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.”

Her breaking point came when her father tried to rape her little sister. Shrishti’s sister, then 10 years old, begged her not to tell anyone.

“She said that we’re only kids and no one would listen to us,” Shrishti said. The sister knew that Shrishti’s abuse started after she spoke up about her father’s affair.

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Shrishti went to the police station anyway. Only her two younger sisters stood with her. The police arrested her father, but he was later released on bail. Shrishti worked with an NGO in her neighbourhood to admit her sisters and brother into an SOS village, a government foster home outside the city that provides food and education, and safety from her father. While Shrishti continued living with her mother, she attended court hearings.

“When I met her, she was attending the court hearing all by herself,” HAQ/CSJ social worker Deborah said. “Apparently she was attending all the court hearings alone. Her courage and persistence to fight the case all by herself is amazing.”

Shrishti’s father would stare her down in court and follow her around the premises to intimidate her. He even waited in stairwells, trying to isolate her.

“I’m pretty sure he’s going to try to kill me when he has the chance,” Shrishti said.

Shrishti’s trial is still ongoing, but CSJ now advocates her case in court and accompanies her on and off the premises.

Deborah has helped Shrishti and her mother plan for their family’s future. Today Shrishti’s mother works in a factory and Shrishti is financially supporting herself by tutoring kids in the evenings. This August she began attending college courses on Sundays. Political science is her favorite subject, and she’s passionate about empowering women to speak up about wrongs done to them.

“We always feel as women we don’t have power and should not speak up,” she said. “But we should speak up because then power comes to us.”

Shrishti also has a message for others who have experienced sexual abuse:

“If someone threatens you not to tell about abuse, you should not be scared because there’s a reason they are threatening you. You should speak up.”

To lend a hand to girls like Shrishti, click here.


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