Speak up about child sexual abuse
There are few things as traumatic as child sexual abuse. According to a 13-state national study on child sexual abuse conducted in 2007 by UNICEF and other agencies, and commissioned by the Indian government, over 53% of children in India are subjected to sexual abuse but most don’t report the assaults. The just- released book, The Bad Touch, offers hope by profiling a few who chose to open up about it.
Excerpts from an interview with its author:
What made you write The Bad Touch?
In 2007, when Harish Iyer and I were colleagues and friends, he opened up about his sexual abuse. I was ignorant that child sex abuse was a gory truth, and I had no courage to ask him upfront. When I watched Harish sharing his story on a news channel, I was impressed by his courage.
Though we moved on to other organisations, we stayed in touch. Harish took to social activism and I could see that he was fighting for various causes including child sexual abuse. Despite his ordeal, Harish was fighting with genuine spirit; he was not a victim but a victor. My ignorance of a rampant issue like child sex abuse meant how little people spoke about it. So, I decided to take this up as a mission to help spread awareness through true stories of people who have won over themselves, their trauma and are helping others do the same.
Payal Shah Karwa
Why is this book special?
The stories of Harish Iyer and Anurag Kashyap are insightful as they break the myth that only the girl child is at risk of being abused sexually. The statistics, practical guide for parents, protection tips for children (to be taught by their parents) have been generously shared by the NGO Arpan and the team at Childline 1098. Each story in the book highlights an important facet of child sexual abuse, supported with a possible resolution for the victim.
What message does it carry?
The Bad Touch isn’t just a book; it’s a mission. There are two objectives: to help people be aware about child sex abuse, so they can help protect their own children from being abused and to inspire people to not victimise themselves but emerge victorious from their ordeal.
The Bad Touch, Payal Shah Karwa, Rs 299, Hay House. Available at leading bookstores.
Looking back, what were your biggest challenges?
Finding true stories from the survivors was the biggest challenge. One wouldn’t expect people to talk about their traumatic incidents easily. Except for Harish, Anurag Kashyap and Amrita Purkayastha, the other stories took time but gradually, did work out after a long wait and hard work. The other challenge was to write this book. Listening to the horrific stories, empathising with their pain and recreating the incidents required courage. Since the subject was too bold, it took 20-proposals, a dozen rejections and two years of perseverance to get the right publisher.