The story of little M should send chills down every self respecting human being’s spine. The question remains: Does it? Or have we become so inured to crime against children, particularly small children, that we turn our hearts away.

Can any society that calls itself civilised allow such incidents to happen, let alone happen with license, particularly when the child in question is poor. And if they do happen can one allow the perpetrators to roam scot-free as we lose ourselves in legal imbroglios.

M or the Nithari children or even the Ghaziabad girls were one may say exceptions, but child abuse if often much more insidious. There has been lot of talk of child abuse in recent days. A recent study shows some chilling facts as to the extent of this crime that seems to be mostly perpetrated within the supposedly safe boundaries of the home.

Child abuse is by far the most heinous crime and one of the reasons why it is practised with impunity is because in most cases no one is ready to believe the child who has the courage to break the tacit code of silence. Instead of sharing the pain and alleviating it, adults are quick to rap the child on the knuckles and push her or him back to realm of the very silence she or he dared break, and thus to the hell of more abuse.

The reason for the post is two fold. One stems out of a recent incident at project why when a child shared a personal experience. The experience was difficult to word and as always with children it came out in a garbled whisper. Thankfully the teacher she shared it was sensitive and understanding and decided to come to me for advise. We soon learnt of the abuse this child had been subjected to and were glad she had broken the deafening silence she had lived in all those years. The first step towards healing had been taken.

But, and that is the second reason for this post, this is rarely the case as children rarely find a sympathetic ear when they decide to come out with the truth. A ten year old had been subjected to inappropriate fondling by someone she held in trust. The child had the courage to inform her mother hoping that at least she would believe her and act. But in spite of education and well worldliness the mother adopted the cowardly middle path and though the child was never abused again she had to live with her perpetrator for many long years.

That is the problem with child abuse as it is mostly committed by someone within the family, and often someone with authority. Breaking the silence means destroying the social balance and shattering the comfortable life one leads. It means taking sides and standing up for the child against all. It means risking to lose everything one has and somehow society has rarely stood for the victim. The hesitant and hurting child is often silenced or at best provided some half-baked protection and made to continue living under the same roof as the abuser.

Something is terribly wrong: a little child who has been abused and hurt has to pick rags for a living when what she needs is healing and love, another child is made to live long years within the same walls as her abuser because the social balance cannot be disturbed.

And even when perpetrators are caught then justice is elusive. Who knows where the Ghaziabad girls are or whether the Nithari children will really get justice, or whether little M’s abuser will pay for his heinous crime. And these are just the few cases that got reported but every day there are children who are being abused and who need to be heard.

It is for us as a society to take up the cudgels and fight this crime. What is terrible is that it is often the victim and her family who are ostracized by the very society they live in. C is 14 year old and she is a student of project why. Just like M she was raped by a neighbour at the age of 4 and suffered severe injuries that needed corrective surgery. Her abuser did some time in jail and is now free but young C still bears the stigma of that rape and is shunned by all.

Yes something is terribly wrong and we cannot look away because in the words of Herbert Ward child abuse casts a shadow the length of a life time