This comes after two separate incidents of suicide in Tamil Nadu, where the schoolgirls had alleged that they were sexually abused.

Helpline numbers written on a box. Collector Prabhu Shankar's Twitter
news Sexual Abuse Saturday, November 27, 2021 - 18:50

The district administration in Tamil Nadu’s Karur district has introduced an initiative called Nimirndhu Nil, Thunindhu Sol (Stand up and Speak Up) to encourage teen survivors of sexual abuse to report it without hesitation. This comes after the suicide of a class 12 girl of a private school in Karur on November 12, who alleged sexual harassment in her purported suicide note. In a separate incident in Coimbatore district which occurred days before, another 17-year-old had died by suicide days earlier alleging sexual abuse by a teacher named Mithun Chakravarthy, who has been arrested.

In the Karur case, a 44-year-old teacher from the same school as the deceased girl died by suicide on November 24. According to the police, a suicide note written by the teacher, stated he took the step after the students at the school speculated that he might have been the one who abused the minor girl.

According to the sources, the Karur district administration is urging the students between classes 9 and 12 to report sexual abuse and seek assistance from officials by just sending an ‘Hi’ message to WhatsApp number 8903331098. Officials tell TNM that students can also call this number to reach them at the earliest. Reports can also be made to two more numbers: 1098 (Childline) and 14417 (24-hour education guidance centre).

V Senthil Balaji, the Minister for Electricity and Prohibition, along with Karur Collector T Prabhu Shankar, launched the Nimirndhu Nil, Thunindhu Sol initiative in the district on Friday, November 26. Speaking during the launch at a school in Karur, the minister urged the girl students to report the incident without hesitation.

“26,000 students between classes 9 and 12 are being addressed in 201 high and higher secondary schools in Karur about the initiative. The committee formed under the collector will visit five schools per day to speak to students about the initiative,” said the minister.

Besides introducing the initiative, the committee or the collector visiting each school are also encouraging students to fill a questionnaire. The questionnaire contains details like name, address, parent’s contact number, class and if the child had faced any kind of sexual harassment in school, at home or even on cyber space.

To test if the initiative worked, TNM sent a “Hi” message to the number on Saturday, November 27. Following this, a staff from the District Child Protection Unit (DCPU) called to inquire about the message and asked if any assistance was needed.

The DCPU staff told TNM that calls are being made responding to all the messages and calls received on the number. “In the call we take the name, address and other details of the person,” said the DCPU staff.

Collector Prabhu Shankar said this is a first-of-a-kind-initiative taken to safeguard children. “We are actively working on addressing sexual abuse of children. Though we are currently concentrating on children between classes 9 and 12, we will soon launch an initiative for colleges, and later, in primary schools of the district,” said the collector.

Collector Prabhu Shankar also said that since the launch of the initiative, they have been getting several calls and messages from other districts too.

“We frankly did not expect this response. We are motivated to do better and address the shortcomings in reducing sexual crimes. So far, we have addressed a cybercrime case reported by a girl and a bonded labour case which was reported to us through the initiative,” added the collector.