I was appalled and deeply troubled by the cases of assault and abuse I saw in the Skin Clinic. Sometimes they were referred from the Paediatric Clinic.
Little girls were brought in by parents and caregivers with bizarre injuries and infection in their private parts. Some had purulent discharge from the vagina. Some had itching in the perineum. Some presented with non-invasive, non-penetrating injuries. Some parents and care-givers knew what they were dealing with and some would give a history of abuse, voluntarily or under duress. Some were oblivious that the little girls were being abused. Some knew, but were in denial. Some were incredulous and many were ballistic when confronted.
The worst case I recall, was a driver who violated trust to turn perpetrator. He was a trusted person from the parents village , a young man who was a distant relative of the family. He lived with the family , ate with the family and was called Bhaiya affectionately by the family. Every morning he used to take the child to playschool. The parents trusted him implicitly and they would place the 4 year old, dressed for playschool, lovingly in the front seat next to the driver. What they did not know was that he drove with one hand on the steering wheel and one hand on the child strapped securely in place with the seat belt. His right hand was on the steering wheel and his left hand was in the panty of the little girl. When the child started an itchy rash in her perineum, they brought her to the clinic. It did not take rocket science to pick up the correct diagnosis but it did take a great deal of time and patience to handle the mother, who was first angry, then in denial and finally in tears. The little girl meanwhile was totally unaware of the enormity of the damage inflicted on her. Questioned discreetly, she filled in the blanks.
Fueled with the horror of the cases I saw and the ignorance surrounding this blight, I started a group called Girl Child on Facebook in 2014. The objective was to raise a platform of awareness and to share common ways of dealing with child abuse in the girl child. The site sourced material that taught kids by song and stories that parents could use while teaching their kids. Videos showing Stranger Danger posted as a fun way to teach kids not to talk to strangers. Good Touch Bad Touch was picturised. Videos that showed a secret password between parents and kids was posted. The child was to ask any stranger who offered to take them home, the secret password. If they did not know the password, the child would not leave with them. Horror stories were posted to show that the child was not safe if left with strangers. Posts that heightened personal safety of kids in homes with male members of the family were posted. Sadly, in many cases the perpetrators are known members of the family or friends of the family and neighbours. Someone the child has no reason to mistrust.
Self defense classes were introduced by the CBSE schools as part of the Syllabus which was wonderful, as young girls learned self defense early and in school. I must confess, that I used to spend a great deal of time with young mothers when they came to the clinic with their kids, to introduce them to the site so that they could join the group and use all the teaching material collected. Many had never thought of the dangers out there and they were grateful for all the education material that the Girl Child offered. Many parents started sending their kids to Karate classes where they excelled, acquiring belts of pride. We had a few volunteers who came out from the West to conduct self defense classes in schools.
The Girl Child site widened its scope to include posts and discussions on rape, assault and abuse of women. The growing membership continue to send in snippets and news they find pertinent and information they find useful. Admittedly some of the stories and pictures are gory with the tragic ghastly accounts by the courageous victims themselves.
Over the years it grew into a group that celebrates The Girl Child . A group that mourns with her when she suffers. And shares her pride when she succeeds.We now include posts showcasing achievements of women through the ages with features on The first Lady Doctor , the First Lady Astronaut, the First Lady Pilot, the First Firefighter….The First Anyone… to encourage the Girl Child and to let her know that the sky is her limit, if she should choose to soar to her full potential.
Now the site The Girl Child runs on its own with interactions by its members.