“I have only seen tears in my life”

Card_to_Shohini.jpgSheela* always has a smile on her face but today she said “I have only seen tears in my life”.  Sheela came to Delhi more than three years ago to find work as domestic help and got connected with a placement agent. After she had worked for a few years, he started taking her to his office place, saying he would take her to visit her family. Instead he raped her. This happened 5 or 6 times and as a result she became pregnant. This man had also done this to other girls who came to the placement agency.

Sheela has had no childhood and has seen such tough things. She has worked since she was 12 years old, and she reflects that girls in her village were not allowed to play anymore at that age. She further says that as far back as she remembers, no one has really stood up for her. Hearing her express how she wants to fight for justice reminds me the importance of our work; to be a resource for this young woman who wants to fight, when otherwise she wouldn’t have been able to.

I have gotten to know this young woman who is determined and confident despite the things she has been through.  More and more she has opened up.  Before she only wanted to do domestic work.  Now she expresses ambitions to go into the hotel service industry.

We still have a long way to go, but Sheela has the maturity and the will to move forward with her life. We'll walk together in that process so she has a chance to experience justice and heal from her abuse.

- Shohini Banerjee, social worker

* Name changed to protect identity


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But he chose instead to fight for justice

girls_and_grandfather.JPGThe case that impacted me most was that of Savitri*, a 3 year old girl who was raped by the husband of her play school's principle.

What moved me most was the determination of Savitri’s father, a man juggling two jobs, who only slept while travelling between jobs. If he wanted, he could have hushed up the incident as Savitri was only 3 at that time; that’s what mostly happens because of the stigma attached to sexual abuse.  Because he chose to fight for justice, he endured threats, physical assault from the family of the accused.  They even had someone file a false sexual harassment case against him.  But he persisted in his fight.

Our advocate Chandra Suman provided legal and emotional support to Savitri’s father. He stood by him during the ordeal and even helped file a police complaint to stop the intimidation.

Chandra Suman also completed the difficult task of preparing Savitri, a 3 year old child, so thoroughly that she told the judge in very simple terms what happened to her. But more than anything, it was Savitri’s father and his love for his daughter, who stood by her in such adverse circumstances, that gives me hope all is not lost.

- Richa Bedi, Office Manager, South Delhi

Note: image are illustrative only and do not depict people from the story.

* name changed to protect identity

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An encouraging client case update

child_in_gully.JPGIn light of stories Ravinder and Shuhbam shared last week, I want to give an encouraging update on another incest case our team is handling. Currently, the young victim resides in a protective shelter. She is scheduled to testify next week against her brother, who sexually abused her.

Her family desperately wants to regain custody of her before she testifies. We know their likely strategy all too well: if an incest victim is restored to an unsupportive family, chances are high the family will convince her to retract her story.

The family appealed to the Delhi High Court seeking custody, despite a Child Welfare Committee order mandating she stay in the shelter until she testifies. 

Today, together with the CWC and our partner iProBono, we convinced the Delhi High Court Division Bench to allow our client to stay in protective shelter at least until she testifies.  This is a big victory as we seek justice in this case.

Final week of Lend a Hand campaign

The Lend a Hand campaign is quickly coming to an end. This week you’ll hear from Richa, Shohini, Bharat, Deborah and Sayema. You’ll learn about CSJ’s first client—Savitri*, a 3-year old girl sexually abused by the husband of her playschool’s principle—as well as two of our most recent cases.

Take time now to step forward and Lend a Hand so we can achieve the campaign’s goals. Here’s a recap of where we stand:
  • Rs. 3,98,850 ($6,136).  Goal is Rs. 6.5 lakh ($10,000)
  • 648 likes.  Goal is 700 likes
While we’ve made progress, we still have work to do.  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 donate to the Campaign.

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.
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Their scars will remain for so long

The reality of our work is that we try really hard to help a child who is incredibly vulnerable, but sometimes the family decides not to take our support. That's what happened in Jahangir's* case.

