May 22, 2018

Vidya Balan joins the fight against Child Sexual Abuse as Arpan’s Goodwill Ambassador

Mumbai-based leading non-profit organisation working on the issue of Child Sexual Abuse has engaged Bollywood star Vidya Balan as their goodwill ambassador. She had played the role of Durga Rani Singh a survivor of child sexual abuse, in the movie Kahaani 2, where she saved another child who was being sexually abused by her uncle.

Photo Credit: Dabboo Ratnani 

Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is a startling everyday reality for as many as half of the country’s children (National Child Abuse Study 2007). With the ever-increasing reports of child sexual abuse, we know that the scenario is not too different even today. Yet it is still an issue that is barely addressed. There is a limited acceptance that CSA happens and that it has a significant impact on children. CSA can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, addictions, and suicidal thoughts and can continue to disrupt the child’s life during adulthood if not healed.

Based in Mumbai, Arpan is one of the largest NGOs in India with over 100 social workers and counsellors providing prevention and intervention services to children and adults to address the issue of CSA. Over the last 10 years, Arpan has reached out to over 188,000 children, adolescents and adults directly. Arpan has also trained over 3,500 professionals across India and impacted over 4,60,000 children and adults. Arpan works on prevention of CSA through the Personal Safety Education Programme conducted in schools and communities, Training Programmes for relevant stakeholders, Policy Advocacy to bring in systemic change and healing through their Counselling Services to survivors of CSA.

 Photo Credit: Dabboo Ratnani 

Talking about her association with Arpan, Vidya said "I first connected with Arpan during the filming of Kahaani 2 to understand the issue better and get into the skin of my role. I was amazed by the kind of work Arpan does on the issue especially working with children across age groups and their caregivers to prevent Child Sexual Abuse and heal survivors from the trauma of such an ordeal. As a society, it is critical that we look at how such a social evil can be prevented and how each of us can play a role in keeping children safe. Given the current scenario in our country, now more than ever there is a need for all us to step up and work towards preventing Child Sexual Abuse.”

Ms Pooja Taparia, Founder and CEO of Arpan said "It is an honour for Arpan to have a celebrated actor like Vidya Balan as our Goodwill ambassador. Vidya’s roles have always been inspiring and action-oriented. It was a privilege working with her during the making of Kahaani 2. Her role in the movie as Durga Rani Singh, a survivor of child sexual abuse was a powerful one. She wasn’t a silent bystander, but actually took action to protect a girl from Child Sexual Abuse and that’s an inspiring message for all of us. Much like her role in the movie, over the years, Arpan has played a very important role in the lives of numerous children and adults in the prevention of Child Sexual Abuse. With Vidya Balan as our goodwill ambassador, we hope to influence many more people to speak up for prevention of child sexual abuse and to play an active role in creating a safe environment so that our children, the future of our nation, do not become victims of Child Sexual Abuse or have traumatic childhoods but have safe and happy childhoods.”

When asked what her message on the issue of Child Sexual Abuse is, Vidya said “My message to everyone is that don’t think that Child Sexual Abuse is something that happens to other’s children. The unfortunate truth is that it could happen to your child or it could be happening to your child. We all need to be vigilant. We all need to be aware and acknowledge when we see the signs. We need to educate our children so that when they experience an unsafe situation, they are empowered enough to get away and seek help from a trusted adult.”

What started in 2008 as a nascent organisation that reached about 600 people in a year, has now grown to an organisation that reaches over 56,000 people annually with the vision of a ‘World Free from Child Sexual Abuse’. Arpan is supported by Mr. Rakesh Jhunjhunwala (India), Mr. Karl-Johan Persson (CEO, H&M Worldwide, Sweden), Goldman Sachs (India), Eros International Media (India), The Marshall Foundation (France), GMSP Foundation (UK), The Global Fund for Children (USA), Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives (India), A.T.E and Chandra Philanthropic Foundation (India), British Asian Trust (UK), Reliance Foundation (India), Aditya Birla Finance Limited(India), Bajaj Auto Limited (India) amongst others. With Vidya Balan as a goodwill ambassador, here’s hoping that Arpan grows manifold in being able to amplify conversations around the issue Child Sexual Abuse while working diligently on its prevention and healing at the grassroots and systemic level.

April 13, 2018

Nickelodeon’s Together For Good initiative empowers kids to say “No to fear and yes to safety”.

Nickelodeon, the number one kid’s franchise, has returned with their global pro-socio initiative “Together For Good” which this year will address the burning issue of child safety.

With increasing incidents in the realm of cyber safety, bullying and physical harassment amongst kids at a young age, creating awareness around personal safety, is the need of the hour. Nickelodeon has set out to curate an awareness initiative that inspires and empowers kids to say, “No to fear and yes to safety”. The initiative encourages kids to identify potential risks and reach out to an adult without fear.

