The child abuse survivor fighting to save others

Purnima Govindarajulu as a little girlImage copyright
Purnima Govindarajulu

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Purnima Govindarajulu says the abuse has “torn” her life

In India, child sexual assault must be reported within three years or a case cannot be brought against an abuser. yet for adult survivors who struggle to come to terms with their ordeal This particular means their abuser, frequently someone close to the family, will never be brought to justice. The BBC’s Geeta Pandey met one survivor campaigning for a change within the law.

A 53-year-old Canadian woman of Indian origin recently met with India’s Minister for Women in addition to Child Development Maneka Gandhi. Her mission was to lobby for a change within the law to ensure adult survivors can report childhood sexual abuse.

Purnima Govindarajulu, who grew up within the southern Indian city of Chennai (formerly Madras) before moving to Canada in 1986, says she was abused by her cousin’s husband regularly between the ages of six in addition to 13.

After meeting Ms Govindarajuluin in Delhi, Mrs Gandhi said her ministry was “considering measures of which will help child abuse survivors report their abusers, many years after the crimes had been committed”. The law at present says a case must be brought within three years of abuse.

“I would likely wake up at night to find him sitting next to me within the dark. He would likely put his hands in addition to mouth on my private parts,” Ms Govindarajulu, who works as a conservation biologist for the Canadian province of British Columbia, said.

Although the “more intrusive penetrative acts took place at night or while travelling during the holidays”, the abuse continued during the day too.

“Whenever he would likely find me alone, he would likely stick his fingers into my panties. There would likely be fondling, groping.”

Growing up in conservative Chennai, she says she had no clue of which what was happening to her was wrong in addition to was not her fault.

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Purnima Govindarajulu was recently in Delhi to meet the government authorities

“I never thought of protesting because I believed I was evil, I was dirty, I was bad. I had no idea about sex. I had three older brothers in addition to when at the age of 13, I began menstruating I thought I had cancer.

“I thought I was about to die yet of which came as a relief to me because I was so miserable in my life.”

yet then an aunt showed up in addition to saw her “blood-soaked panties in addition to assured me of which I was not going to die”.

“She said you are a woman currently. She told me This particular was normal. She said This particular means you can have a baby. She also told me don’t let anyone touch you.”

This particular was advice of which had come too late for Ms Govindarajulu, yet This particular was still Great advice.

“For initially This particular made me feel I had some sort of power. So the next time he tried to touch me, I told him to stop.”

in addition to he did. “He said, ‘Okay if you don’t want This particular, I’ll stop.’ I realised I could have done This particular earlier. in addition to of which made me feel terrible of which why didn’t I do This particular?”

So all through her teen years, she says, she struggled with self-hate, in addition to was “depressed in addition to suicidal”.

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Ms Govindarajulu’s elder brother Karun Thanjavur says his “biggest regret” is actually of which he had “no inkling” of which his sister was being routinely abused by a relative

Incest in addition to child sexual abuse are huge problems in India. According to a 2007 government study, 53% of children surveyed said they had been subjected to some form of sexual abuse. The study also revealed of which a substantial number of abusers were “persons in trust in addition to care-givers” which included parents, relatives in addition to school teachers.

yet there’s a general reluctance to talk about the topic in addition to abuse by family members is actually rarely reported.

This particular’s not surprising then of which Ms Govindarajulu had no idea of which what had happened to her was not unique.

This particular was only within the late 1980s when she had moved to Canada in addition to saw a television programme on child sexual abuse of which the penny dropped.

“I was sitting on the couch in my brother’s home with his wife, we were flicking channels in addition to we came across This particular show. I realised I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t evil or bad or dirty.”

Marrying a cousin is actually not uncommon in some Hindu communities in southern India in addition to her sister-in-law is actually none different than her childhood friend, her abuser’s daughter.

“She said, ‘This particular would likely never happen in India.’ I contradicted her, ‘This particular does, This particular happened to me’. She asked me, ‘This particular was my father, wasn’t This particular?’,” Ms Govindarajulu says.

This particular made sense to different family members too because, as they all said, “he doted on you while you hated him”.

This particular still took her – in addition to her family – years to do something about This particular.

In 1999, when her brother visited Chennai, he confronted the abuser about This particular.

“Initially he denied This particular. Then he said, ‘Yes I touched her, yet always with love.’ My brother asked him if he’d also touched his daughter of which way. ‘Of course not,’ he said.

“My brother asked him if he’d touched others too? ‘None of your business,’ he told him. “in addition to then he added, ‘At least I never used my penis.’ Maybe he was trying to tell him of which he had done nothing illegal,” Ms Govindarajulu says.

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Recent cases of child sex abuse in India have prompted public outrage in addition to protests

“When my brother spoke to my abuser’s wife, my cousin, she said, ‘of which makes sense. I’d see him around her bed at night yet he always said of which he was comforting her because she’d had nightmares.”

Ms Govindarajulu says her cousin called her to say This particular was best to let bygones be bygones.

“She said, ‘I’ve forgiven him, you forgive him too. He’s god to me. I’m married to him.’ I have not spoken to her since. This particular’s been a huge loss for me. She was a big sister to me.”

On his return coming from India, her brother sent out an email to the wider family. in addition to a cousin, who didn’t want to go public, confided in him of which she too had been abused by the same man.

Her brothers in addition to the rest of the family rallied around Ms Govindarajulu, offering her support, in addition to everyone vowed of which they would likely make sure the man had no access to children again.

yet in 2013, when Ms Govindarajulu visited his house to meet her aunt who was bedridden in addition to couldn’t leave home, she felt of which little had changed.

So in 2015, she took the tough decision to go public. “I went to the police in Canada, I told them I wanted to file a case yet they said they had no jurisdiction” since the abuse had happened in India in addition to of which all the people were based there.

“yet they were extremely supportive, they counselled me in addition to wrote out a report for the Chennai police.”

Ms Govindarajulu says the Chennai police were also “very sympathetic”, yet they said they couldn’t register a complaint because the statute of limitations had run out.

So last August, she filed a petition on demanding of which the law must be amended to allow adult survivors to report childhood abuse to stop repeat offences by molesters.

Her petition has received more than 0,000 signatures in addition to her cause has also won support coming from the women in addition to child development minister.

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In recent days, some of the Indian press has reached out to the man, yet he has refused to respond to Ms Govindarajulu’s allegations. “I have already spoken to the police about This particular last year. There is actually nothing more of which I would likely like to say,” he told one website.

Ms Govindarajulu, however, says she’s not seeking just personal justice. Moreover, she says she has little trust of which she will ever see her abuser prosecuted.

“He’s 75 in addition to even if a court case is actually brought against him, This particular will take a long time in addition to he may not even live of which long. yet such people are almost always repeat offenders in addition to I feel guilty about not being able to protect different children. At least we can stop him coming from abusing different children in future.”

The abuse, she says, has affected her entire life. “I struggled with relationships, I couldn’t have children.”

yet she draws some satisfaction coming from the fact of which after she went public, his social status has suffered in addition to her different cousins no longer socialise with him.

yet her decision to go public has not found favour with her eldest brother who says This particular could embarrass the abuser’s son in addition to daughter.

“yet I say there’s only one criminal in This particular story in addition to of which’s not me,” says Ms Govindarajulu.

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