Earlier this week, when the lockdown is being strictly enforced, a girl studying in class 3 was bleeding from her private parts. Her mother initially thought it was due to puberty, but the neighbour suggested it was very unusual for a young child to bleed like that. The mother panicked and immediately took the child to the Nilofer Hospital in Hyderabad. Soon, the doctor dialled the child helpline to the report a case of child sexual abuse.
The family came to know about the incident only after the child helpline team reached the hospital. After enquiry, it came to light that the familyâ€™s relative and neighbour, a 15-year-old boy, had allegedly sexually assaulted the 8-year-old girl.
The family was in deep shock when they learnt about this crime. The child is still undergoing treatment at the hospital. The juvenile, who has been accused of the crime, has been taken into custody.
Child sexual exploitation continues during lockdown
This is not the lone case. Since the lockdown began in March, the child helpline received 120 complaints since the lockdown began on March 22, of which a significant number was related to cases of child sexual abuse and violence.
In another instance, a father had been forcing himself on his own teenage daughter several times and allegedly verbally abusing her for almost 15 days, until on April 11, he was arrested by the Moghalpura Police station based on the motherâ€™s complaint.
The father used to wake up in the middle of the night and misbehave with the child by touching her inappropriately. He even threatened her to not speak about this. However, eventually, the child mustered the courage and informed the mother.
The mother stayed awake that night. When her father tried to approach the child again, the mother caught him and warned him. But the man threatened to kill both the mother and the daughter if they revealed this to anyone.
But, the next day, the mother informed her husbandâ€™s brother, who took them to the police station and filed a complaint against the father. The man has been arrested.
In such cases, the child survivor is usually taken to shelter homes by the child helpline team where there are chances of re-victimisation, if the threat of sexual assault continues or depending on the state of the victim.
However, in recent cases emerging in the state, the person accused of the crime is immediately taken into police custody so the victim need not be taken to shelter in view of the lockdown.
Fear during lockdown
Even as the crime of child sexual abuse and violence continues to be perpetrated during the lockdown, the number of complaints received is marginally less, say sources.
But several cases are going unreported, too, noted Madhavi Reddy from child helpline.
Representatives from the child helpline pointed out that most of the perpetrators in case of child sexual assaults are their own family members and relatives. And most of the calls to complain, which are being received by the 1098 helpline number, are from the mother, uncle and aunts of the victim and also from doctors who treat them.
â€śIn most of the cases, the victim and the perpetrator live in the same house. Now with the lockdown in place, they fear they will not be able to leave the house and hence do not speak up,â€ť added Madhavi.
On receiving a call, the team immediately goes to the spot and approach the police.
They also recently received a couple of cases where girls were harrassed online by showing them lewd pictures and videos. In fact, the India Child Protection Fund (ICPF) reported a sharp rise in the demand for online child pornography since the lockdown began.
Incidentally, apart from child sexual abuse cases, the team also received complaints of child marriages. They managed to prevent two such cases during the lockdown.
If you come across any cases where a child being physically abused or sexually assaulted, call the child helpline at 1098 or dial 100, which directs the complainant to the police station concerned.