This movement is brought to life with subtle yet impactful on-air video series with the message – ‘Say No to fear and yes to safety’. The videos create awareness and call for kids to seek parental/ adult intervention when faced with any threat. Addressing the 3 most rampant issues of physical abuse, cyber safety and bullying, the videos created are light, sensitive and impactful. The initiative will also be brought alive online and on social through a high decibel digital plan that includes interactive posts, pledge posts, downloadables, championed by the kids’ favorite Nicktoons.  There will also be short videos by experts and child psychologists on safety tips.

Nickelodeon has associated with leading Non-Governmental Organization “Arpan” which specializes in empowering individuals and families with prevention and intervention skills required to respond to issues pertaining to child safety. The experts from Arpan will engage with kids in schools across the country through an interactive school contact programme. The school outreach will also include sessions that guide teachers and adults on how to manage issues of child safety. Nickelodeon has also partnered with Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai-education department to extend the school outreach programme across various Mumbai schools.

Commenting on this initiative, Nina Elavia Jaipuria, Business Head, Kids Entertainment Cluster at Viacom18 said, “We at Nickelodeon believe that children are the change agents of society. Every child has the right to grow up in a safe environment. Through the Together for Good movement Nickelodeon has set out to sensitize kids and parents on the rampant problem of child safety issues. We believe that this initiative will give the kids the confidence to speak out and say, “no to fear and yes to safety”

“We are delighted to partner with Nickelodeon India for their initiative ‘Together for Good’. Arpan has, over its 10 years of working on prevention of child sexual abuse and healing from its impact, observed that if children are empowered with age-appropriate knowledge and skills they can participate in their own safety. Parents and caregivers, when empowered with knowledge, contribute to making an environment which is vigilant and protective for children. An initiative like this has the potential to provide key messages of personal safety to millions of children and parents with the support of Nickelodeon.” – Ms Sharalene Moonjely, Director – Public Engagement, Arpan

So log on to to join the movement

February 6, 2018

Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse is possible through Personal Safety Education – says Arpan’s report

Arpan is a leading NGO working on the issue of Child Sexual Abuse also marked its 10th anniversary today.

Caption for panel discussion photo – L to R, Pooja Taparia (Founder & CEO, Arpan), Dr. David Finkelhor (Director of Center for Crimes Against Children, New Hampshire University, USA), Javier Aguilar (Chief of Child Protection programs, Unicef India),  Rakesh Jhunjhunwala (Founder, Rare Enterprises),  Sonjoy Chatterjee (Chairman, Goldman Sachs India), Beatrice Bondy (Strategic Advisor to Mr. Karl-Johan Persson, CEO, H&M), Peter Kenyon (Director, The Marshall Foundation), Archana Chandra (CEO, Jai Vakeel, A.T.E. Chandra Philanthropic Foundation).

Arpan, a leading NGO working on the issue of Child Sexual Abuse launches a case study titled ‘Integration of Personal Safety Education Programme in Schools: A Case Study.’
Mumbai, 29th November 2017:  Child Sexual Abuse is a startling everyday reality for as many as half of the country’s children (Child Sexual Abuse Report 2007). 54.5% of total incest rape victims are children below 18 years (NCRBI 2015). Maharashtra reported maximum cases of crime against children which accounts for 14.8% of total such reported cases (NCRBI 2015). With the ever-increasing reports of child sexual abuse, we know that the scenario is not too different even today. Child Sexual Abuse can cause relationship issues, suicidal tendencies, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other psychological impacts. It can also result in significantly poorer academic performance, poorer mental and physical health, greater substance abuse and poorer parental relationships than their non-abused counterparts. There is, therefore, an urgent need to empower children with adequate knowledge, attitude and skills to prevent instances of Child Sexual Abuse as well as to seek support if an incident occurs. It is also important to create awareness with parents, teachers and school staff about child sexual abuse so that they can play an active role in the safety of children and provide a supportive environment to the child should there be any instance of abuse.

Arpan is a Mumbai based NGO that teaches personal safety skills to children in schools. Over the last 10 years, Arpan has taught over 75,000 children and adolescents and created awareness about Child Sexual Abuse amongst 57,000 parents and teachers through the Personal Safety Education Programme. Arpan has also trained teachers to integrate Personal Safety Education into their school curriculum so that children remember personal safety messages year on year and in an unsafe situation will report to a trusted adult. Bombay Cambridge Gurukul (BCG) Schools in Bombay integrated the Personal Safety Education (PSE) Programme in their curriculum in the year 2010 after being trained by Arpan. The teachers of these 5 schools themselves teach personal safety to children.

This research report, ‘Integration of Personal Safety Education Programme in Schools: A Case Study’ is an evaluation of the impact of integrating the Personal Safety Education Programme in the BCG group of Schools. The evaluation was conducted in the five schools of Bombay Cambridge Gurukul (BCG).  Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were conducted with 152 children from 5 schools from 5th, 6th and 7th standards. Among these 152 children, individual interviews were conducted with 31 children. 5 headmistress and principals, 10 teachers (who conduct Personal Safety Education programme), 5 counsellors, 9 parents, CEO and Head of Dept - HRD were interviewed.

