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I am many things. I am a professional, a movie buff, a traveller, a daughter, a friend. I am also a child sexual abuse survivor. At age 10, I was abused by an elder man known to my family. It took me two decades to understand and trust that this experience does not define who I am, even though it played an important role bringing me to where I am today.
The 2nd of October 2019 marked the 150th birth anniversary of the global leader for peace, Mohandas Gandhi. He was a leader who redefined the language of struggle and revolution through his two non-negotiable guiding principles – truth and non-violence. Today, more than ever, the increasingly violent post-modern, post-truth world needs a reminder, and a re-set, to examine the validity of these ideals, especially in the context of how we understand crime and punishment.
Why do we use the word survivor for a person who has faced sexual violence? We often hear of a debate around the terminology of ‘victim’ or ‘survivor’, and whether the latter devalues the victims who don’t survive sexual violence. ‘Why do civil society organisations get broiled in these semantic battles?’, some of you may have wondered. Today I would like to explain to you with an example. Why to us, she is a survivor and not a victim.
Growing up in a volatile household which is constantly under the shadow of domestic violence can weigh heavily on a child. 13-year-old Bipin has grown up with a violent and an alcoholic father who would frequently assault his wife, Bipin’s mother, brutally. The assaults would often render her bed-ridden for months.
Nafisa is a fifteen-year-old girl who studies in the tenth grade and loves to draw. She is strong, vivacious and kind. And she is on a difficult path to healing from sexual violence perpetrated against her, by her biological father.
* CSJ protects the identity of children in the stories we share. Images that show faces are illustrative only and do not reflect individuals in the story. Names and identifying factors mentioned in the stories have been changed.