Child rape in Chennai that was a horror of horrors

Child rape in Chennai that was a horror of horrors

The girl was sexually abused by 17 men for over seven months before her elder sister discovered the horrific details of the assault. 

“I will tell those guys you’re a bad person (for them). This is my promise to you. Thank You for making me strong.”

These are the words that came straight from the heart of an 11-year-old hearing-impaired girl, in a letter written to activist Apsara Reddy, for supporting her during trying times. The girl was sexually abused by 17 men for over seven months before her elder sister discovered the horrific details of the assault. 

The girl, let’s call her Sakthi, was living in a gated community with her parents, with proper security. The family ensured that the girl got everything she wanted and had even hired an aide to assist her in the school.

The only mistake that the family, that hails from the north of the Vindhyas, seems to have made is in assuming that the little daughter was safe in the apartment complex where it lived.

And when their elder daughter, who is studying in a college in a western Indian city, came home mid-July, their happiness knew no bounds as they were hoping to spend quality time with her after six months.

Soon the happiness turned into a nightmare after the elder daughter saw some bruises and injury marks on the younger one. After some affectionate prodding from her sister, Sakthi, who otherwise keeps to herself, narrated her lurid experience – that she was first sexually abused by Ravikumar, a lift operator, sometime in January 2018, and then by several others for over seven months. 

The letter penned by Sakthi to human rights activist Apsara Reddy.
Source: Facebook/Apsara Reddy

The little girl, after returning from school, would climb up to her flat and come down within an hour after taking some refreshments. “It was during her playtime that the men took advantage and sexually abused her. The girl has told her sister that she did resist every attempt by shouting and screaming. But there was no help,” sources told DH.

Investigations revealed that 66-year-old Ravikumar was the first to sexually abuse the child after which he roped in his friends – mostly plumbers, security guards and gardeners – for the inhumane act. The minor was sedated with injections, drug-laced drinks and other methods every time she was sexually assaulted, a senior police officer said. The group of men used every trick to ensure that the child does not open her mouth — poking her with and threatening at knifepoint and emotional blackmail. The class seven girl has told the investigators that the men, who sexually assaulted her, had threatened to release video of her with them if she spoke about their act out in the open.

On July 15, parents of the 11-year-old filed a complaint with Ayanavaram women police station that nearly 20 men sexually abused the minor. First, they went to a normal police station and complained to a woman police inspector. Then it was transferred to the women police station. Within a day, the police rounded up the suspects and arrested 17 of them – aged between 23 and 66 – and booked them under the POCSO Act.

The incident sent shock waves among people in Tamil Nadu and the public fury was such that the accused were attacked by lawyers when they were produced before a Mahila Court. All accused are currently in Puzhal Central Prison in Chennai.

The lawyers have refused to represent the accused in the court. “Since this is a gruesome incident, we took a decision that no advocate should represent the accused in the sexual assault case. No lawyer should come forward to represent these men in the case. If someone decides to represent them, they will be expelled from the association,” Madras High Court Advocates Association’s president G Mohanakrishnan said.

Though the administration responded immediately, the close-knit family has had a harrowing experience visiting police stations, taking the child to counsellors, facilitating the child to identify the culprits and help the child regain her self-confidence.

Not wanting to be in the limelight, the family has quietly vacated their flat in the complex and shifted to a new accommodation.

“We want justice. We aren’t bothered about some quarters indulging in victim bashing. At the end of the day, it’s a child who was used by grown men with a devious motive to keep using her. My family seeks the prayers and blessings for our little girl at this time,” the little girl’s sister said, requesting privacy during the testing times.

In a display of extraordinary grit and determination, the little girl identified almost all her tormentors and spoke to the police and counsellors at length about her harrowing experience. The usually silent girl spoke in detail about the abuses inflicted on her body to counsellors and police —she also wrote a letter to transgender activist and TV host Apsara Reddy in return for “making her strong”.

A senior police officer said that they can step in only when parents bring such incidents to their knowledge. “People should report such incidents to the nearest police station so that the accused don’t go unpunished. Only when incidents are reported and perpetrators punished, there will be fear among the abusers that law will catch them,” he said, asking parents to spend time with their children and get to know what happens with them.

“We must empower kids to speak up and as adults, we must have open communication lines with kids. This little girl inspires me with her resolve and innocence. So much of her has been taken away yet she remains hopeful of a happy life. That’s the beauty of a trusting mind,”Apsara, who is assisting the distraught family in their quest for justice, told DH.

Sakthi’s mother who comes from an economically-challenged background is now slowly picking up on signals of the past —- of nights when this little girl so full of love and innocence used to scream “leave me” and used to wet the bed. The girl’s mother is still disturbed and going through bouts of depression mixed with a certain sense of despair, Apsara said.

“She (Sakthi) hopes and still trusts this world. The family shouldn’t back down from supporting their child. Society will talk but we need to move past all the small talk and ensure we fight against child abuse,” she said.

Also read: Society fails victims of CSA

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