The media and the police in Hyderabad were in for a shock this week after a 46-year-old businessman, accused of sexually assaulting a four-year-old girl in his house, blamed the child 'on camera' for the crime.
Speaking to reporters after his arrest, Akram Khan said that it was a "mistake" and asked to be pardoned. He went on to say:
"I did not do it intentionally. That girl is like my daughter. I accept that I committed a mistake, but that girl knew what she was doing and came and forced herself on me."
The police say that Akram who lived in a huge house in the city's Shalibanda area had a troubled relationship with his wife and stayed alone. His wife, who had already registered a domestic violence case against him, arranged for a CCTV camera to be planted in the house, suspecting that Akram might be in a sexual relationship with other women.
However, she could not retrieve the footage, and asked for a technician's help, who in turn found the shocking footage and handed it over to the police.
A case has since been registered at Police Station Shah Ali Banda under sections of the Nirbhaya Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences(POCSO) Act.
While blaming a 4-year-old child for the heinous act is shocking, it isn't surprising.
Rewind back to July 2011, when a 16-year-old tribal girl from a village in Chhattisgarh was raped and killed. The police themselves claimed that the girl was a Maoist who was "habituated to sex."
A state minister had even come out and reportedly said "Why wasnâ€™t she home at 2:15 am?â€ť
According to a sample study conducted by the WCD ministry in 2007, of the children surveyed in India, 53% have been subjected to some form of sexual abuse - most of whom never reported it.
In a piece for The Quint, Member of Parliament, Rajeev Chandrasekhar wrote:
Child Sexual Abuse has taken epidemic proportions in India. It is a problem, which has been veiled by a culture of secrecy and denial and fostered by government apathy, inept institutions and a citizenry which is still quite uncomfortable talking about the subject.
He went on to write "some believed all perpetrators were male, while some believed that boys could not be subject to abuse. Some even blamed these incidents on poor parenting while others described it as propaganda to defame India. These mixed reactions are testimony to the fact that child sexual abuse paints a very muddled picture in the minds of a citizen and the only way to fight this, is to initiate a frank and an honest dialogue on the subject."
Another major problem that children face, sometimes even while still reeling from the trauma of the abuse, is being blamed by their own parents.
Highlighting the story of a 14-year-old girl who took her own life after she was blamed by her parents for getting raped, a piece in The Huffington post calls it the 'second wound' and says:
Children are the innocent victims of sexual abuse. Because of their lack of experience, they are often caught in webs of destruction with disastrous consequences. The violations they endure are the first wound, but how their significant people respond can be a second wound that is too often more devastating than the first.
Another survey in four US states in 2011, on parental response to sexual abuse, showed that it varied according to the age of victim.
The result showed that parental blame and doubt increased significantly in correlation with the victim's age, with 13 to 15-year-old victims less likely to receive parental support than younger children aged between five and nine.
We must understand that abuse is never the fault of a child and that blaming a child is a perpetrator tactic.
â€śBut you liked the cuddle games we playedâ€™ â€“ â€śyou shouldnâ€™t have sat on my lap â€“look what you made me doâ€ťâ€¦ This can sometimes be said like an apology â€“ â€śIâ€™m sorry I shouldnâ€™t have done that â€“ but you did come and hug meâ€¦.â€ť are some of the common statements that perpetrators use.
While adding that boys were subject to such shaming too, Gloria Steinem, a key figure in the feminist movement in the US during the late 1960s says that blaming girls has a double impact:
Invading female bodies sexually and then de-valuing them as spoiled and ruinedâ€”all because female bodies are the means of reproduction that are â€śownedâ€ť by one male so he can â€śownâ€ť children. Females may be the last worldwide case of victim-blaming. The â€śhonorâ€ť of some men, families, and cultures is written on the body of a female...we must shift the blame from women who suffer sexualized violence to men who inflict it...from sexually abused children to adults who sexually abuse.