By Aashna Bhatia
So what’s so special about Ishank Chibber? Is it because he works tirelessly all day? Or is it because he’s an avid reader? Is his story worth a read because of his enigmatic conversational skills or simply because he’s gay? No, the only reason why Ishank’s story is so special because he’s stepped into an arena not a lot of us can even imagine entering.
In a country like ours, the most ignored and misunderstood topic isn’t sexuality, I’ve recently discovered. It is the importance of mental health and well being. It is the knowledge that yes, Men can be molested and Men are molested as we speak. The fairer sex is not the only victim.
So without mincing my words, lets delve deeper into Ishank’s story. In 2012, he came out as gay but he’s throughly explored his sexuality, he respects women and blames the indoctrination of society for a differential treatment against homosexuals. That’s something we’ve all heard before.
Last year, after going through immense trauma as his family was facing testing times, he went into depression and seemed professional help. His therapy bought out suppressed memories of his childhood abuse.
Yes, Ishank Chibber was Gang raped twice by a group of men his family knew of, yes there’s a deep scar on his inner thigh that has healed in a lot of ways but the scar on his soul hasn’t. Yes, he cringes at touch but that’s not because he doesn’t enjoy it but because it brings back memories that were so deeply ingrained in his psyche that he never realised that they were so important in his life journey.
The whole point of raising awareness about an issue is not Normalising it. In India, while we might focus on issues like Ban Pakistani Actors or globalisation or even FDI, we’re avoiding Mental Health. The whole institution of it is in a dilapidated condition. The stigma attached to these things tells us that its all in our mind, it doesn’t exist, lets shatter it today once and for all.
IT DOES EXIST. Depression is real, it is a daily struggle. It is a chronic disease and a symptom. There are times when Ishank feels good about his success, his bravery and the strength he has within himself, but there are times when he feels violated, used and ugly. There are times when he feels like his existence is meaningless and the best way is to renounce life.
Another thing we as a society need to start a conversation about is men facing sexual assault. In a society that isn’t devoid of sociopaths and sexual predators, there are men who are violated each passing day. Some of them are threatened, some of them are scared and some of them repress these encounters to live a life where they’re never at peace. It’s very easy to prey on a child for sexual pleasure and move on and find a new victim, but looking back, you’ve caused real damage to a real person who might just never bounce back.
Child Sexual Abuse in India
Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a dark reality of India. The United Nations defines CSA as contacts or interactions between a child and an older or more knowledgeable child or adult (a stranger, sibling or person in position of authority, a parent or a caretaker) when the child is being used as an object of gratification for the older child’s or adult’s sexual needs. These contacts or interactions are carried out against the child using force, trickery, bribes, threats or pressure (UNICEF, 2003).
“The number of such incidents are only increasing by the day. It’s no longer a ‘girl’s’ problem. Many young boys are also affected by the menace of child sexual abuse. Unfortunately, many of these children are unable to express and share their ordeal due to fear and sometimes parents are not be able to read the obvious signs,” says Dr Seema Hingorrany, clinical psychologist and trauma researcher, Mumbai.
69% – that’s 2 out of every 3 – of all Indian children have been victims of abuse – sexual, physical or emotional. To put that fact into perspective, India has a child population of 375 million, which means we have an abused child population of 25,87,50,000.
89% of all abuse is by a family member or a friend of the family. Boys, at 72%, are more abused than girls, at 65%.
And here’s what’s even more alarming: Over 70% of all child abuse cases are never spoken about.
What we need to understand is that, HELP IS ALWAYS AVAILABLE. You’re not alone. Talk about it. Ishank spoke to his friends and although his circle did thin out as a result, at least he has friends to last a life time. He has a loving family and is doing really well for himself today.
What is important is that yes, If you stare at darkness, it stares back at you, but there’s always a light switch you can turn on, just look carefully.
Someone has to talk about this, someone has to make noise, sexual assault is not gender oriented or depends on your sexual preference, it is a black hole that sucks everything in.
It’s about time, we pick up the arms to fight it and protect the ones who need protection. Its time more people like Ishank come forward and talk about their violation so that people know they aren’t alone and it isn’t the end of the world, it’s important to write such stories because a child must know that whatever’s happening to him/her is not normal and immoral. It’s time we OPEN-UP.