Child sexual abuse
16 cases have been registered across 5 police stations in Kerala in what appears to be a case of grooming and re-victimisation.

Perhaps nobody could have guessed just how convoluted an already deeply horrifying case, of a 16-year-old Kannur girl being lured by a group of adult men through social media and subsequently gang raped at a lodge in Parassinikkadavu on November 19, would turn out to be.

Preliminary inquiries have found that a 16-year-old child in question had been gang raped by a group of men on November 19. It has also been revealed that the girl in question had been continually sexually assaulted since 2015, when she was in class 8, by her father.

16 criminal cases have been registered in 5 different police stations across Kerala in this case.

Five men, including the receptionist of the lodge, have been arrested by Taliparamba police in relation to the November 19 gang rape case. They are Sandeep Matool, Shamsuddin, Shabbir, Ayub and the receptionist of the lodge where the gang rape took place, Pavithran. They were charged under sections 366(a) (procuration of a minor girl), 354(b) (use of criminal force to disrobe a woman), 376(2)f, 376(2)(i) and 376(d) (gang rape of a woman) of the IPC, in addition to section 8 read with 7, and section 6 read with 5(g) of the The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, which deal with sexual assault and aggravated penetrative sexual assault of minors. They will be produced before the Taliparambu District Magistrate by Thursday evening. 

Meanwhile, three men, Achit Valsaraj, Nikhil Thaliyil and Mridul M, have been arrested by Valapattanam police, and charged with 354(b) (use of criminal force to disrobe a woman), 376(2)(f), 376(2)(i), 376(2)(m) of the IPC, and sections 10, 9(n), 6 and 5(n) of the POCSO Act, which deal with aggravated sexual assault and aggravated penetrative sexual assault of minors. Nikhil Thaliyil arrested by Valapattanam police is a DYFI leader from Anthoor.

A separate case has been registered on Thursday morning by the Valapattanam police station against the father of the child.

Given the nature of how the child was lured through social media, and her continual sexual abuse at the hands of her father spanning about three years, this appears to be a prime example of sexual grooming and re-victimisation. 

November 19 gang rape

Police officials told TNM that the 16-year-old minor girl had befriended one of the men, Sandeep, on social media, and he asked her to meet him at a lodge in Parassinikkadavu on November 19, where she was gang raped by numerous men. Visuals of the gang rape were recorded by the men, who then proceeded to call the survivor’s brother, telling him that they had a compromising video of his sister, and to come and meet them in Palakkad.

When the survivor’s brother met the men in Palakkad, he was taken to a lodge, where he was shown the video of his sister being gang raped, and then asked to pay up a large sum of money. In a rage, he got into a physical altercation with the men. He returned home and informed his mother about what had taken place, and the pair questioned the 16-year-old girl about this incident. 

Hidden history

Upon speaking to the child about the November 19 gang rape, it was discovered by her mother and brother that she had been continually sexually abused by her father for a period of over two years, ever since she was in class 8. Her mother and brother then approached the Kannur Women’s police station, who subsequently referred the case to the police stations concerned.

At this stage of the investigation, it appears that neither her mother nor her brother were aware that this was taking place. Prima facie, it also appears that the girl’s father does not know any of the men involved in the November 19 gang rape. 

Grooming and re-victimisation

‘Grooming’, in the context of child sexual abuse, is a variety of actions or behaviours undertaken by the abuser that are designed to create an environment in which the abuser can gain access to, or enable the abuse of, a child. It’s a process that can take place over a few days, or an extended period of time.

Vidya Reddy, who runs Tulir, an organisation working on the prevention and healing of child sexual abuse in India, tells TNM in relation to this case, “Among other things, grooming can be a process of creating a context of complicity, where the child appears to 'go along' with the attacker, in order to meet them and engage in possibly sexual behaviours. It’s also when you get people, be it the child, or even their family members, to trust you, in order to lure them into a false sense of security, to enable child sexual abuse.” 

Given that the child was befriended by one of the men on social media, and lured to meet him at the lodge for whatever reason, this is a classic example of sexual grooming. It also appears to be an instance of re-victimisation.

‘Revictimisation’ is defined as the physical or sexual abuse of victims of child sex abuse, which takes place after the first incident of child sexual abuse. Studies undertaken in India and around the world state conclusively that child sexual abuse puts victims at an increased risk of revictimisation in adolescence and adulthood. 

Vidya also confirms that if someone has been abused earlier, they do have a greater vulnerability to being abused again. She explains that this is because the effects of sexual abuse, which takes place at the hands of someone known to or trusted by the victim, fall into four quadrants: betrayal, helplessness, stigmatisation and traumagenic sexualisation (which can manifest in being completely averse to all forms of sexual contact, or becoming overly sexualised due to the imbibed connection made between love and sex). Due to a combination of the experience of these four effects in varying proportions by child sexual abuse survivors, they are at higher risk of being revictimised in the future. 

Vandana, a child psychologist working in Bengaluru, reiterates to TNM, “It has been scientifically proven that child sexual abuse increases the likelihood of future sexual abuse. This is especially so if no proper psychological rehabilitation, for the initial trauma and the effects of that trauma, has taken place. Psychological rehabilitation is imperative in such cases."

Meanwhile, Taliparamba and other police stations continue to investigate the involvement of various men in the November 19 gang rape of this 16-year-old girl from Kannur, and of her friend who was also allegedly abused by one of the men. It remains concerning that cases have been filed in 5 different police stations, because, as Vidya points out, the high number of those accused in this case, and consequent number of separate lawyers appearing for each of the accused in the different cases registered, increases the mental pressure and stress of the often-brutal cross-examinations the survivor may have to go through.