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. 

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:

Child abuse is a sad reality of our society, which makes open, empathetic, judgement-free channels of communication, the need of the hour.