The RAHI foundation is India’s first incest and child sexual abuse response organisation that focuses exclusively on women survivors and their recovery process.
The recent film “The Little Girls We Were…And the Women We Are” directed by Vaishali Sood and produced by RAHI Foundation was screened in Kolkata, which focused on the lives of five adult women survivors talked about their individual experiences of abuse and their ongoing journey to recovery.
“This film is a testimony to the healing journey of survivors, and their courage to speak out. It is for everyone who wants to end incest and child sexual abuse in India,” said Anuja Gupta, founder and director of RAHI Foundation in a panel discussion.
Based in New Delhi and functioning since 1996, the organisation aims to address the existence of child abuse while creating a dialogue for eradicating such societal evils.
In the film, the instances of abuse were expressed in first hand narratives in which each survivor detailed the trauma, acceptance and the conscious journey to recovery.
“There is no such child sexual abuse planet where this takes place. It happens in your own home with people who are your family or people who are close enough to you to be considered as family,” said one of the survivors, Koel Chatterji.
The term “survivor”was also challenged in the film and instead the word “thriver” was put forward as a new title to denote those who have undergone this form of trauma.
The first step to recovery that was agreed upon unanimously was the acceptance that such an incident has taken place and by addressing the issue only then can recovery ensue.
By repressing the trauma it is expressed outwardly in the form of self-mutilation, anger, and an inability to trust and communicate with those persons trying to form a lasting bond. The abuse at such a young age sets a pattern for how the adult woman is going to respond to love, intimacy, and relationships.
Ayesha Sinha, a social worker and founder of an NGO Talash articulated how it was difficult for her to form a bond with her partner in a relationship as she always found herself unable to love freely.
Her cautiousness is what hampered many relationships in her life as her trust issues came in the way of her feelings. The fact that child sexual abuse is also denied, ignored and hushed up in society is illustrated in the film.
The fact that many of the survivors’ own parents asked their young children not to speak or fight back against the abuse carried out by an influential male member in the family like an elder brother or a maternal uncle in two cases showcases the stigma and ignorance attached to the act.
In many instances, the abuse does not even register in the minds of children who grow up in a state of loneliness and who feel that such an act is one of normalcy only because nobody has told them that it isn’t so.
RAHI Foundation works each day under the guidance of its founder Gupta who uses group therapy sessions to begin the process of recovery for any woman who wishes to address her trauma.