Light is a child's resilience

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Every time we meet Rahil, he exudes warmth and has a smile on his face. His sense of responsibility and capacity to love his family is uncommon for an 8 year old boy, especially with how much hurt he has already experienced.

Rahil was raised by his mother because his father abandoned him. His mother died, so he and his brothers were placed in a shelter home. That’s where Rahil was sexually harmed the first time, by another boy a few years older than him. Later, the father who had been absent most of Rahil’s life reappeared. When Rahil went to stay with him during a short vacation, his father sexually abused him too.

Despite all this, Rahil longs for his family’s brokenness to be restored. “His ever present smile and warmth is inspiring,” CSJ advocate Avaantika says of Rahil. “Despite all that has happened to him, he talks about forgiving his father.”

This resilience--an unextinguished capacity to love and forgive--is light from an unexpected source. “Rahil’s resilience makes us never want to lose faith in people,” CSJ social worker Deborah says. “Because no matter what he’s been through, he continues to want to forge new relationships and repair broken ones.”

As our team helps prepare Rahil to tell the truth in court, we struggle with how to handle Rahil’s longing to forgive his father. His capacity to forgive is beautiful. But the reality is criminal proceedings offer no space to forgive; its objective is to establish a person’s guilt and assign punishment. A person has no incentive to admit what he has done, because it would lead to punishment.

Yet Rahil wants his family restored, and the starting point would be for his father to admit what he’d done and he was wrong.  It would shine light on the wrong and validate Rahil’s story. Indeed, such a conversation would give space for Rahil to forgive and for his father to receive forgiveness, either then or at some point in the future.

Restorative justice gives space for these conversations because it views justice as more than punishment. It’s about repairing individual harm, rebuilding relationships and as much as possible making things right.  

While restorative justice creates conditions that could lead to forgiveness, it does not mandate it. Rahil’s desire to forgive is beautiful because it’s unique and flows from a childlike innocence free from anger and hatred. He wants his family back and for things to be okay.

More often, people who’ve been harmed participate in a restorative justice processes because it empowers them and helps them regain control of their lives. They can share their story, ask questions and explain how much they’ve been hurt. Those who have caused harm must take responsibility for what they’ve done and admit they were wrong. In some cases they apologize without deflecting blame or minimizing responsibility. This helps the person harmed feel validated and supported. Often it helps them heal. At some point, maybe even long after the restorative justice process, if ever, a person may choose to forgive.

CSJ seeks justice that fosters healing, including forgiveness if that's what a person wants.  At some point after the trial is over, we hope Rahil can meet his father and hear him admit his crime and sincerely apologize. At that point, we hope Rahil still has the courage and will to forgive.

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2018 Light Campaign launch

Between now and the end of the year, the Light Campaign highlights stories of beauty, hope and gratitude as we seek to raise $40,000 (Rs. 28 lakh) to pursue true justice and healing for children who have experienced sexual harm in India.


“The wound is the place where Light enters you.”

-  Rumi

Light_campaign_2018.jpgCSJ’s work is hard on so many levels. Our team supports children who have experienced horrible injustice and intimate betrayal. On a daily basis, they work closely with these children and their families, and their stories bring us close to the ugly side of humanity.

As we touch this darkness, it’s important we learn to see light in our work: the laughter and smiles of children who visit our office; the courage of parents who stand with their children, despite shame and dishonour it brings; the strength of a girl who opens up about her abuse, words too long suppressed, with one of our social workers.

As CSJ completed five years in operation this year, often I reflected on the journey we have taken. It’s difficult to start an organization in India, especially as someone outside the culture. There are ups and downs. At times, it appears bleak, dark.  So in gratitude, I dwelled upon the light--successes, milestones and people, including you--that have become part of CSJ’s historical fabric.

Today, we launch the Light Campaign to celebrate the stories of hope, beauty and light of our work and our CSJ’s history. We’ll share stories about the children we work with. But we’ll also share about the points of light that inspired, supported and guided us on where we have reached on this journey as an organization.

