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Why Parents Hesitate When it Comes to Reporting Sexual Assault Cases

New Delhi: When CNN-News18 went to the particular block of New Ashok Nagar, where a middle aged tailor was arrested on Jan 15 in a case of molestation of two minor girls, a lot of parents came out to speak about how the serial rapist lured their daughters as well but they never complained about it to the police.

A serial rapist targeting minor girls

“My daughter came home safely and, therefore, we never complained about it to the police,” said the mother of an 11-year-old girl who had a close shave with Sunil, the 38-year-old paedophile, recently arrested by the Delhi Police. Sunil has seven confirmed cases of sexual assault on him and he has confessed to about 60 attempts of sexual assault on minor girls.

Sunil had approached this 11-year-old girl when she was in the market and asked about her whereabouts. When she told her name and her father’s, he told her that her father had sent some clothes for her and coaxed her to take them. She got convinced and started following him. He took her to the same staircase, where he had taken the other minor girls previously. In the dim lit street, the minor girl saw a weapon in his hand. That was an alarm for her and she escaped from there, said her mother.

Just a day after this incident another nine-year-old girl, from the same locality, was lured in the similar way. This girl had gone to the market to buy a pen when Sunil stopped her. Following the same modus-operandi, he convinced her to come along with him. When they reached the same staircase, the girl refused to go upstairs because of poor lighting. The accused slapped her and asked her to come upstairs. The minor girl got scared and ran away crying from the spot.

When she narrated the incident to her father, her father took out the CCTV footage of the route and identified the accused but didn’t go to police.

Why was police never informed?

Apart from the modus-operandi being the same, there are some other similarities as well in these two cases. Both the parents decided to keep quiet. Both the incidents took place in December but unfortunately none of the parents approached police. It was only in January when some other parents of the same locality lodged an FIR that the matter was taken forward.

The mother of the 11-year-old minor girl said, “I didn’t complain to police but I ensured that my daughter never stepped out of the house alone. I started accompanying her to school.” The father of the nine-year-old minor girl accepted that it was a mistake not to complain to the police but he has his own reasons.

“There were similar incidents in the past but there was no breakthrough in those cases. I thought there was no point in telling the cops as it would have been just one of the cases for them,” the father told CNN-News18.

Who is to be blamed?

The idea of not going to the police is widespread, believes Rajat Mitra, Clinical Psychologist. According to Mitra, many times the kind of questioning police does make the victims apprehensive. It is the police who has to establish a trust and boost the confidence level.

Mitra doesn’t distinguish between a female cop and a male cop. “There’s just sensitive cops and insensitive cops. The culture is same. The kind of questioning is almost same,” he said.

According to Dr Avdesh Sharma, International Lead, World Psychiatric Association, in such cases “asking a question or getting details of the case is troublesome. It’s because of these reasons as well that such cases go unreported.”

Citing other reasons he said, either the child is not aware that she/he was abused, or they were threatened not to talk about it. Sometimes, the involvement of someone known to the family also deter parents to report about it.

How to solve the issue?

The police need to be more sensitive about such cases. They have to pay special attention when they talk to the victims of sexual assault. Although there is a set guideline on questioning the minor but that need to be strictly followed.

Dr Sharma said the child should be allowed to speak in the family. They should be taught about the various signs and signals of sexual abuse or assault. They should be explained that the family love for them will remain unchanged if they speak. They should be made to understand that whatever happened was not their fault but of the accused.

What the police has to say?

Talking to CNN-News18, DCP East Omvir Singh Bishnoi requested parents to come forward and report such incidents. “I would request the parents to come forward and report about such incidents. Had they brought up the matter in December only we would have acted immediately. They could have saved several other girls from getting molested or sexually assaulted. The accused would not have been moving around freely.”

DCP Bishnoi’s team arrested the accused in 48-hours after the complaints were lodged with police.