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Most accused of child abuse are from “good families”: Childline Dimapur

Nagaland News

Temjenrenba Anichar
DIMAPUR, SEPTEMBER 7: In the later months of 2019, an anonymous caller had grave information to share with Childline Dimapur, the agency that rescues and assists children in distress.
The victim was a 13-year-old girl ~ her uncle had raped her twice.

When the Childline staff received the anonymous call that morning, the girl was at school. Its intervention team then reached out to the school authorities and took in the child; then she was taken to the police station for her statement to be recorded.
Early that year, her father had brought the girl to her aunt’s place at Dimapur. The aunt was married and childless.
She was then admitted to a private school in Class 3.
As per her statement, all was going well until that day when the aunt had to go out for some work, leaving the girl alone with the husband at home.
The first rape occurred that day, and she was threatened by the uncle not to speak about the incident to anyone, especially the aunt.
After she was raped for the second time, the girl told her sister, who in turn, informed the aunt.
In response, the aunt scolded the girl.
Helpless, she shared her story with one of her school friends, and it led to that anonymous call to the Childline desk.
The same year, four months before the incident narrated above, there was another case reported to Childline Dimapur.
This time, the victim was a 17-year-old girl, who had been orphaned at an early age.

She had been left to the care of a Naga family, where she lived and worked as a domestic help. The husband had sexually abused her on several occasions.
And her reports to the wife were met with physical and verbal abuses; she was even threatened with a knife once, according to her statement.
One day, she ran away from the house and with the help of a Naga person, she was brought down to Dimapur and placed under the care of a different family.
But three years since she had found a new home at Dimapur, the previous employers arrived at her new employer’s house ~ they wanted to take her back.
Thus, unravelled her story of suffering and abuse, which otherwise would have stayed buried in that graveyard of silence all too familiar to the helpless and the weak.
Three years before that, in 2016, another anonymous caller had alerted Childline Dimapur to the sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl, who had come from another State to study here.
The accused was a Pastor at a church, and the victim was staying at his place.

The girl was brought to the care of the Pastor and his wife through a Christian missionary working at the victim’s State.
As per statements recorded in connection with the case, the girl was meant to study till Class 6 or 8, after which she’d be sent to a Bible School so that she could return to her native place and work as a missionary.
But the girl was refusing to stay anymore. She told her friend that the Pastor had raped her on many occasions but the family members were forcing her to “take back the blame”.
After the intervention of Childline Dimapur, she was taken to the police station and during investigation, the doctor confirmed sexual penetration.
From 2016 till date, Childline Dimapur has registered 46 first intervention calls in the category of child sex abuse. There is a catch to it, though.
A single complaint/report can be categorised into multiple cases. For instance, an incident that was first reported as a runaway case could, in the process of investigation, unravel as a sexual abuse case.
This complexity has forced Childline Dimapur to adopt the system of registering the case basing on the nature of complaint first received.
So then, the 46 cases of child sex abuse do not include those cases registered under a different category but later found to be sexual abuse cases.
Recently, the Centre Coordinator of Childline Dimapur, Lozua Kape told Nagaland Page that most of the victims were domestic workers.
“They are more vulnerable because they don’t have families for immediate support”, she said.
According to her, in most of the cases, the wife of the accused person is aware of the sexual abuse going on inside the house.

In some cases, the wife is quite helpless because if she raises her voice, the husband will be imprisoned and there will be no one to support the family, she said.
“The cases reach us only when the kids run away. Most of them have run away because they could no longer tolerate the abuses. In some cases, alert neighbours have informed us”, shared Lozua.
As for the accused persons, she said, most of them were from “good families”.
“I have received so many calls but not a single call asking how the victim is. They plead for the accused person’s case. 80% of the accused persons are from well-off families, they have all the connections. So maximum calls we get are for the accused person. In the last 10/11 years, only one family has inquired about the victim and offered to help her. Also, the accused person’s wife and children suffer emotionally and psychologically. Society needs to understand that too. They also need to be helped, not ostracized”, she said.
Unions and Customary Laws
Recently, a 13-year-old girl was impregnated by her uncle at Dimapur. The case came to light after the neighbours reported the matter. In another case, a stepfather had impregnated his 14-year-old step-daughter.

“Most of the times, if the abuser is a family member or a relative, the cases are shut down. Another challenge is the village unions ~ they don’t allow us to take up the case, as happened recently. As per customary laws, the abusers are usually expelled/excommunicated from the village/colony. In the olden times, we understand this kind of punishment because back then, in the headhunting days, being expelled from the village meant the enemies would kill you.
“But now excommunicating from the village/colony is not the solution. They’ll go to a new place and commit the same crime. There was a case in another district, where the abuser was caught only after his sixth or seventh case of sexual abuse. They kept expelling him and he kept committing the same. These are also problems that our GBs and village councils should realise. There is an authority who is supposed to take care of it”, she shared.
In almost all the cases, baring the rare exception, the abusers are familiar faces. Most of them are employers, stepfathers, biological fathers, relatives and school teachers, said Lozua.
Last year, in the middle of the pandemic, a 14-year-old girl working as a domestic help was raped on many occasions by her employer.
“The wife works in a Government office. So the girl was in more vulnerable situation because there was no other woman in the house. But she was able to inform her sister, who in turn told an organisation and we could rescue her”, she said.
In this case, she said, some people had argued that the girl should have shouted, screamed or ran away.

“So I told them that running away, shouting or screaming is not an option ~ it’s an adult male dominating a minor girl, their physical strength is very different. Shouting ‘bachao, bachao’ and running away happens only in movies. In reality, it doesn’t happen. During our training, we were taught to advice not to shout or scream if you know that there is no help coming. If you know that there is someone who can hear you, then you can scream and shout. But if you know that even if you shout, no one will come to help, better to keep quiet. Because the abuser might panic from the screaming and shouting and cause him to murder or kill the victim”, she said.
Another problem in Nagaland, according to Lozua, is that most families don’t want to report cases of sexual abuse to the police.
“Many a times the case ends at counselling process. The parents don’t want to go forward, they just want their child to receive counselling and ‘forgive’ the abusers”, she said.