Board exams in India are a time of stress and nervousness for 15-year-olds. This is their first major qualifying exam and most children burn the midnight oil studying for it. Bhawana was no different. On the day of her exam, she set out with butterflies in her stomach, hoping she would be able to recall all the answers. As she made her way to the exam center, a familiar sense of unease swept over her. She looked around in dread and there from a distance she could see the man stalking her, ready to attack the moment she walked into a more deserted stretch of the road.
Bhawana had recently been sexually assaulted by this man, a neighbour. She had been brave enough to report it, but this started a different nightmare for her and her family as the accused continued to stalk her and her sister, threatening them and even attacking them. It had become difficult for them to step out of the house. This was their only home, their own neighbourhood, but it was no longer safe for them.
Bhawana spoke to the CSJ social worker assigned to her by court. She also spoke of how even school had become unsafe for them as her sister was attacked while in school. The authorities in the area were too busy to pay attention to their fears. She and her sister were considering dropping out because they felt very unsafe.
Since Board exams are an important milestone for students in India, CSJ’s social worker immediately swung into action, arranging an emergency meeting with the investigating officer and working late into the night, so that a police escort could be arranged to accompany Bhawana every day for her Board exams. As a further measure, CSJ’s social worker and legal team also brought the continued threats and attacks against her family to the attention of the Special court, which ordered survivor protection services for Bhawana.
Through sustained advocacy, CSJ also managed to help secure a compensation of Rs. 2,62,500 for Bhawana, which helped the family get a rented accommodation in a different location. With help from an organisation providing mental health services for children/adolescents, CSJ also helped to provide counselling for Bhawana, to support her mental health.
Bhawana managed to take her exams without fear and she is now also learning the English language and computers. She no longer keeps looking over her shoulder but is aiming at living a truly fulfilling and trauma free life.
You too can help children like Bhawana wake up to an India where their mind is without fear!