Read further about the thoughts from our social worker Shubham Kumar... 

two_boys.JPGThe case which I want to share that impacted me so much is the case of Jahangir, a 7-year old boy, and his brother, 4 years old, who were sexually abused by their father.  We helped the mother lodge a police complaint against Jahangir’s father.

I was at the police station when we helped Jahangir's mother file the police complaint.  The mother was grateful for us because she was illiterate and did not know what to do.  While Jahangir’s mother was brave to file a complaint against her husband, she finally decided not to go through with the case.  She told us how much of a burden it was on her to travel and miss work for the case. I also think there is so much pressure for the mother not to cooperate. Her husband was the only bread earner in the family and there was pressure from others in her family too.

I was upset about her decision because the children will suffer.  Their scars will remain for so long, even now Jahangir has fever and is suffering from trauma. This shows how hard it is for a mother to come forward about incest, especially without support from the family.

Note: Image shown is for illustrative purposes only and does not depict children from the story

* Name changed to protect identity

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No one in the family had the courage to stop him

CSJ_client_art5.jpgAnju is a 14-year-old girl who was sexually abused by her father for 5 years. She often screamed at night when her father would sexually abuse her but no one in the family had the courage to stop him. Eventually Anju’s friends helped her lodge a police complaint. Her father was arrested and eventually Anju was restored with her mother.

Many times incest victims, like Anju, do not get support from their family. Anju’s mother wanted to hide her daughter’s sexual abuse because of the stigma. She believes that if someone learns Anju was sexually abused, they would not want to marry her. One of our social workers visited Anju’s home and learned that her mother was pressurizing her to change her statement. Anju said, “My mother cries a lot, she pleads to me to forgive my father…people would look down on me for sending my father to jail."

Anju was under a lot of stress. Her family kept trying to demoralize her and emotionally pressurize her, so we recommended that the Child Welfare Committee place Anju in a shelter home. Now she is continuing her regular schooling and doing well, though her mother is still trying to meet and pressurize her.

If Anju had remained with her family she would have been forced to change her statement and the case would have fallen apart. Our timely intervention helped Anju get placed in protective custody so she could continue her education. She is thankful to friends, teachers, our social worker and her new mother (shelter home in-charge) who believe her and are standing by her.

-  Ravinder Kaur, social worker

* The child's name is changed to protect her identity

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Lend a Hand campaign: week 2

Brave.jpgThis week we’ll look deeper into a disturbing problem we've been exposed to a lot: incest, or sexual abuse by an immediate family member.  Since starting operations, 30% of CSJ's cases have been incest cases, 40% this year alone. 

Last week, Neha shared about Roshini’s pain when she learned her husband had sexually abused her daughter. This week Ravinder and Shubham will share about two other incest cases.

These stories are dark and hard to read.  But I ask you to read them. Let their reality soak in. Let your eyes opened to the awful injustices so many children face; your heart stirred to do something, whether liking CSJ’s Facebook page, sharing a post, donating to our work or something more.

Many of you have already done something to help CSJ already, that's why you're getting this email. But what's your next step going to be?

Step forward and lend a hand, because together we are stronger.

 Campaign to date (day 8 of 19)

  • Rs. 94,500 ($1,575); goal is Rs. 6.5 lakh ($10,000)
  • 574 Facebook likes; goal is 700 likes

It's simple to give a gift to support the campaign:

Within India: Go here and sign up and we’ll get in touch with you. 

Outside India: Donate online here. Set up a recurring gift and all 2015 monthly donations will count towards this campaign.

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In the darkest of times, she saw light

Light_and_moon.JPGIn a small alley we waited till we saw a mother, Roshini*, pacing towards us. Her face brightened and a tiny smile reached her lips.  It seemed like she was emerging from a tunnel of hopelessness and despair.  Someone was there to help her.

Roshini witnessed a mother's greatest pain at the hands of someone who was family, her husband. He consistently sexually abused his own daughter for more than two months. ‘She is my daughter, how can I let this happen to her,’ she thought after learning about the sexual abuse. ‘But I am scared. I have nobody.’  Despite this fear, Roshini came forward and reported the abuse to police.

