Femina India – August 09, 2019

(Jacob Rumans) #1
Mariam Rauf, 22, speaks to Nikshubha Garg about getting past the trauma of being sexually abused
as a child, and working towards creating awareness among kids now


onsider this: In
India, a child is
sexually abused
every 15 minutes
(National Crime Records
Bureau, 2017). This
alarming statistic makes one
squirm, but unfortunately,
the knowledge surrounding
child sexual abuse, and the
steps taken to tackle it are
limited, finds Mariam Rauf,
22, a survivor. “Films have
somehow managed to create
this persona of abusers
wherein they are well-built
human beings who come
along wearing masks, and
pull children into vans.
However, the reality is that
most abusers are known to
the child and his/her family,
and their presence raises
no eyebrows.”
Rauf, a Kottayam (Kerala)
resident, was three when she
was first abused, and it wasn’t
until 14 that it stopped.
Her offenders included
a local shopkeeper, a doctor,
and a relative at different
points of time. “I felt angry,
scared, confused, ashamed,
and blamed myself for the
incident. Children usually
don’t possess the right
vocabulary to report abuse,
and I was no exception,”
she says.
Years later, Rauf moved
to New Delhi to pursue
Sociology at Lady Sri Ram
College, and here, she
was exposed to various

The good fight

social issues plaguing the
country. A curious teenager,
she attended a panel
discussion on a usual day
at college, and it changed
her life forever. During
the discussion, a panellist
happened to reveal that
over half the children in
the country have faced some
form of abuse. “It was not
only an eye-opener, but also
unsettling to hear. I left the
auditorium, and realised
that the talk resonated
with me because I was

a survivor.” Rauf, 19 then,
read up on abuse, and she
knew she had to take up the
cause to help children.
Currently, she is
petitioning to make
Personal Safety Education
(PSE) compulsory in Kerala
schools, (the initiative
has received over 41,000
signatures) and then
plans to expand it to the
rest of the country. PSE
refers to a set of modules
that aim at enhancing
people’s understanding of

keeping themselves safe.
It involves building and
utilising life skills like self-
esteem, confidence, critical
thinking, and problem
solving. One of the key
aspects of PSE is teaching
children that it is not their
fault. “Shame often holds
survivors back. Through
PSE, kids learn that no
matter what the situation is,
the person who breaks body
safety rules is the defaulter,”
she elaborates.
The 22-year-old is
delighted with the response
that she has been receiving
from parents and teachers
alike. Until now, at least
10 schools (private and
government) have adopted
PSE as part of their
curriculum. The goal in
the near future is to increase
the number of personal
safety educators. “PSE
promotes the kid’s ability to
say no. One of my colleagues
told me about this fourth-
grader, who ran out in the
rain during a practice session
for a ceremony to be held at
school. In order to stop him,
the teacher grabbed him
from behind. Instantly, the
kid told the teacher that his
personal space cannot
be intruded upon, and
drew a circle around his
body. When I hear of
such instances, I know
I am moving in the right
direction,” Rauf concludes.

Through PSE, kids learn that the
person who breaks body safety
rules is the defaulter.”
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