Healing from the trauma of abuse while going through the rigour of legal proceedings, often requires a solid support system for the survivor. The support system may also sometimes, need to be found and nurtured for the child have the space to begin their healing process.
Part of the role of the Support Person (our Social Workers) is to help the survivor find that space and support.
7-year-old Tanay is the younger child of his parents. He has an older sister who is married and stays separately with her husband and in-laws.
Both his parents are engaged in professions that require them to be at work everyday. During the pandemic therefore, Tanay was by himself at home while his parents were at work. It was on one such day that he was assaulted by a neighbour. The incident left him extremely traumatised. The impact was further aggravated by continuous threats that he & his parents began receiving from the perpetrator’s friends. Such was the intensity of the harassment, that Tanay and his parents started fearing for his life.
When CSJ got in touch with the family to provide Legal and Psychosocial support, we found him to be absolutely terrified and unable to feel safe. At the start itself, we felt that sending him to a Child Care Institution may be more helpful, and encouraged his parents to consider that as an option. However, since Tanay is just 7 years old, his parents were not comfortable with the idea of him being by himself at an Institution, and wanted to keep him close to them. Over the next few weeks though, we found that the lurking fear of being harmed again was constantly stressing Tanay out. He was unable to focus on anything due to fears of being fatally harmed by the perpetrator again.
The experience of sexual abuse often robs a child of a sense of safety, and bodily autonomy. It doesn’t mean that a child cannot heal and regain their sense of safety and autonomy, but it means that when providing support to a child survivor, it is important to keep this in mind, in order to take decisions that help facilitate that. For a child this young, remaining in the same physical environment was making it difficult for healing to begin.
Noting this, we were convinced that Tanay needed to be away from the neighbourhood. Once out of the physical environment that was causing him severe distress, he would be able to study, play and begin to move out of the trauma, assured by the sense of safety in his immediate physical environment.
Like in all our cases, when we work with a child who has been harmed, rarely is our support service limited solely to the child. While the focus of all of our efforts and decisions is centred on the child’s safety and wellbeing, it often involves working with family, caretakers, guardians to ensure that the child has consistent access to care, protection and overall safety to begin healing.
We immediately began working with Tanay’s parents to help them understand the significance of a change of physical environment for their child’s wellbeing. Once they understood, his parents found a solution in the shape of Tanay’s sister’s home. While being away from his parents at 7 is hard for the family, this decision has turned out to be the best for him! It was an adjustment initially, but with the support of his sister and her in-laws, Tanay has begun to find ease. From being in a state of chronic panic and hyper vigilance, Tanay has now started showing dramatic reduction in his stress levels and relaxation, enough to start playing again.
Supporting children as young as Tanay is a keen reminder of the significant role that the support and compassion of a community of care plays in their journey. Yes, children are resilient, but their resilience needs nurturing, which can often be hard for adults to mirror due to the stigma and silence in cases of child sexual abuse.
We are thankful that Tanay’s parents understood that even though they wanted to and are doing their best to keep him safe, he needed to move out of their home to begin his healing. We are also glad that Tanay has a supportive sister and (her) in-laws who lovingly have taken him in with care.
CSJ is currently supporting over 200 children like Tanay to access legal and psychosocial support. We believe that we have just begun in this journey of ensuring children’s access to justice. To do that, we are currently sharing stories of impact under our fundraising campaign, ‘Begin Again’ where we aim to use the raised funds to provide long term care to more children. You can help us in reaching more children in need by sharing this story and donating. Every act counts.
Join us in supporting children to ‘Begin Again.’