Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime wrote Herbert Ward. We tend to forget that too easily. When we hear of a little girl being sexually abused and even raped we are rearing to ensure that the perp gets punished. Most of the time he gets away with some years behind bars, ready to resume his predatory forays, hunting for the next tiny victim. The victim or as we prefer the use of the word ‘survivor’ is left to figure out the rest of her lifetime.

A few days ago, two little cousins, aged 3, where raped by a 50 year old neighbour. They had been invited to his house by his daughter-in-law, who  for reasons unknown, left them there. The perp, who was it is said drunk, assaulted and allegedly raped them.

This story does not make headlines for long. Children never make headlines for long. They are not vote banks and thus faraway from the minds of politicians. They are often poor so their families cannot influence your careers, so they are the lowest priority for law enforcers. Children are voiceless and depend on adults to present their case and adults can easily be influenced.

Imagine the trauma these babies, as babies they are, went through. They had been invited to play and maybe had hoped for a treat. Instead they were violated. I do not have the guts or nerves to try and imagine what they were subjected to and how they gathered their bruised body, torn clothes and  themselves up and walked back home. I cannot begin to imagine how they found the words to explain to their parents what happened. Thankfully their families believed them and the man was arrested. They may not have had the appropriate words to share their story, but their mind, body and soul are seared for life with the agony and pain of what they experienced on that fateful afternoon. And this terrifying memory will cast a shadow that they will drag for their entire life.

I cannot understand what makes men rape babies. Is it simply because litte girls have vaginas that can be violated with impunity. Rape it is said is a power game. Only a coward would exercise his power on innocent children. It is sickening.

This is not an isolated case. Children are sexually abused all the time and left to figure out their coping strategies alone, as best as they can. There are no caring parents, sensitive counsellors or understanding elders to help them through. When we hear of such aberrations we make the appropriate clucks and move on to the next news item, more so because we know this would not happen to one of ours. The tiny victims though will remember their ordeal till they breathe their last. The accused may get away or at best spend some time in the clink. When he is free again, he may get drunk and abuse some other child. There is nothing to stop him.

Every one talks of women safety. Of late the big thing is religious freedom. When will our rulers express their horror on the rape of poor children and take the appropriate measures. Never or surely not in the near future as to truly address this situation, the first step one needs to take is to allow sex education in homes and schools. But come on, how can that happen. There are too many bigots and zealots who are against the word ‘sex’! But imagine if these little angels had been taught ‘good touch, bad touch’!  Maybe they could have run away or screamed. But in our hypocritical and sanctimonious society one does not mention such things, so teaching then is anathema. When will someone garner the courage to stand up and demand age appropriate sex education. How many more children will have to suffer at the hands of sick predators before someone says enough! It is time we woke up from our slumber.

Let me share another child story. This one has left me stunned. It appears with the title: Woman Denied a Break to Feed Six-Month-Old Baby, He Dies. You read right: a woman labourer was not allowed the time needed to breasted her baby! The child had been crying for hours before he cried his last. This woman had been working for the same contractor for 10 long years, toiling from day to night. Will someone pay for this death or will it just be another poor child buried by his mother who left a feeding bottle next to his tiny grave.

It is time we woke up.