The reality of child sexual abuse, unfriendly systems and stigma
For their protection, survivors under 18 years of age are placed in shelters by the state until their court proceedings end. There are instances where children reach the age of 18 before their case is over and leave shelter care while their case is still pending.
Institutionalization removes children from education, healthy support systems, and social capital that are critical for self-sufficiency.
The isolation from society leaves these children with no social skills and coping mechanisms to reintegrate into society once their cases are completed. Ill-equipped to function in society, they most often fall prey to worst forms of labour such as sex work.
Stigma around sexual abuse often leaves the girl child vulnerable and without any support system as their own families most often choose to ostracize them.
97% of abusers are known to their victim, and the perpetrator is often a family member of the survivor.
According to police statistics, there has been a 40% increase in incidents of rape and incest between 2011 and 2021.
Cases that are prosecuted take an average of 5-8 years to complete, which is a stark contradiction to the mandated time of 6 to 12 months.
The Vicious Cycle
Brave children who come forward to give evidence and testify against their perpetrators are placed in government-run shelters that maintain strict anonymity for the protection of the children. These children are protected from further abuse, but loose access close to a normal, community-based lifestyle.
Due to the lack of resources at the shelters, the children receive no education or mental stimulation of any form. The system is not always able to support the comprehensive counseling and psycho-therapy required to deal with and overcome trauma. Once the children reach the age of 18, they leave the shelters without having completed their education, with no social skills and no financial stability to even rebuild their lives.
The very basics of hygienic and social skills that most of us take for granted are lacking. The lack of education and societal learning opportunities creates further challenges for survivors to understand themselves, build skills and form professional interests, at the average rate a child their same age would have while growing up within a community and society at large.
The impact the lack of exposure has on these children is tremendous. These children have had their dignity taken away from them, leaving them with not even a semblance of self-respect, therefore engaging further in the worst forms of labor is sometimes seen as a natural transition to some. This vicious cycle continues leaving a rising number of vulnerable children desperately in need of shelter, nutrition and care. The barriers they face are overwhelming as they find it near impossible to find safe and promising work, educational opportunities, housing, and even a community of friends and allies that they can be a part of.
While a very small percentage of children exiting the shelters find refuge with a family member who protects them from harm, a large majority of them, having survived one trauma, are left destitute and alone. The child thus becomes easy prey to perpetrators that engage in the sex trade