- Teen dares to speak up against step-father who sexually assaulted her
- Teen alleges step-father assaulted her when mother was away at work
- Class 8 girl from Hyderabad aspires to join the police forces
Four days after the incident, when her mother was about to leave for work, Srujana cried and told her not to leave her alone at home as 'daddy' had assaulted her. When her mother confronted him, he first accused Srujana of lying and then fell at her feet seeking forgiveness, saying he did it under the influence of drinks and drugs. The mother and daughter believed him.
This month, he sexually assaulted her again when her mother was away at work, the girl said.
"He beat me, kicked me for telling my mother. I locked myself in the bathroom but he broke the door. He beat me with a belt and tried to force himself on me," she told NDTV.
Did no one in the crowded, lower middle class neighbourhood in Hyderabad hear her screams? "They may have heard but did not come to help me, perhaps out of fear. Neighbours don't know he is not my biological father; even my younger brother doesn't know,'' the girl said.
Fortunately, Srujana's mother returned early that day as she sensed something was wrong when, responding to her phone call, her husband claimed he was at the bank.
The man threatened Srujana and told her to cover herself and act like she was sleeping. But her mother took one look at her weeping and wounded daughter and she knew.
Her husband dared her to go out and tell the world. Both mother and daughter immediately went to the police.
"We had to go to three different police stations and then my complaint was registered,'' the young girl said. Her step-father went missing.
The man has been arrested.
Srujana contacted a child rights organisation, Balala Hakkula Sangam. "I am not safe at home. This could happen again. I told daddy, don't do this. But he did not listen. So I want to go and stay in a hostel and achieve my goal of joining the police force," she told NDTV.
Srujana says her mother had always warned her about dangers at home and outside and that she is grateful of her support when she spoke up.
Child rights activist Achyutha Rao says, though the government has sharpened the Protection Of Child Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, it does not stop sexual assaults against children. "There are over four lakh cases pending under the POCSO Act. Is it possible to get convictions in all these cases and hang them or send them to jail?" Mr Rao said.
"I request children and parents to break the silence. Only when the victims speak up, can we check sexual assaults on the girl child and the law can punish the accused. More important are civil society and government support for girls like Srujana."
Srujana's mother works 10 am to 10 pm at a retail store to support her children. She is unlikely to divorce her husband for fear of social stigma. Srujana does not feel safe at home anymore; she wants to stay elsewhere and realise her dream of being a police officer. The important issue is a safe place to stay until she can be on her own. Supporting young girls like Srujana is an issue governments must address, activists point out.
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