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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Father's Love for Daughter Counters Uncle's Abuse

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“Till I die I will be there for her,” Ravi said.

SOUTH DELHI— When Ravi’s* wife asked him to help her step-brother find a job in Delhi, he politely agreed and welcomed the brother and his family into his house. Ravi had moved to Delhi from a village in a bordering state and eventually found work as a gardener in his neighborhood. He knew the challenges the big city brings, especially in providing for his daughter and six sons.

“We gave them food and shelter because their financial condition was very bad,” Ravi said.

The brother-in-law stayed for a few weeks, sharing meals and eventually settling into a house next door. Ravi never imagined what his children’s uncle would do.

One day 15-year-old Jwala* stayed home alone from school. Her uncle raped her. He threatened her not to tell anyone because no one would believe her. A few days later, the uncle abused her again.

Jwala kept her rape a secret until five months later, when her mother began questioning Jwala’s bulging stomach despite how little she ate: Jwala was pregnant. When she told her parents who abused her, they immediately filed a complaint against the uncle to police, who quickly arrested him.

“It was like being stabbed in the back,” Ravi said.

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Courageous Widow Determined to Put Son’s Abuser in Jail

Several beatings have only strengthened her resolve to create a safer environment for her children

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EAST DELHI—Preeti* called for her nine-year-old son Tanmay* one morning, but he didn’t answer. He had gone next door to return a bowl to their neighbour, but that had been nearly 20 minutes before.

Preeti walked toward the neighbour’s house, calling Tanmay’s name, when he scrambled out the door toward her. She knew right away that something was wrong.

Inside their home, Tanmay told his mother what had happened. The neighbour, in his thirties, had asked Tanmay to watch TV with him, a treat Tanmay didn’t have at home.

After Tanmay sat next to him, he slid his hand into Tanmay’s pants. Tanmay pushed him away. Then the neighbour exposed his private parts and asked Tanmay to perform oral sex. At that moment, Preeti’s voice entered the room through the window, calling his name.

Tanmay ran toward the door, and the neighbour yelled that he would kill him if he told anyone.

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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.”

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Child Rape Victims Need More Compensation Faster

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Shweta* was four years old when her neighbour raped her. Her mother had left Shweta with her young sisters to visit the bathroom, a 15-minute walk from home. When she returned, Shweta was inside their home with their neighbour, a man in his twenties. Shweta said the man did something wrong to her and she hurt. She was bleeding from her private parts. After the neighbour fled, the family reported the incident and police arrested him.

After the rape Shweta had trouble urinating and required multiple surgeries, including a colostomy, where the intestine is pulled through a hole in the abdomen for stool to exit into a bag. The government hospital paid for the operations, but the family had to borrow money to pay for transportation, hospital meals and colostomy bags (Rs. 500 each), which needed daily replacement for eight months.

“What was I supposed to do?” Shweta’s father said. “It was an emergency.”

Laws Support the Right for Victims to Access Compensation

Laws exist to provide financial support to victims like Shweta, but trial courts need to grant compensation to more sexual assault victims, and faster.

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"God Brought Colours in My Life"

When recently asked to share her story, 12-year-old Kanta* nodded, smiled and looked at her hands folded in her lap. Then she picked up a pen and began to write in Hindi.

“What happened to me is unfortunate,” she said. “Let’s treat it as a bad dream and start new life from now onward.”kantra_hands_writing_small_for_web.jpg

Kanta was 11 when her mother noticed a bulge under her shirt. When the doctor pronounced her six months pregnant in July, she broke the silence about her rape.

It happened while she walked the short distance to her aunt’s home in Delhi. A security guard forced her off the road into a house. After the rape, he threatened to kill her parents if she told anyone. Her mother was visiting family in Nepal, and her father and brothers worked long hours.

Her parents were shocked to learn of the attack and immediately filed a report to the police, who arrested the accused. The Child Welfare Committee, a local government body, referred the case to HAQ: Centre for Child Rights (HAQ) and Counsel to Secure Justice (CSJ) and helped Kanta shift to a private shelter home. Though the separation from family was hard, both Kanta and her parents wanted her to stay there. In the shelter she received free trauma counselling, bedside care and security from anyone, like the accused’s family, who may have pressured her to change her story before testifying in court.

The first time a HAQ/CSJ social worker met Kanta, she sat for two hours without speaking. Loss of speech is common among sexually abused children. Before introducing Kanta to the idea of speaking in court, social workers gradually sensitized Kanta to her pregnancy and what that meant to her life.

“She was asking us what was growing in her stomach,” HAQ/CSJ social worker Aisha said. “She didn’t understand and thought she would never again be able to play with the other kids.”

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We made it!

Hands.jpgWe exceeded the goals set for the 2015 Lend a Hand campaign!  Thank you for supporting the Campaign and standing with us in our work. 

I hope our team's stories gave you greater insight into why are work is so vital, and left you encouraged that such outstanding people are walking with extremely vulnerable people during dark times in their lives.

Campaign wrap-up
Here’s a wrap up of how we did:

Raised Rs. 8,60,985 ($13,246).  The campaign goal was Rs. 6.5 lakh ($10,000).

