names to be called. Shouting doctors and nurses rushed in and out of the room.

“The whole setting of the hospital was very intimidating for me,” Richa said. “It must have been extremely intimidating for her as well.”

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Lend a Hand: Deborah and Shrishti

To celebrate CSJ's 4th birthday, we're kicking off the third annual Lend a Hand campaign. From 13 August to 1 September, we're sharing stories from our staff about children we help to show how lending a hand changes lives. Click here to learn about the campaign.

CSJ Social Worker Deborah supports teen girl Shrishti, who had been attending court hearings alone in her sexual abuse case. 

When Shrishti* was 14, she told her uncle about her father’s affair with her aunt. Then her father began raping her, three times a week for two years. He was taking revenge, Shrishti said.

Shrishti tried to fight him, but every time she resisted he would beat her mother or her three younger siblings. She even tried to reason with her father, asking how he would feel if it was his sister or wife in her place. He told Shrishti that this is what all fathers do, and his own father would rape his sister too.

“I thought I would keep quiet because he was the only earner in the family and what would my siblings do?” Shrishti said. “Then I couldn’t take it anymore.”

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