CSJ has stood with Roshini in her fight for justice, supporting her during times of stress or where she was threatened and pressurized to withdraw the case.  After reporting the abuse, she still has bouts of anxiety but is not scared. She has started a small business so she can sustain her family. 

Roshini looks confident now.  And while she still has a long way to go, we will walk with her on the journey towards justice.

- Neha Das, social worker

* The mother's name is changed and we are intentionally vague about the description of the case due to its sensitive nature and so we protect the mother's identity.

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"With a ray of hope in her eyes"

CSJ_Gobal_Family_Gandhi.jpgFatima’s* case was referred to us in August 2013. Fatima first came to Delhi looking for a job, and she was raped by her placement agency owner in an office room where she spent the night. When the case was referred to us, Fatima was in critical condition, undergoing treatment for tuberculosis. The social worker at the shelter home where she was staying worried whether she would survive. When we started working with her, she was still recovering and struggling to breathe. I could hear her breathe from across the room.

We began our journey together from there and travelled through lots of conversation about her studies, hobbies, and family.  We had some difficult conversations about the case and what she expected from us. She finally testified and then was restored back home to her family outside Delhi. Fatima was courageous when she testified. She withstood strong and difficult cross examination. I have seen her grow from a moody little girl to a very elegant lady with a ray of hope in her eyes.

Before Fatima went back home, the last memory I have is her running down the stairs when she saw me and she hugged me. She said she was happy to see me and also expressed her annoyance because I did not visit her more often.  I hope wherever she is, she is safe, happy, healthy.

- Priyangee Guha, Advocate

 * The child's name is changed and we are intentionally vague about the description of the case due to its sensitive nature and so we protect the identity of our client.

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“I could relate to this family, since I am a mother of two daughters”

Eliza_Rumthao_3.jpgNeeru* was 3 ½ years old when a man in his late 20s took her from a homeless shelter where she was staying with her parents and he raped her. I could relate to this family since I am a mother of two daughters. Neeru was my daughter’s age and they are from outside Delhi and so are we. After first meeting Neeru, her face constantly came up in my mind...I asked myself what if this happens to my daughter and what if this happens to me and my family. How will I response/react? I could relate to her mother’s pain and tears, of her daughter’s future. She must be thinking, what will people think of me/us?

When the CSJ team met Neeru the family was not aware of what the police were doing in the case. We explained the process of the criminal justice system and helped the family with Neeru’s colostomy bag operation. She was injured so badly from the rape. Our lawyer filed an application so the family could receive money from the government to help with expenses. Our social worker helped the family open a bank account to transfer the money. The family today is in stable condition emotionally, mentally from when we first met them. I have begun to think it is possible to restore life when we reach our helping hand to those in need and pain.

It is truly humbling to witness this family cultivate their trust in our social worker and lawyer for their child’s case. This gives me hope and helps me sustain in this work.

- Eliza Rumthao, CSJ Director (pictured in photo)

* The child's name is changed and we are intentionally vague about the description of the case due to its sensitive nature and so we protect the identity of our client.

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CSJ's 3rd birthday and Lend a Hand campaign launch!

CSJ_Global_Family_hands.jpgThree years ago Counsel to Secure Justice was born in Delhi, India. It’s been an incredible journey filled with ups and downs, great joy and deep sadness. Truthfully, I’ve felt overwhelmed at times. But the more I reflect, I gain a greater appreciation for people like you who have made this a beautiful journey.

During the last three years, we’ve provided legal and psychosocial support to more than 85 children.  On average, our clients are 10.7 years old.  We have clients as young as one year old. While their stories are disturbing, there is hope…we bring hope. 

My greatest learning about what we do is simple: we are a light to the most vulnerable during very dark times.  We find ourselves in a sacred position.  At the moment where a child is physically and emotionally beaten down. When she is lonely and filled with shame and guilt.  After she has been doubted, demeaned, blamed and rejected, sometimes by her own family.  We are there for her.

To commemorate CSJ's birthday and honour the work of our staff, we launch the second annual Lend a Hand campaign.


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