the length of two lifetimes

I normally do not watch TV in the early evening. I was busy with the usual evening chores and had to go to my daughter's room. The TV was on. A local metro channel diffusing its evening news. I was about to mouth the question I had come to ask but was stopped short as I heard the voice of the newscaster recounting an incident where a young girl had been humiliated in a nearby suburban school. All chores forgotten I just watched.

A young girl had been punished by her teacher for not being up to the market in class. The teacher who seemed to belong to some ante deluvial time had chosen to write in black soot across the face of the child the following words: I am not good in my studies, and then paraded the child across the school. The teacher of course had threatened the girl of dire circumstances were she to tell her parents about the incident. The young girl had not murmured a word. However the next day she had refused to go to school. Seeing the angst on her face the parents coaxed the child to reveal what was wrong. She ultimately did.

The parents went to the school authorities and the police playing the scene according to script. The teacher was suspended and further action may follow but will and can it wipe of the hurt the child suffered, the invisible scars seared on the girl's soul that no one can see let alone heal. No matter what punishment will be meted out to the erring school teacher, no matter the profuse apologies tended, no matter the words proffered to sooth the hurt child, the harm is done. This young girl will bear the hurt of this humiliation for a life time. It may be forgotten in good times, if good times there are but will come back to haunt her each time life poses a problem. Public humiliation is by far one of the worst form of retribution, one that cannot be meted out to a child by anyone, let alone a teacher.

This incident makes one go back to Dickensian days of Dunce tables and Dunce caps. Lot of water has flowed since those days or so we thought. But an occurrence like this one makes us wonder whether times have truly changed.

But if that was not enough another horror that befell a tiny 9 year old came to light. A little class IV girl had been raped in the toilet of her school in broad daylight. As I write these words the follow up drama is in full swing. Enquiries, suspension, political condemnations, financial assistance and the much sought headlines. But my heart goes out to the little girl who has been scarred for life. Such incidents leave deep lifelong invisible scars not only on the body but on the soul of the victim. And if that was not enough, one must not forget that we live in an insensitive and biased society where far too often the victim is made to feel guilty.

I can only once again recount the plight of C, now 17, a past student of ours who was raped at the age of 4 by a neighbour. The rape was so violent that the child had to have a hysterectomy. The rapist did his time in jail. C grew up but . As a teenager she found herself ostracised by her peers and their families and labeled as the girl who had been raped.

Child rape is something abhorrent. I have no words to condemn it as everyone falls terribly short of what I want to express. I cannot begin to understand why an adult feels the need to violate a child. I look helpless at the impotent laws that far from protecting the victim seem to benefit the perpetrators with impunity.

In all the hullabaloo that normally follows incidents like the ones above, two little girls are suffering in silence. And no one seems to be concerned. They belong to homes where child psychology and post trauma stress are unknown. They belong to families who are simply busy surviving. They will have to find their healing alone, if healing there is.

At this times one can but remember the words of Herbert Ward: “Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime.”