Rape has now become the ‘it’ thing to talk about; I guess the same will apply for child sexual abuse once it manages to grab headlines.” With those words reeking of sarcasm, Pooja Taparia, founder of the non-for-profit organisation, Arpan, has us clinching onto her utterances, wrapping our heads around the lack of awareness on the hushed-up topic of child sexual abuse (CSA). She is not belittling rape victims, neither is she dishonouring the attention that the issue deserves; she is only highlighting the somewhat dormant stance on CSA in India today. Hardly able to tell a soul about it, children are often unaware of the fact that they are being abused. Add to that the one-degree of separation between the victim and the abuser and we have ourselves an epidemic of abused children who are somehow silenced by the sheer depravity of what is done to them.
Child abuse victims’ cries are often silenced by their inability to dissociate reality from the fictional world and as they are often abused in places that are considered safe havens for children. “Arpan has spread its wings over 40 schools in the city over the last five years and the main lesson programmes that we focus on revolves around the child’s personal safety,” shares Taparia. This not-for-profit perceives the deep-seated psychological impact on sexually-abused children. Arpan amalgamates prevention and healing components in the arena of CSA. Lending psychotherapeutic support, it works closely with parents and teachers of children to ensure that all the relevant stakeholders are trained and empowered through more knowledge on CSA.
Based out of Goregaon, Arpan–said to be the largest NGO in the world that focuses on CSA–is a step forward to lift the lid on an issue that Taparia believes is yet to be accepted as a social reality. She shares, “CSA has been around for years and yet very few organisations work towards the cause.” A quick punch into google and we begin to comprehend what Taparia is talking about. Inspired by 30 Days in September, a play by Lilette Dubey, Taparia says, “The play allowed me to peek into the soul of a young sexually abused victim.”
Impassioned arguments about children and their happiness have made rounds since time immemorial. But CSA is now our truth. A heinous ugly truth that reigns in a city like Mumbai where talking about sexuality is still a taboo concept. Arpan, however, helps shed light on the monstrosity of it, educating one child at a time. Child sexual abuse is a social problem that Pooja Taparia will fight hammer and tongs to achieve.