Washington: Indian-American Priya Gopal-Walker, a survivor of child abuse, will represent Washington in the 2015 Miss Teen USA Pageant to be held in Bahamas.
Gopal-Walker, 17, will compete with contestants from all over from the US at the pageant on August 21-22. She made her entry to the pageant after winning the Miss Washington Teen USA crown, India West portal reported.
Gopal-Walker, who is of half Indian and half American heritage, is a student at the Academy of Arts and Sciences in Seattle.
She was to compete in 2012, but had to pull out of the competition as she was facing physical and emotional abuse, the report said.
The beauty queen said she would like to use her title to spread awareness on domestic violence.
“I knew I needed time to emotionally heal from what I had gone through,” Gopal-Walker was quoted as saying by the portal.
“Taking the time to get my life restored, I believe, is part of the reason I won this year. I have a strong message of hope for those children who may feel there is no hope or way to get out of their fearful situation,” she said.
“I now live with foster parents who love me as though I am their own,” Gopal-Walker added.(IANS)
One out of two children in India face child sexual abuse.
The perpetrators of sexual abuse among children are often close to them and trusted by the family.
The children from economically backward families are often trafficked and abused.
Information, awareness and communication are important tools for handling sexual abuse among children.
Child sexual abuse and child trafficking are rapidly festering problems in India, as a recent survey by World Vision India reveals that out of 45,844 children interviewed, almost half of them have been subjected to sexual abuse. The alarming statistics which indicate the unsafe circumstances faced by children also pose a glaring question: how do we know when a child has been abused?
Child sexual abuse is one of the least addressed issues in India, because of the taboo and the social stigma associated with it. Most children who have been abused refuse to disclose their discomfort out of shame and fear of punishment, as in most cases, the perpetrators of the child sexual abuse are persons who are explicitly trusted by the family. According to a survey conducted by the Government of India in 2007, the sexual abuse of children occurs mostly between the ages of 5 and 12, when they are unable to articulate their pain, as they lack the basic training to discriminate between affection and abuse.
Child trafficking in India
The problem of child sexual abuse in India among children is further intensified by the issue of child trafficking, as many economically backward families with multiple children often engage their children in labour, in an effort to earn their daily subsistence. The children employed in illegal labour are often trafficked away from their homes and even outside the country, where they become victims of child sexual abuse. The education system in India, which is often inaccessible to the children of the underdeveloped sections of the society, also become victims of child trafficking, as they lack the awareness and the information which might protect them from child sexual abuse.
How to combat child sexual abuse
The main weapons in the battle against sexual abuse among children are communication and awareness. Once children learn to identify potential sexual predators, necessary steps may be adopted to ensure their safety and security. The development of a ‘safe space’ for children, where they may confide in adults without the fear of judgement or persecution might encourage them to disclose their concerns, which might help in the identification of potential threats which may hamper their well being.
“Despite one in every two children being a victim of child sexual abuse, there continues to be a huge silence. The magnitude of sexual violence against children is unknown,” states Cherian Thomas, the Director of World Vision India, claiming that one out of four families do not lodge complaints regarding cases of child sexual abuse. The unwillingness to engage in conversations regarding the growing menace of sexual abuse and trafficking among children also pose a major problem while combating with issues that threaten the safety of children. “I feel it is time that we all come under one banner and umbrella to focus our work around child protection,” said Cherian, encouraging parent-child conversation regarding sexual violence, as a measure to combat the prevalence of such crimes.