770 Facebook likes. The campaign goal was 700 Facebook likes.  At the beginning of the Campaign we had 525 likes, so the CSJ Facebook page had an increase of 245 likes in 19 days!

Please continue to share about our work among your networks. Point your friends and family to the CSJ blog where they can read thoughts that Eliza, Priyangee, Neha, Ravinder, Shubham, Richa, Shohini, Sayema and Bharat shared during the Campaign.

So often our staff are the one's supporting and advocating for people who need help.  It was encouraging and humbling that you supported us, still a young and vulnerable organization, during our time of need.  

Truly, when you lend a hand, together we are stronger.

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Giving with love

mountains_and_sunshine.JPGTomorrow is the last day of the Lend a Hand campaign. Thank you for opening your heart to our work’s heaviness and the darkness our clients endure.

You’ve heard stories from our team.  Now, North Delhi Office Manager Bharat Bhushan shares a beautiful insight about our team and how they showed hospitality towards our client Palki*, her mother and her brother...

I really appreciate the work we do which has impacted the lives of many children. A few days back Palki came for counselling at our office with her mother and brother. The kind of counselling we provide, it’s really admirable and it makes a difference.

That day it was raining very heavily. As they entered the office they were drenching wet. We immediately gave them towels to rub their heads.  Then we prepared hot milk for the children and tea for their mother. This act shows how caring and compassionate the team is towards our clients.  

Through these small gestures, I could see a ray of hope on the face of Palki’s mother.  It made me think of a quote by Mother Teresa, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”

- Bharat Bhushan, North Delhi Office Manager

As you can see, we’re really close to reaching our campaign's financial goal. Just a few more people need to contribute.  Be that person! 

  • Rs. 6,05,475 ($9,315); Goal is Rs. 6.5 lakh ($10,000)
  • 746 likes; Goal is 700 likes

Again, here are three ways to help:

1) Donate or pledge to CSJ. Commit to giving a one time or recurring monthly donation so we can continue bringing light to children and their families in times of greatest darkness. Click here to contribute.

2) Share about the campaign.  Like our Facebook page and share the posts.  Encourage your friends and family to give.  I’ve drafted an email that you can send along to your friends.  Email me and I'll send it to you. 

3) Encourage our staff.  As staff share their stories, encourage them with comments under the Facebook or blog posts.

Because when you lend a hand, together we are stronger.

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That look

Hands_2.jpgRecently, a case was referred to us where a teenage girl named Poornima* was raped by a tantric. Poornima had a history of having seizures from when she was very young. Someone from her community told her mother to visit a tantric, because he could heal Poornima from her seizures. The 65 year old tantric came to her house, took her into a room and on the pretext of curing her, he raped her.  The rape was a catalyst that rapidly deteriorated her health and triggered seizures.

At present Poornima is admitted in the neurological ward of a hospital. When I visited her and her mother, Poornima was lying on the bed, in semi-coma condition, getting fed through the feeder-tube. I could feel the pain and empathise with her for what she was going through. We talked to her mother and explained our services. During our talk Poornima’s mother told us that we were the only hope for her.  She could only trust and rely on us completely. It was definitely a high moment for me that during the times of despair, we were a glimmer of hope for them.

I’d like to share a poem I wrote about Poornima looking at me when I saw her in the hospital:

That Look! 
That look that shook me,
And blew me of the hooks.
Motionless! Still!
May be looking at the dead end,
A tender age and a lot to fend.
That look!
That look that made me not look,
That look which finds mention in no book.
For every answer that I probably will offer,
Without the guts to seek the question.
A moment, a never-before-situation,
I will have to go through that look!
That look!
I reprieved, though,
Before I could sink,
Yes! I saw her blink.
Maybe she noticed me,
Maybe I woke her up,
Maybe I walked into her abstrusity.
But sure did she blink.
And once more,
And the curve under her nose,
Rose,
And widened.

- Sayema Mubin, advocate

* Name changed to protect identity

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Friday afternoon at the CSJ office

Office_2.jpgAs we head into the weekend, I wanted to share a candid image of today's case review meeting. Each Friday afternoon the legal and psychosocial teams come together to share about issues arising in client cases and discuss strategies on how to move forward. Yes, the office is a little messy. But it's Friday!
Final days of the Lend a Hand campaign

The Lend a Hand campaign is almost over. Take a look at the progress we've made so far:
  • Rs. 4,82,350 ($7,421). Goal is Rs. 6.5 lakh ($10,000)
  • 736 likes.  Goal is 700 likes.  
We flew past our goal of Facebook likes...we have 736 (and counting)! But we need a final push to hit our financial goal. 

I hope you've had a chance to read stories from our staff in previous posts.  I'll share more stories till the end of the campaign on Monday. Perhaps you've thought about giving. Now, take that step to support our team as they bring light to children in times of greatest darkness.

Here are ways you can help:

1) Donate or pledge to CSJ. Click here to commit to giving a one time or recurring monthly donation.

2) Share about the campaign.  Like CSJ's Facebook page and share the posts.  Encourage your friends and family to give.  I’ve drafted an email that you can send along to your friends.  Email me and I'll send it to you.

3) Encourage our staff.  As staff share their stories, encourage them with comments under the Facebook or blog posts.

Lend a hand, because together we are stronger.
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