Chennai: Family of child abuse survivors evicted from house, forced to live on streets

Their landlord allegedly evicted them without due notice by citing that they were not comfortable with the police frequenting their home
The victims' family on the platform in Chennai's Thiruvanmiyur.
The victims' family on the platform in Chennai's Thiruvanmiyur.
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The family of two sexual assault survivors in Chennai have been forced to live on a platform on the East Coast Road (ECR) near the Thiruvanmiyur bus terminus for over two weeks. The spot on the platform with no roof where they have been sleeping reeks because the public washroom is located only a few metres away. With only a handful of belongings kept in two small sacks, the survivors’ parents – daily wage workers — have been struggling to make ends meet. 

They have been staying here the past twenty days with their son. The girls who survived abuse too would have spent the night on the street, after they were out of the shelter, but were saved from the plight as the headmistress asked them to stay in the school till 9pm on March 5, after which the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) officials picked them up.

The parents said that they were rendered homeless because of the stigma around sexual abuse. Their landlord allegedly evicted them without due notice by citing that they were not comfortable with the police frequenting their home and allegedly blamed the mother of the survivors for permitting the assault on her daughters.

TNM reported on the survivors’ sexual assault and the police’s inaction in January 2024. Following the report, a First Information Report (FIR) was filed and the accused, John Yovan (29), was nabbed on February 2.

Anita (name changed), the mother of two of the survivors, told TNM, “When the police investigation began, the house owner didn’t say anything. The trial took place in the Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) court and my daughters were sent to a home for a month. Police officers often came home to inform us of the process or to call us for an inquiry. On February 18, the house owner said that we must vacate the house because they are not comfortable with police visiting the house and they spoke to me as though I knew of my daughters’ assault and accused me of having permitted it. They called me a sex-worker.” 

She also added that her landlord didn’t allow her any time to collect her belongings and that she packed a few essentials in a sack and moved out. “They are not letting me near the house to even collect my childrens’ clothes. My son didn’t have a change of clothes the first few days. My neighbour then started helping me to get them,” Anita said. According to the house-owner, Anita had been defaulting on rent payments as well and that is one of the reasons for having evicted her family.

Anita said it was true that she couldn’t pay rent in the last four months because she wasn't able to go to work everyday. “I am a daily-wage worker and such defaults have been recurring since the time I started living here. I make it a point to pay by working 7-days a week for a few months to pay all the money that is due. The house-owner had always been considerate since they themselves are fish-vendors. Some months, even their sales take a hit. If rent was the reason they should have only cited that. Instead they assassinated my character and blamed me for what happened to my daughters,” Anita said.

Her daughters, aged ten and twelve, were sexually assaulted by the accused over a span of two years. After the accused was convicted they were both sent to a government shelter for one month from where they continued their education and underwent counselling. The one months’ time ended on March 4 and the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) returned the girls to their family. Anita said, “They didn’t ask me anything. They only said that I should take them with me so I did.”

The corporation school that the girls attended took cognisance and informed the CWC of the family’s situation. The CWC, on Tuesday, March 5, placed the girls in a shelter. A member of the CWC told TNM, “The mother didn’t inform that she was living on the streets. If the mother had highlighted that she didn’t have a place to stay, we wouldn’t have handed the girls over to her. We found out through the school and we immediately took custody of the girls.”

As per POCSO rules 2020, a support person should be assigned for each victim who will help monitor survivors from the time investigation begins till they are ready to be rehabilitated or are to be sent back to their family from the government’s care. The support person should ideally flag these concerns to CWC while reintegrating the children back with their families. However, the CWC is unaware whether a support person was assigned to the survivors in this case.

Tamil Nadu Child Rights Watch (TNCRW) condemned the CWC. In a statement to TNM, they said, “CWC has been taking care of the survivors in this case. They are responsible for reintegrating the survivors with their families. They should have, through a support person, checked with the parents first, understood the situation and must have then taken a decision about sending the survivors back. If they had done that, they wouldn’t have sent the girls back. They could have also sent a notice to the landlord warning them of the legal repercussions. There is some negligence on their part as well.” 

CWC’s representative, however, said that they didn’t get involved in the matter with the landlord since the survivors’ family had defaulted rent payments.

Anita said that she is struggling to find a house for rent and the money to pay the new house-owner. She has approached the school to help admit her son to a shelter until she and her husband find an accommodation.

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