VAISHNAVI SOOD and MANSI GUPTA
“We need to be sensitive and it is our responsibility as a human being to stand up for justice and support the victims,” said Supreet Dhiman, Director Projects and Research at End Incest Trust in an interaction with students at Shoolini University about incest on March 11.
She has been researching on the incidence, occurrence, impact and awareness of incest in India and talked to the students on various aspects of the problem including its signs and symptoms, psychological impact on the individual, safety measures that one can take and also sensitized the students on how to react when a victim shares their experience.
She shared that during her postgraduate diploma human rights from Panjab University; she chose incest as her topic for research. Initially everyone tried to persuade her to change the subject as everyone thought she would not get any respondents to talk on the subject. But, she persisted especially because of the social stigma attached around the subject.
“It took one girl to die a horrifying death for no mistake of hers for our society to accept the word ‘rape’ in our dictionaries and to end the silence on the subject at our homes,” said Supreet while mentioning the Nirbhaya case while talking about the ill consequences of the social stigma and taboo around such subjects like rape, molestation and incest.
She added that incest is even more horrifying than rape as the abuser is not an outsider but someone closely connected to the victim, someone who is supposed to protect the victim.
She defined incest as sexual contact between family members in direct blood relations. She emphasized that not only rape but any inappropriate touching, hugging, caressing or petting also amounts to incest.
She told the audience that they received a huge response on their online forums and were shocked at the widespread of the issue.
She said, “The feedback we got was so traumatic that I decided to close the forum and quit research on the very day I received my diploma.”
But, she added that on the same day, they received a message from an incest abuse victim who shared that he was raped by his own father when he was 8 and noted that he is a boy.
Supreet could not help but think about his own nephew who was around the same age during that time. The research conducted by their organisation is the largest research ever done on incest in the country.
She said that incest can often be a continuous series of abuse on multiple occasions as a result of manipulative dependence. She shared some of the findings of their research which included the shocking statistics that 18 per cent of the respondents have been victims of incest and 92 per cent of the incest abuse victims could never share it with anyone.
She noted that most perpetrators themselves can be victims too as abuse itself is a learnt behaviour and shared another incident where the victim and abuser were only five and six years old.
During the interaction, no one raised their hand when asked if they knew how to deal with a situation when a victim shares their experience of abuse. She told the students to be sensitive and not to laugh or walk away. She further added that encourage them but don’t force them to take action as it should be their choice and do not that power of decision making away from them once again and let them know that you believe them and are there for them.