Coronavirus Outbreak: For families of child sexual abuse survivors, lockdown makes dealing with trauma much more difficult
while the economic hardships due to the coronavirus lockdown are more evident, the restrictions also add to social inequities in less visible ways.
The lockdown due to the novel coronavirus outbreak has greatly added to the woes of families of child sexual abuse survivors in Mumbai, a recent study by the Aarambh India Initiative of NGO Prerana and ADM Capital Foundation has found.
As part of the study, the NGO interviewed 127 families with whom it is presently associated, most of them being from the underprivileged sections of society. The researchers say that for many families, the challenges of dealing with the aftermath of child sexual abuse have been compounded by a sudden loss of income and a lack of social support.
Uma Subramanian, a co-founder of the Aarambh India Initiative, mentioned several instances in which the lockdown has aggravated the problems that families of child sexual abuse survivors face. She said, “For example, one girl whom we are supporting presently has cerebral palsy. Her father is accused of sexually abusing her, and was arrested for a brief while. He was later released on bail, after which he refused to financially support the family any longer. The child’s mother works as a daily wage labourer, and work has dried up for her due to the lockdown. The restrictions on movement also mean that it is difficult for her to access the required medical support for the child.”
Subramanian said, “What complicates matters further is that the mother faces stigma from her neighbours and relatives for having filed a criminal case against her own husband. They have also refused to help her in any way.”
Subramanian also narrated the case of a boy who was recently sexually abused at his school. She said, “After the case was reported, both the victim as well as the boys who were suspected of having abused him were told not to attend school for some days. After our intervention, the boy who had faced abuse was able to return to school. However, after just a few days, the school was shut due to the coronavirus outbreak. Further, the boys who are suspected of having abused him stay in the same neighbourhood, which makes matters worse.”
She said, “If the boy had been able to get back to school, it would have helped him cope with the situation, he would have returned to his usual routine. However, the lockdown rendered this impossible.”
Among the families that were a part of the NGO’s survey, the overwhelming majority drew their sustenance from the unorganised sector. Out of those who were working, as many as 93 percent were in the unorganised sector — as domestic workers, masons, carpenters, plumbers, other contractual workers, construction workers, drivers, sex workers, shoemakers, etc.
Out of the respondents who were employed, as many as 78 percent had not received their payment or wages for the month of March. The survey notes, “Many of them expressed concerns and were unsure as to when they would receive the payments.”
Another concern for the families of child sexual abuse survivors appeared to be depleting stocks of essential items. Nearly half of the families (48 percent) said that they would run out of ration in about a week’s time. On the other hand, only 21 percent of the families said that they had ration that could last up to a month.
Out of the total respondents, 53 percent said that there was a ration shop in their community, while 47 percent answered in the negative. Among the families that said that there was a ration shop nearby, eight families said that there were no stocks available when they visited the shop.
The report noted that due to this situation, families “are put in a position where they have to consider healing from sexual violence as a secondary priority”.
The findings of the NGO’s survey fall into a larger pattern of vulnerable social groups being at a greater risk of violence due to the coronavirus lockdown. The National Commission for Women (NCW) recently said that there has been a steep rise in crimes against women amid the ongoing restrictions. The NCW has said that it received as many as 239 complaints of domestic violence from 23 March to 16 April. In comparison, during the previous 25 days from 27 February to 22 March, 123 complaints were lodged.
As this article on Firstpost noted, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, empowers women to file complaints against their abusers. However, it notes, “How will a victim access this machinery when there is a nationwide lockdown, basic services are hard to come by, autos and buses are not plying the roads, the homes of others are out of bounds due to social distancing, and the police force (which may have offered some help) is deployed in enforcing the curfew?”
Thus, while the economic hardships due to the coronavirus lockdown are more evident, the restrictions also add to social inequities in less visible ways.
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