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True Justice is Healing: Navya and Ujala's Stories

Through June 15, we will be raising $40,000 USD for our work (Rs. 4 lakh in India) and sharing stories from our clients to highlight themes of true justice like safety, participation, healing and accountability.

Click here to donate from the US and here from India.

Navya*, a teen, worked as a maid in Delhi when her employer began harassing her, alleging Navya had a boyfriend. So her placement agency owner took Navya back to his rented home. There, he threatened, tortured and raped her for a month.

Ujala*, an orphan child, lived with her younger siblings at their uncle's house when her two cousins began sexually abusing her. The abuse continued for three years, despite Ujala asking her aunt and sister-in-law for help. Ujala eventually ran away from home and reported the abuse to police. 

Counsel to Secure Justice has been advocating for Navya and Ujala in the justice system. But outside the courtroom, True Justice is healing from trauma and finding hope and purpose after sexual abuse.

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True Justice is Sharing Truth

Through June 15, we will be raising $40,000 USD for our work (Rs. 4 lakh in India) and sharing stories from our clients to highlight themes of true justice like safety, participation, healing and accountability.

Click here to donate from the US and here from India.

After an argument with her stepmother, 15-year-old Bhoomi* visited her upstairs neighbor and friend. He persuaded Bhoomi to leave her family and meet his friends. “I’ll keep you happy,” he said. Then he sent her with a friend to another house.

Bhoomi’s voice wavers as she comes to this part in the story. She first told the police that the boy and ma’am in the house gave her a powder for her headache. After that, Bhoomi passed out. She regained her senses with the boy pinning her down and sexually assaulting her.

Bhoomi was scared to tell the truth. She didn’t know who would believe the real story and who would blame her for her own rape. She felt ashamed about what really happened.

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True Justice is Accountability: Lily's Story

Through June 15, we will be raising $40,000 USD for our work (Rs. 4 lakh in India) and sharing stories from our clients to highlight themes of true justice like safety, participation, healing and accountability.

Click here to donate from the US and here from India.

Lily* was nine when a stranger in her neighborhood raped her. While she was taking her younger sister to urinate outside near her home, a man approached and asked them to come to a secluded jungle area. The man seemed nice and said he was their neighbor’s uncle. He offered to buy Lily biscuits, so she she went with him and sent her younger sister home.

But then the man took out a blade. He threatened Lily until she took her clothes off.

Once Lily’s sister reached home alone, she told their mother a man was buying Lily biscuits. Their parents immediately alarmed everyone in the neighborhood and someone called the police. A search party formed, and Lily’s brother saw the accused crossing a railway with Lily. A mob quickly formed and beat the accused man until the police showed up to arrest him.

After a lengthy trial of four years, including an acquittal and appeal, a judge convicted the accused and sentenced him to 10 years rigorous imprisonment and a fine.

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True Justice is Participation

Over the next 40 days, we will be raising $40,000 USD for our work (Rs. 4 lakh in India) and sharing stories from our clients to highlight themes of true justice like safety, participation, healing and accountability.

Click here to donate from the US and here from India.

Seventeen-year-old Laxmi’s* hands and legs trembled the day she entered a Delhi trial court to testify against her father, who had raped her repeatedly. But by the time she sat before the judge, her fear had turned to anger.

Her mother seated herself beside Laxmi. “Why are you doing this?” her mother asked. “You will ruin everything if you do this.”

For so long, Laxmi thought that if no one would listen to and believe her story, at least her mother would. She was wrong. Her mother continued to support her father instead. Known as a quiet girl who speaks in soft, low tones, Laxmi found her voice that day in court.

“When my testimony was being taken, that time no one could stop me, my mother or anyone else,” she said. “I had the freedom to say whatever I wanted.”

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True Justice is Safety

Over the next 40 days, we will be raising $40,000 USD for our work (Rs. 4 lakh in India) and sharing stories from our clients to highlight themes of true justice like safety, participation, healing and accountability.

