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. 

Rhea confided in her after-school tuition teacher, who called Counsel to Secure Justice for help. CSJ social worker Nikita and lawyer Arti accompanied Rhea to the police station to report the abuse and the hospital to record medical evidence.

“When we met [Rhea] she was in tears and visibly scared,” Arti said. “She was calmer with our presence. She would automatically reach out for either Nikita’s or my hand.”

Arti and Nikita reminded the police and medical professionals to follow the legal procedures and remain sensitive. The police arrested Rhea’s father, and her mother asked CSJ to do what it takes to keep her husband in jail.

Without the family’s main source of income, Rhea’s mother often didn’t have enough money to buy even the simplest food staples like rice. Rhea began skipping meals to stretch their budget. Because the neighbours knew about Rhea’s sexual abuse and taunted her, the family shifted to a new home across the city, a big expense for them. CSJ gave the family a ration of rice and vegetables and applied for Rhea to receive compensation from the government.

Arti is working with the public prosecutor and judge to schedule hearing dates close together and speed the trial.

Rhea visits the CSJ office for counselling sessions. This week Rhea has started classes at a new school. Her relatives told CSJ that they can’t believe it— Rhea smiles and laughs like she hasn’t in years, and she’s excited for her future. Finally, she feels safe.

To help more women and children like Rhea and her mother, donate to the True Justice campaign today.

*Name changed to protect identity.

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