Exclusive- ‘End The Isolation’: A Campaign To Battle Sexual Male Child Abuse in India, Survivors Come Forward to Speak Their Heart Out

There are millions of men struggling to battle the harrowing childhood memories of their sexual damage only with silent cries

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Child Sexual Abuse
End The Isolation campaign poster.

Aug 04, 2017:

Can Women Rape? No

Can Men be Raped? No

Can a boy be Sexually Harassed? No

Can a Wife be Raped by her Husband? No

We have been sternly living by the above-mentioned cliches all our lives so much that we fail to look at the other side of the coin. A criminal has no gender, no relation, and no age. The plight talked about here is ‘Male Child Sexual Abuse’. Not only is the problem gruesome to imbibe but also muted by the callous society. It sounds eerie to ears and the mere thought of it can make someone’s blood run cold.

Recently, a campaign called ‘End the Isolation’ was initiated at Change.org subjecting to male child sexual abuse in India, petitioning the government to order an in-depth study on the matter.

The campaign was started by Insia Dariwala who herself is a sexual abuse survivor. Insia was merely 10 years old when she encountered abuse. She writes, Men who I had dearly trusted had violated me. The violation became a part of my life. It continued”. As she grew up and found out what it was, Insia became wracked with guilt. The awareness caught the spirit in her rather than setting her free only to end up in isolation. As a writer, stories became her place of escape during this passage of time, which also allowed strangers to connect on a common ground.

Insia further writes, Over the years, I met many more survivors living a life of penance for a crime they had not committed. One of them was my husband“.

The grim realization sooner dawned upon Insia that not only women but men too are afflicted with sexual violations. 

There are millions of men struggling to battle the harrowing childhood memories of their past brimmed with sexual violation. Child sexual abuse is a grave problem with pressing life long outcomes. According to 2002 WHO report, the lowest rate observed for males may be imprecise to some extent because of under reporting.

The Indian scenario of Child Sexual Abuse is even worse- For every 155th minute a child, less than 16 years is raped, for every 13th-hour child under 10, and one in every 10 children sexually abused at any point of time. Studies propose that over 7,200 children, including infants, are raped every year. A study conducted in 2007 by Ministry of women and child development in India revealed that 53.2% of children say they have experienced one or more form of sexual abuse. Of this number, 52.9% are boys.

“End the isolation” campaign has gained more than 40,000 supporters till now. The petition urges the Women & Child development ministry to take the first step towards ending the sexual violence against children & women.

Reporter Naina Mishra of Newsgram got in touch with Insia Dariwala, a filmmaker, and pioneer of the campaign – “End the Isolation”, Ipsa James, the psychologist and Abbydhhay, a survivor of child sexual abuse (#MaleSurvivor) to get hold of the heinous crime.
 Insia Dariwala 

Child sexual abuse
End The Isolation campaign poster

Why is it hard for society to believe that men too can be raped?

“The deep seated patriarchal seed, watered by women over generations, is a very big reason, why men can only be seen in roles as protectors, never a victim.”

Society is in denial when it comes to rape on boys. If you look at the P.O.C.S.O laws, rape on boys is termed as sodomy/unnatural sex and comes under the purview of the Section 377 act. This itself shows our hesitancy in accepting rape on boys. What amazes me is there is data staring at us in the face, and yet the denial. Just a couple of days ago, two boys aged 10, 13 died, and the 13-year-old gave a statement of being raped by four men. Isn’t this enough reason to accept that boys too can get raped? Sadly, society has not provided a system where a boy is allowed to be vulnerable as a child. The deep seated patriarchal seed, watered by women over generations, is a very big reason, why men can only be seen in roles as protectors, never a victim. They can hurt, but never be hurt. It’s only 10 years ago that I actually started seeing a pattern of re-victimisation, which was happening in my life. This is often a common trait in survivors of sexual abuse. You tend to recreate the same exact scenarios, which gave you.

What propelled you to start the campaign and speak about open in public? 

“I think a very big reason for me to come out with my abuse was to tell myself and the world that it was never my fault.”

It’s only 10 years ago that I actually started seeing a pattern of re-victimisation, which was happening in my life. This is often a common trait in survivors of sexual abuse. You tend to recreate the same exact scenarios, which gave you pain because somewhere deep inside you don’t believe you deserve to be happy. There is a shame, and guilt attached to the abuse, which instead of passing onto the perpetrators, is passed on to you. I think a very big reason for me to come out with my abuse was to tell myself and the world that it was never my fault. My campaign ‘End The Isolation’ too is about encouraging survivors to step out of the misplaced guilt and shame.

There must be myriads of survivors who chose to remain silent on the sufferings. What message do you have for them?

“A girl’s sexual abuse is scorned, and looked at as a serious crime, most men are pressurized by society to pass off their sexual abuse as a rite of passage.”

Yes, of course, there are! My campaign is enough proof that in a nation where an 110 million boys have possibly undergone every kind of sexual abuse, only a fistful came forward to lend a face to their voice. It just goes to show, how much fear, shame, and guilt these boys/men are living in. And why just boys? Even girls for that matter, find it difficult to come out with their abuse. However, the difference here is while on one hand, a girl’s sexual abuse is scorned, and looked at as a serious crime, most men are pressurized by society to pass off their sexual abuse as a rite of passage.

