In 2007, the Ministry of Women and Child Development carried out a nationwide study which revealed that more than half of the representative male youth population had been sexually assaulted. The study, comprehensive in all other regards, did not delve deeper into same sex abuse, and therefore, raised a pertinent question;
“Why are we willfully ignoring the voices of male, male identified survivors of sexual abuse”?
In the same way, no attempt was made to look deeper into the accounts of the thousands of survivors who are female and those who identify as female who participated in the study.
My quest to make Personal Safety Education a mandatory part of the two largest school boards in India, includes a number of harsh questions regarding one (of many truths); WHY are we excluding the LGBTQI (and other identities) narratives from our education process?
I have been participating in and doing my tiny bit to facilitate discussions around same sex abuse, and abusive behavior endured by community members. Over 83% of the 620 respondents to my personally-conducted survey turned out to be survivors of horrific, repeated child sexual abuse. From “corrective” rape and sodomy on self-identified butch individuals, to the forceful, harrowing visit to sex workers in order to “follow natural course of becoming a man’, to being chased around school grounds with lipstick, because “girly boys like makeup”, the stories are endless. Each one hurts more, and each individual who is violated and ostracized, is among the extensive examples of our failure as a community, to be welcoming of diversity.
Most survivors of childhood sexual abuse feel the same feelings of confusion, alienation, shame, and sometimes even rage, which others experience. For LGBTQI (and other identities) individuals however, there is the issue of “double stigma”; not only is one a victim of child sexual abuse, but they do not conform to the socially-constructed boxes, those cute little categories, labelled, ‘hetero’ which have support structures available to provide necessary support-resources-healing.
I was part of a learning lab in Bangalore recently, where I had the pleasure of interacting with, and listening to Akkai Padmashali, a fierce and proud trans woman, who spoke with brutal honesty about her harrowing journey to come to terms with and heal from her trauma as Both, survivor of child sexual abuse and confusion regarding her gender identity. At this learning lab, Akkai asked us to promise to be inclusive in all respects of our journeys as change makers. She talked about the lack of acknowledgment of the LGBTQI (and other) community as a whole, and stated that inclusivity was the need of the hour. I promised to keep her words in mind, and a few hours later, added elements to my existing campaign which included, among other things, gender-sexuality related sensitization, and an appeal to all LGBTQI (and other) identified individuals to come forward and make their voices heard.
I intend to keep my promise, and therefore request those who are reading this, to engage with Step 1 of my campaign. Read, sign, and share the petition which promotes inclusive Personal Safety Education in all Indian schools (starting with the ISC and CBSE boards). Send me your stories, supporter selfies, and ideas. Let us do what should have been done a long time ago; Unite against Sexual Abuse.
The first step for any survivor of sexual assault is to find a safe space/platform and share. We need more such spaces and platforms in our lives.
The second is to find safe avenues and resources which will help survivors in coping with their trauma.
The third, of course, is to chart your own healing journey, which you can do alone or with the help of a trusted person/authority.
Pranaadhika Sinha Devburman
“Say NO to 377” music video, watch it by clicking the link here
#onemillionagainstabuse solidarity selfie project