When we decided to make our film, Urmi’s Cat, we wanted to make a statement in a subtle way – It is invariably someone known, close and trusted by a family and thus by the child.
You can watch the film here:
Urmi, a 22 year old artist, lives alone with an old cat – Mr. Spock. Her mother died when she was 11 years old. She never recovered from this loss. More so because she became a victim of sexual abuse soon after. And the perpetrator is her father. For 7 years, he raped her. Sometime during those years, she got pregnant.
Urmi clung to the hope that growing up may bring escape and freedom. It would not have stopped had she not mustered the guts to run away.
Four years later, Urmi is struggling to feel the full range of emotions in her body – love, pain, outrage, hate, vengeance, confusion, arousal. And in the midst of this, Mr. Spock becomes her confidante.
Will Urmi heal?
We may like to think that incest happens to some random child of a random parent in a random street of a random neighbourhood.
We love our children. We are educated. We live in a good society.
We actually live in denial and silence.
Child abuse happens everywhere and child sexual abuse knows no barriers and incest is real.
It happens within our neighborhood. It’s happened to someone we know.
Just that, no one talks about it. No one understands the signs. And we do not educate our children about abuse, incest or otherwise. Both boys and girls.
FYI – In India, studies reveal that two out of every three children have faced physical abuse.
We actually live in denial and silence and in a dangerously repressed society.
And child sexual abuse is one of its ugliest hidden realities. As per a government study, Over 53% of children in our country have faced some form of sexual abuse, despite the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences (POCSO) 2012. And what is glaring is that these children and their families hardly report these assaults to anyone.
Abuse of any kind manipulates and twists a child’s natural sense of trust and love, belittling and mocking them till the child learns to ignore those feelings, short-circuit them and go numb. For many children, any expression of feelings, even a tear, is cause for more severe abuse. The only recourse is to shut out every emotion.
Incest is overwhelming pain, overwhelming loneliness and overwhelming isolation the child experiences. When the child tries to talk about the pain, he or she may be told “You are crazy!” “Nothing bad has happened to you!“.
Reality may blur. Self awareness may become untrustworthy. Deep inside a feeling may lurk that something is very wrong.
“Maybe I am crazy.”
Abused children may hope adulthood will bring the escape. Unfortunately, the personality formed in the environment of coercive control is not well adapted to adult life. Fundamental problems do not go away – basic trust, autonomy, and initiative are lacking. Adulthood approaches early but is burdened by major impairments in identity, self-care, and in the capacity to form stable relationships.
Forever the survivor is a prisoner of a scarred and traumatized childhood and this claustrophobia shapes every decision there on.
- In early childhood, parents can teach their children the name of the genitals, just as they teach their child names of other body parts. This teaches that the genitals, while private, are not so private that you can’t talk about them.
- Parents can teach young children about the privacy of body parts, and that no one has the right to touch their bodies if they don’t want that to happen. Children should also learn to respect the right to privacy of other people.
- Teach children early and often that there are no secrets between children and their parents, and that they should feel comfortable talking with their parent about anything — good or bad, fun or sad, easy or difficult.
- Be aware of adults who offer children special gifts or toys, or adults who want to take your child on a “special outing” or to special events.
- Enroll your child in daycare and other programs that have a parent “open door” policy. Monitor and participate in activities whenever possible.
- As children age, create an environment at home in which sexual topics can be discussed comfortably. Use news items and publicized reports of child sexual abuse to start discussions of safety, and reiterate that children should always tell a parent about anyone who is taking advantage of them sexually.
- If your child discloses any history of sexual abuse, listen carefully, and take his or her disclosure seriously. Too often, children are not believed, particularly if they implicate a family member as the perpetrator. Contact your pediatrician, the local child protection service agency, or the police. If you don’t intervene, the abuse might continue, and the child may come to believe that home is not safe and that you are not available to help.
- Support your child and let him or her know that he or she is not responsible for the abuse.
- Bring your child to a physician for a medical examination, to ensure that the child’s physical health has not been affected by the abuse.
- Most children and their families will also need professional counseling to help them through this ordeal, and your pediatrician can refer you to community resources for psychological help.
- If you have concerns that your child may be a victim of sexual abuse, you should talk with your pediatrician. Your physician can discuss your concerns, examine your child, and make necessary referrals and reports.
SOME RESOURCES IN INDIA
Police – 100 Child Line – 1098
We will not live in denial and silence.
Akanksha Sood Singh & Soumadeep Sen
Directors – Urmi’s Cat