Click here to donate from the US and here from India.

When your own home is not safe, where do you go?

When CSJ met 13-year-old Rhea*, she was trapped in a cycle of family violence. The first time her father raped her was during summer when, to stay cool, the whole family slept on their home’s concrete floor. Rhea tried to scream, and her father pushed his hand over her mouth.

He threatened to kill Rhea and her mother if they told anyone. Her mother had already endured years of beatings, and sometimes Rhea’s father hit her too.

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We're Launching the True Justice Campaign

At Counsel to Secure Justice, we provide lawyers and social workers to children who have been sexually abused and their families. We don't charge for our services, as our clients cannot afford private legal representation. We help them report the abuse with minimal re-traumatization, advocate for them in court for a conviction and financial compensation, connect them with counselling and medical services, and many other needs.

After supporting nearly 200 children and their families since 2013, we've learned that sometimes, true justice cannot be found in a courtroom.

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Light is a new beginning

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"Be patient where you sit in the dark. The dawn is coming.”   - Rumi

As the Light Campaign and 2017 end, I share these images from Tanvi* that symbolise healing and new beginnings. 

The first image is of a key entering a lock that will open a door. “This represents the filling up of the emptiness in our lives,” Tanvi says. “The healing.”  

Tanvi has experienced much hurt in her life. She was sexually abused by those she trusted most: three men in her family. When she decided to pursue the case in court, she lost all support from her family. She has forgiven the men who committed the abuse, and while she moves forward with her life, she still searches for answers to why they treated her the way they did. 

The second image is water pouring over a plant. “This represents the new beginning we give our lives,” Tanvi says. Water gives life to plants that are thirsty and dry and helps them heal and grow. 

Rabindranath Tagore said, “When I stand before thee at the day’s end, thou shalt see my scars and know that I had my wounds and also my healing.”

At the year’s ends, as we open the door and step into the new year, I hope it’s one of new beginnings, healing from wounds that have burdened you and abundant growth. 

* Name changed to protect identity


CSJ partnered with a shelter home on a photo project that resulted in images used in the Light Campaign. All project participants reside in and receive psychosocial support from the shelter home.  While CSJ provides legal and psychosocial support during criminal proceedings to some of the project’s participants, some images used in the campaign are from participants who we do not represent.

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Light breaking into darkness

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The images that Tarini* and Tarika* captured contrast physical darkness and light. But they also allude to fear of the dark, as well as the hope light brings.

Tarini and Tarika both shifted from Nepal to Delhi after family members had passed away. Tarini came to Delhi to work after family had died in the 2015 Nepal earthquake. She was sexually abused by a neighbor. Tarika came to Delhi after her mother passed away to live with her mother’s friends.  She was sexually abused by the husband in a family where she lived.

“I am scared of the dark and the unknown,” says Tarini, who shares a dark photo of a figure sitting on the floor. “I have fear of being attacked from behind.”

“I see rays of hope, when I look outside the window,” says Tarika, who's image shows curtains being opened and light breaking in. “As at times [it is] very dark inside and we cannot go outside."

In the middle of dark circumstances, light breaks through for Tarini and Tarika in the form of the protective shelter staff who stand with them during difficult times. 

Mother Teresa says, “There is a light in this world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter.  We sometimes lose sight of this force when there is suffering, too much pain.  Then suddenly the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways.”

As we approach the new year, remember that each of us, within the context of our own circumstances, can be the healing light that breaks into the darkness where there is suffering. Let’s be ready for these opportunities, and act upon them when they are revealed.

* Name changed to protect identity


CSJ partnered with a shelter home on a photo project that resulted in images used in the Light Campaign. All project participants reside in and receive psychosocial support from the shelter home.  While CSJ provides legal and psychosocial support during criminal proceedings to some of the project’s participants, some images used in the campaign are from participants who we do not represent.

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