‘Wamika wapis gharr aa gayi hai!’, Wamika has returned home, her mother exclaimed over the phone to Shivangini, our social worker.
This was extraordinary news! Wamika had not been living at home for more than a year. She struggled to live at home as she faced stigma and blame from the family. She came home every few days to help with the housework, while the parents were away at work. For a year Shivangini worked with her and the family to try and make her house a place where she felt welcome. Every few months, there would be a positive report of her staying at home for a few days, and we would hope that it was a permanent decision.
We began working with Wamika in early 2018, when the Child Welfare Committee asked us to support her through the gruelling process of a sexual violence court case. Wamika had been kidnapped and sexually abused by a local conman, disguised as a hermit. When she was rescued and brought back to Delhi, she did not speak of the abuse till months later, struggling with trauma and shame. She finally found a way to share what had happened to her through the written word. She wrote it out and handed over the note to CSJ’s social worker during a session. The abuse and kidnapping impacted Wamika deeply, she had trouble interacting with other children, and after multiple tries, she finally dropped out of school. She spent her days with her friends fending for herself and coming home to her siblings to finish household chores. Wamika is one among many survivors of child sexual abuse, who seek to escape the stigma associated with child sexual abuse by staying away from their families and communities. It is unfortunate that often this trauma response is seen as ‘misbehaviour’ by many in our society. We have been working with her and her family, to ensure that she started feeling safe and happy in her own home again.
When the pandemic struck, our main priority was to ensure that she was in a safe space. A few months into the pandemic, Wamika came home, this time for good. The parents moved into a different house, and Wamika being at home gave the family a chance to reconnect with each other. It was a new beginning for all of them, a hope that someday they could all heal from the trauma of the abuse.
While the pandemic caused monetary struggles, it also brought the family closer. Wamika’s mother, who worked as a house maid, was forced to stay at home. While this meant a steep drop in their income, she finally had a chance to spend time at home with the children, getting to reconnect and understand her teenage daughter like she never had before.
While we continue to support Wamika and her family in different ways, it gives us a moment of joy and peace to know that she is back with her family and finding happiness and safety again. To us, there is no better reflection to end the year that has been perhaps the most difficult that Wamika’s generation has seen.