29 Years


Monday, January 06, 2014
By Robin Shukla

The horror of harm being done to those who cannot defend themselves continues to haunt us in 2014. The shameful subject of Child Sexual Abuse is therefore examined through Bitter Chocolate by Pinki Virani, as we desperately search for answers. Reviewing Hero by Rhonda Byrne was our own attempt to salvage things, as we know the change must come from within

The Betrayal of India’s Children
Bitter Chocolate (Child Sexual Abuse in India) by Pinki Virani may not fall into the category of your favorite book or compete out there for number one spot on the bestsellers lists – but the issue it addresses, molestation and rape of children, happens to be a terribly popular perverted pastime of quite a few people, so consequently, there are quite a few victims, and sadly, their number is growing even as you read this…

There are scores of cases starkly discussed, each one worse than the other in its callousness and brutality. The victims range from infancy, many as young as 3 months of age and the molestation shockingly, has nothing to do with gender of the child. Any victim will do.

In fact, sexual abuse of boys and men has been on the rise and, while Goa, Kovalam and Mumbai were originally hotspots, with foreign tourists being the prime ‘consumers,’ the contagion of male child abuse has spread to all parts of the country. Another shocker is that the crime is all-pervasive, and occurs regardless of the social strata that the victims   belong to, their gender or their age. The fact is that children can be silenced with minimal threats, and most stay silent in the face of repeated abuse. Further, they make for very poor witnesses in court, given that a highly qualified lawyer places his wits against that of a small terrified child in an Indian court of law, presided upon by a ‘learned’ judge, where the legalities defeat justice. The abuser inevitably walks free, and the child is scarred for life.

Pinki Virani’s book looks at physical and emotional abuse of children below 16 years of age, covers cases from all over the country. Comments, advice, observations are cited by doctors, social activists, police officials, in the hope that something may change for the better. Children are unsafe in their own homes, so the task and the problem we are confronted with are stupendous. The only hopes lie in deterring not just strangers, but that ‘friendly uncle,’ the sly acquaintance who could be a family friend or a relative.

The term here is CSA – Child Sexual Abuse and the book should be treated as an essential read for all those who can make a difference in society, though parents could be the first in line of an audience, because much abuse happens right under their noses, under their watch. The author explores at length about the psychological trauma that abused children have to cope with, and almost always alone. Those who read it may be able to identify the telltale signs that could then make all the difference, and ensure that our kids remain safe. While some kids are almost destroyed, the others are too young to even know that what they are being subjected to is perverted sexual abuse. Parents reading about the ‘trends’ can actually warn or advise their children to be wary when confronted by questionable conduct. After all, the abuser could be anyone, from family friend, trusted relative, not necessarily uncle, but also aunty, similarly, also a cousin sister or the trusted maid or governess (ayah). Now even fathers have been making the sick grade.

This large effort, really painstaking in the literal sense, is divided into sections:

Notebook 1 depicts the author’s own traumatic experience in her childhood, and then cites terrible examples of instances of CSA from various parts of India:
The reasons why CSA is not strongly tackled are myriad:
Shame, so keep it within the family. If it is a boy, it is shocking and if a girl, who will marry her after the news gets out? Family honour overrides every other concern.

Very often the abuser is clever enough to make the victim feel guilty and responsible for what has happened. This often ensures that he or she will continue to suffer in silence. Chillingly, the victim is often known to cooperate.

Notebook 2 examines real cases, exposing the psychological impact and implications:
There are most often physical scars, compounded with emotional insecurity

Constant abuse leads to confused sexuality, even promiscuous behaviour by the victim, who has gotten used to tactile pleasures or uses it to cope with memories of the abuse.

They are never able to cope with normal interactions with family, leading to severe adjustment problems.

There are instances of the hunted become hunters, copying the behaviour pattern of their abusers. The trauma continues to manifest in aberrant behaviour throughout life if unaddressed by counseling by psychologists and psychiatrists. 

Notebook 3 clues concerned readers on how to prevent CSA, and about the laws that are in place.
If you are wondering how this nation is handling it so far, the best response can come only from the victims. Here it is, in the form of a poem written by a 12 year old girl:

I asked you for help, and you told me you would

If I told you the things he did to me.

You asked me to trust you, and you made me

Repeat them to fourteen different strangers

I asked you for help and you gave me

A doctor with cold hands

Who spread my legs and stared at me

Just like my father.

I asked you for protection

And you gave me a social worker.

Do you know what it is like

I have more social workers than friends?

I asked you for help

And you forced my mother to choose between us.

She chose him, of course.

She was scared, she had a lot to lose.

I had a lot to lose too.

The difference is, you never told me how much.

I asked you to put an end to the abuse

You put an end to my whole family.

You took away my nights of hell

And gave me days of hell instead.

You have changed my private nightmare

Into a very public one.

Bitter Chocolate
by Pinki Virani
Penguin Books India

To help you change the world
Hero by Rhonda Byrne is another classic by this phenomenal writer, whose first effort, The Secret, is still at the top of the bestseller lists all across the world. There were subsequent equally seminal works, The Power and The Magic, both top bestsellers.

In the wake of these all, comes Hero, and it is already in the ‘book your copy’ category. Doubtlessly, the inspirational content must be moving minds, hearts and therefore lives, for it to have made its mark within days of its release.

The book profiles twelve extremely successful people who have what the author refers to as a map to greatness, and they share their experiences which actually reveal, that like them, we too have everything within us to attain our greatest dreams. There are extremely quotable quotes from each of them in almost all the 17 chapters, and reading them is a very motivating experience. The author adds some fascinatingly simple insights that serve to make this book a must have, regardless of your persuasion or ambition in life:

You can be your own coach. You can urge yourself on with positive self-talk; tell yourself you can do it, that you’ve triumphed in far tougher times, that you’ve got what it takes…Your subconscious mind will hear every word you say, and then you will do it!

Now, for the best news – one of the twelve greats is G.M. Rao, philanthropist and founder chairman of the GMR Group, one of the world’s largest infrastructure giants.

by Rhonda Byrne
Simon & Schuster

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