Talking about the Campaign “End the Isolation”, what has been the response from the people? 

“For me ‘End the Isolation’ is not just a campaign. I want it to become a movement, and go beyond gender. We have started by highlighting Male sexual abuse, and we will take it forward by also bringing out women, and third gender survivors”

As a filmmaker, the Photo campaign launched by The Hands of Hope Foundation is just one of my many creative attempts to shed light on the issue of sexual abuse on children. I see a lot being done to highlight the problems of a girl child, and not many to protect boys. This is my way of creating the balance and providing a platform for male survivors to share their story with the world. I want people to know that boys are as vulnerable as girls. They need our support too. I have received lots of letters from other survivors thanking me for speaking up for men, wanting to contribute to the cause, and also open up to the world with their stories. I think that’s fabulous. I have stirred a hornet’s nest, and am now waiting for it to sting the government. It is high time we invest in preventive measures rather than just waiting for cures.

Breaking the silence with Abbydhhay Pathak 

Abbydhhay is a child sexual abuse survivor. In an open letter to support End the isolation campaign, he wrote:

“For years, shame, anxiety, insecurity, and guilt filled me. Trust didn’t come easy. But today I am not my scars. I am who I choose to become. I hold both strength and fear inside me and I see- saw between the two. However, I have learned that I am beautiful the way I am. I want to make a difference in the world. I can’t change what happened to me, but I can help educate others. I am Abhhydday-the strong one”

When I took the step of courage, I turned from a victim to a survivor. When I am breaking the silence, I am also breaking the fact that you are not wrong or dirty, said Abbhydhhay while speaking to Newsgram

Child sexual abuse
A survivor of sexual male child abuse. Photographer Deepti Asthana/ Courtesy The Hands of Hope Foundation

We all want to be heroes but it takes courage to become one. Silence is perpetrator’s best friend and to break the silence is to widen the gap between silence and the perpetrator. For 15 years, Abhyydhhay believed himself to be blameworthy of the pain inflicted upon him.

“I have been in a dark place and I know it is not the good place to be. There are children who are waiting for the conversation to happen. I want to tell them to have the courage to speak up, at the same time adults to open to open their ears and hear and society to open their eyes.”

Psychological View of Child Sexual Abuse

Child Sexual Abuse
A survivor of sexual male child abuse. Photographer Deepti Asthana/ Courtesy The Hands of Hope Foundation

Child Sexual Abuse has many forms. Ipsa told Newsgram that the mental status of a child post the abuse depends on the duration and the relationship they had with the abuser, which also determine the kind of psychological damage it would cause.
She explains, “Majorly there are two areas of functioning that get affected i.e. Emotional and cognitive functioning and this has been seen in the majority of the cases. The children tend to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Disassociative Identity Disorder, Eating Disorders, Depression, Anxiety, Amnesia, Poor Self Esteem, may start doing Non-Suicidal Self Injury, Somatization, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and may later go on to develop Borderline Personality Disorder as an adult. Some children may start to portray regressive behavior such as thumb sucking and bed wetting as well.”
 Ipsa further adds, “Many develop neurological deficits such as reduced corpus callosum area, reduced volume of the left hippocampus, reversed hemispheric asymmetry and greater left hemisphere coherence. Physical issues except such as injuries and infections have been observed as well.”
 It has been usually seen that children who are survivors of sexual abuse would distance themselves from their peers as a result of an imbalance in their emotional stability. According to Ispa, people who have gone through childhood sexual abuse tend to gel well with others who have experienced the same as it validates the experience one has which our society is unable to do so.
The survivors also face an adverse effect on the sexual relationship with their partners. Ipsa tells a majority of survivors to refrain from sex, find it uncomfortable to be touched in the private parts, experience increased confusion during sexual and emotional intimacy, feel distressed with sexual content or fantasies, may experience flashbacks, panic attacks or disassociation and face many more side effects during the sexual engagement.
Discussing the mental condition of Paedophile, she told Newsgram, “there is a usual myth that all child sexual abusers are Paedophiles, but in order to diagnose someone with such instincts, one must notice their primary fantasies about children and ensure that children do not fall prey to victimization.”
Historically, castration was used as a usual practice to deal with such people but nowadays therapies and medication usually work on helping the client refrain from such urges whilst they are given medication to reduce testosterone, cited Ipsa on dealing with Paedophile.
The issue of Child Sexual Abuse is still deemed as a taboo in India. In India, the majority of the people choose to remain closemouthed about this issue. This silence is due to the fear of indignity, denial from the community social stigma not being able to trust government bodies and the gap in communication between parents and children about this issue.
Every child deserves a childhood full of love, security, and blamelessness. Help the child near you to counter the fear of shame and disgrace. Let’s pledge to end the isolation of these survivors. Click here to sign the petition to show your support against child sexual abuse.
– reported by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter @Nainamishr94

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