Imagine a 5 year old, innocent, vulnerable girl, totally oblivious of the evil existing in this world, as she happily enters a dark room with a man whom she fondly calls ‘bhaiya’ (brother).
The man however, chooses to betray her trust by unleashing his most debauched perversions on her young body, mind, and soul. Sadly, that innocent girl is lost forever. Her life has been altered. Her body has been violated, and she may never trust anyone close again.
Now imagine this girl to be a boy. Difficult isn’t it?
Unfortunately though, the above scenario is not an imaginary one. It is as real as the sexual abuse that happened to my husband, and so many other male survivors who have suffered in silence. Contrary to common societal beliefs, male child sexual abuse is not a myth. It is very much real.
In 2007, the Indian government had released a study, which provided enough evidence on the extent of sexual abuse on boys. The study reported that 52.9 per cent of boys were sexually abused. These were boys of all ages, and of all backgrounds, across locations and states. But did anyone really care?
My name is Insia Dariwala, and I too am a survivor of sexual abuse.
Recently, I have been asked this question several times-“Why would a woman abused by a man, start a campaign to highlight sexual abuse of men?”
The answer, however personal, also lies in the statistics above, which specifically shows that boys too are vulnerable to sexual abuse. Today, there is an urgent need for society to drop all prejudices, and view sexual abuse as a gender neutral issue. We cannot hope to protect women and girls, without understanding the hazards of not protecting our boys.
As a filmmaker, for the past 9 years I have consistently addressed the topic of sexual violence through the visual medium. I have made films, public art installations, created educational videos, and also conducted talks with children, and adults educating them about sexual abuse.
The launch of our campaign ‘End the Isolation’, is just one of my many creative attempts to shed light on the issue of sexual abuse on children, but I chose to start this campaign by exclusively focusing on men, and for a very good reason.
These survivors have never before found an outlet for their pain. It was heart-rending to hear them share details of the abuse affecting different aspects of their life. As I intently listened to how the misconceptions surrounding sexual abuse on boys, made it difficult for them to trust anyone, genders ceased to exist. We were all just humans at that moment, caught in this never-ending vortex of pain. It was distressing. All of us had been abused between 5-16 years of age. Some men even revealed the challenges they faced as children, when they did want to confide in close relationships. They were afraid of being judged, not believed, or ridiculed for letting it happen to them.
Unfortunately, society has not provided a system where a boy is allowed to be vulnerable as a child. I think a lot of it also has to do with the role, which women tend to play in this equation.
We idolise men, and look for knights in shining armour. We want men who can protect us, provide for us, and also shelter us. In wanting all of this, we unknowingly elevate their position to such an extent, where we refuse to see them as humans, and they in turn want to be treated as God.
It’s a vicious cycle, a behaviour, which like an heirloom, is passed on for generations.
During the course of this campaign, we also released an online petition through change.org. ordering the government to conduct an in-depth study on male child sexual abuse. The petition is not just about surveying Male child sexual abuse, but also studying the outcome of these surveys. Proper understanding of the co-relation between unresolved trauma on boys, and the increasing sexual violence on women and children, might help create more effective intervention programs, and curb violence in society at its onset.
We need to dedicate enough resources to probe the reasons for this spurt in violence, instead of merely reacting to it. Recent cases of lynchings, and mob fury is proof that we are surrounded by violence that is not just sexual in nature. People are walking around with a lot of rage within them, which doesn’t need much to be triggered. If we are looking for answers, we are most likely not going to find them under a pile of molten wax after a candle march. We need to dig deeper.
My interactive journey with over 6,000 children and numerous adults has convinced me that there is an immediate need to understand why sexual violence has taken on such pandemic proportions in the past few years. I am confident today that the answer to the present situation might lie in the past.
– Insia Dariwala is an award-winning, international filmmaker, currently based in Mumbai. Fiercely passionate about protecting the rights of children, she has effectively used her 14 years of experience in advertising and films, to highlight these issues.
– Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.