A class 8 student in Hyderabad shows exemplary courage to speak up after her step-father sexually assaulted her. She aspires to be a police officer
- Teen dares to speak up against step-father who sexually assaulted her
- Teen alleges step-father assaulted her when mother was away at work
- Class 8 girl from Hyderabad aspires to join the police forces
It took a lot of courage for Srujana (name changed) to speak up against the man she called ‘daddy’. Eight years ago, this man had married her widowed mother and virtually adopted her two children. In April, after the 13-year-old had her first periods, he sexually assaulted her when the mother was away at work and told her she must not tell anyone and if she did he would not look after them anymore. The Class 8 girl says she was too scared to tell her mother.
Four days after the incident, when her mother was about to leave for work, Srujana cried and told her not to leave her alone at home as ‘daddy’ had assaulted her. When the mother confronted her husband, he first accused Srujana of lying and then fell at their feet seeking forgiveness, saying he was under the influence of alcohol and drugs. The mother and daughter believed him.
This month he sexually assaulted her again when her mother was away at work, the girl said.
“He beat me, kicked me for telling my mother. I locked myself in the bathroom but he broke the door. He beat me with a belt and tried to force himself on me,” she told NDTV.
On that day Srujana’s mother returned early as she was not convinced by her’s husband’s explanation that he was at the bank when she called him. He had threatened Srujana and told her to cover herself and act as though she was sleeping. But her mother realised what had happened when she saw her daughter brutalised and crying. Her husband dared her to go out and tell the world. Both, mother and daughter immediately went to the police station.
“We had to go to three different police stations, after which my complaint was registered,” the young girl said. After the complaint was filed, the ‘step-father’ went missing. Later he tried to contact the mother, seeking forgiveness and promising that he would transfer money in the girl’s name and also support her education. He wanted her to withdraw the case.
The accused has now been taken into custody.
Srujuna meanwhile contacted a child rights organisation, Balala Hakkula Sangam, seeking help. “I am not safe at home. This could happen again. I told daddy, don’t do this. But he did not listen. So I want to go and stay in a hostel and achieve my goal, of joining the police force,” she told NDTV.
Srujana says, her mother had always warned her about dangers at home and outside, and is grateful of her support when she spoke up.
Child rights activist Achyutha Rao says, though the government has amended the Protection Of Child Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, it does not stop sexual assaults against children. “There are over 4 lakh cases pending under the POCSO Act. Is it possible to get convictions in all these cases and hang them or send them to jail?” Mr Rao said.
“I request children and parents to break the silence. Only when the victims speak up, we can check sexual assaults on the girl child and the law can punish the accused. More important are civil society and government support for girls like Srujana.”
Srujuna’s mother is away at work from 10 am to 10 pm, at a retail store, to support her children. She is unlikely to divorce her husband for the fear of social stigma. Srujana does not feel safe at home anymore; she wants to stay outside and realise her dream of being a police officer one day. But the big issue is a safe roof over her head until she can be on her own. Supporting young girls like Srujana is an issue governments must address, activists point out.