Child abuse, sexual or physical, is a heinous crime that often goes unpunished, or worse, unreported. Because, many children are often not given the appropriate tools to even express the trauma, let alone deal with it.
This is why, often, children become adults and still fail to acknowledge or seek help for the incident. And that's exactly the issue that MP Derek O’ Brien brought to light, by bravely talking about an incident from his childhood.
During a parliamentary session where the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) law was being debated, 58-year-old Derek O’Brien recounted how he was abused at the tender age of 13 in Kolkota.
"The more people in public life speak about the abuse, the easier it will be for children to speak up", says @derekobrienmp while sharing his own experience of having undergone sexual abuse as a child; during the Parliament debate on POCSO Amendment Bill.pic.twitter.com/zAm9VIDpEg— Sohini Guharoy (@sohinigr) July 24, 2019
He talked about the incident in detail and shared that it took him six to eight years to even be able to talk about it with his parents.
I would like to share -- my family knows and I feel India needs to know -- I was sexually molested as a 13-year-old on a bus in Kolkata after tennis practice wearing short pants and t-shirt. I got on to a crowded bus (and) I was sexually molested. A man ejaculated on the shorts of this boy. I didn't speak about it. We need to use this forum to reach out to people. The more we talk about it the more children will be saved.
In an impassioned speech, he talked about how abuse does not distinguish between gender, often starts at home, and more times than not parents 'shush' the children, rather than let them express. He also urged people in public life to speak about their own experiences, and not to let a perceived sense of shame further harm the victims.
After his speech, Smriti Irani, the Minister for Women and Child Development, applauded him for his courage.
That fact that an MP today shared what he faced at age 13...46 years later, tells us what an imprint sexual abuse leaves on a child.
The courage it took, to not only recount such a personal experience but to actually use the Parliamentary floor to send the right message across, is truly commendable. And many people took to Twitter to appreciated him for what he did:
Brave of @derekobrienmp . Respect. I know of so many people, even one in my immediate family who have been sexually harassed and have chosen NOT to speak about it. It’s almost like the victim feels she is the culprit here.— Sneha Mordani (@snehamordani) July 24, 2019
Good to know at least someone is talking of important issues in Parliament— Vaibhav Gupta (@vebz81) July 25, 2019
Extremely brave to do it— Vadin (@SunBunAurPun) July 24, 2019
Aptly spoken and what a brave man!— Mohit B (@rajveersingh001) July 25, 2019
Thank you so much sir @derekobrienmp Much needed topic and well-articulated. Speaks directly to a victim like me to speak up and face my demons without fear. Many thanks!!!!!🙏— TwiceBorn Anti-Indian Rational (@EgaliteRational) July 24, 2019
Some incidents of your life need to be shared- to create awareness, to come up with comprehensive policy and to heal. @derekobrienmp opening up about child abuse is one such step. Kudos Derek, also brings focus to child abuse that boys face too. https://t.co/N3EkOb9ot6— Priyanka Chaturvedi (@priyankac19) July 26, 2019
It is extremely brave of @derekobrienmp to speak about the sexual harassment that kids face. He is absolutely right.— Janardhanan S🇮🇳 (@MadCapProf) July 24, 2019
Anyone who is someone with any public influence, should speak out their experiences. This would desist parents from brushing off the issue, when kids bring it up.
Child abuse is a sad reality of our society, which makes open, empathetic, judgement-free channels of communication, the need of the hour.