The key findings of the study were:
  • Children demonstrated increasing help-seeking behaviour as they identified unsafe situations, used refusal skills, and reported it to a trusted adult almost immediately. All 9 children (out of 31 children with whom the individual interview was conducted) who disclosed about past unsafe experiences in the study sought help from their trusted adults and were able to evolve a plan of action to ‘Get Away’ from the situation. In the Focused Group Discussions conducted with 152 children, all children were able to bring out an immediate response, an intermediary resolution and a long-term solution for unsafe situations that the protagonist faced in the assessment trope that was used to elicit responses. Children’s narratives of using refusal skills and accessing help are also substantiated by parents, teachers and counsellor's accounts.
  • The Management of schools of BCG developed a Child Protection Policy with a focus on responding to Child Sexual Abuse. The Child protection policy was child-friendly and responsive and showcases their knowledge on the issue of Child Sexual Abuse.
  • Children, across all groups, were comfortable about their body, knew that their body belonged to them and believed themselves to be active participants in ensuring their safety. They were comfortable with naming Private Body Parts and remembered the Personal Safety Rules/Guidelines.
  • Children recognised that Personal Safety Education inculcates them with skills to face ‘life’ as “PSE is about life”. Children shared their learnings with their siblings, cousins or friends or by leaving messages for other children through this evaluation.
  • Parents recognised Personal Safety Education Programme as age-appropriate, necessary and adequate. They were comfortable with the content and delivery of the programme. Parents identified the Personal Safety Education programme in aiding their communication with children on personal safety.
  • Teachers were well aware of signs and symptoms of Child Sexual Abuse and were proactive in responding to a child’s disclosure.
  • Teachers recognised Personal Safety Education Programme as a systematic age-appropriate model with adequate teachings aids and activities. It helped teachers to initiate dialogue on this issue in a non-threatening manner. It also helped to streamline the process of handling disclosures of Child Sexual Abuse.
  • Teachers had taken the learnings from the PSE classrooms and had created safe environments in their homes and personal spaces.

Ms. Pooja Taparia, Founder & Chief Executive of Arpan commented “Arpan has been a pioneer in evolving and conducting a holistic prevention and intervention school-based model, the Personal Safety Education programme. Over time we have seen that when schools take up the Personal Safety Education Programme and invest in it, it doesn’t just empower children with the necessary knowledge skills and attitude to prevent instances of Child Sexual Abuse but also empowers their caregivers like teachers and parents in supporting the child in case of any abuse. Given the increased reporting of child sexual abuse over the past few months and how safe schools are emerging as a need of the hour, it is heartening to see the results of the evaluation. It corroborates our belief that Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse is possible if we incorporate this critical life skill training in the school curriculum and if schools take ownership of teaching this to every child in their school.”

Dr. David Finkelhor - Director of Crimes against Children Research Center, University of New HampshireUSA, a renowned sociologist studying the problems of child victimization, child maltreatment and family violence since 1977, said, “Child Sexual Abuse is a global phenomenon, one that needs immediate attention. With studies showing 1 in 2 children in India experiencing some form of sexual abuse (Child Abuse Study 2007 by Government of India), it is critical that measures for prevention of child sexual abuse are taken up not just by the Government but also at the ground level by schools, communities and the society at large. Through my years of research, I have found that one of the primary strategies that are most effective in the prevention of child sexual abuse is school-based educational programmes. I am happy to see that this evaluation substantiates the effectiveness of school-based prevention programmes in the Indian context as well.”

Javier Aguilar (Chief of Child Protection programs, Unicef India) said “After so many efforts to respond to children in need of care and protection, we all need to complete this important work by strengthening prevention. Prevention is the best form of protection and school based programmes, one like Arpan is a promising way to take prevention forward.”

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, Founder, RARE Enterprises  a longstanding patron of Arpan said “I am very pleased to see the effectiveness of the Personal Safety Education programmes that Arpan is running in schools. I have supported this project since 8 years and I believe that the issue of Child Sexual Abuse needs to be addressed urgently. Children are the future of our country and investing in them is investing in the future of our country.”

About Arpan:
Arpan is an award-winning* organisation working hard to address the issue of Child Sexual Abuse in India. Arpan has won 6 National-level awards and 1 International award for its exemplary work. Based in Mumbai, Arpan is the largest NGO in India with over 85 social workers and counsellors providing prevention and intervention services to children and adults.

Mr. Rakesh Jhunjhunwala (R. Jhunjhunwala Foundation, India), Mr. Karl-Johan Persson (CEO, H&M Worldwide, Sweden), Goldman Sachs (India), Eros International Media (India), The Marshall Foundation (France), GMSP Foundation (UK), The Global Fund for Children (USA), Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives (India), A.T.E and Chandra Philanthrpic  Foundation (India) are some of our key supporters year-on-year.
*Arpan won the India NGO National Award, 2011 , Jamnalal Bajaj Uchit Vyavahar Puraskar , 2011, Global NGO Excellence Award, 2015, Dasra Girl Power Award, 2015, “The Most Committed NGO” in Early Childhood Care and Education, 2017, Spirit of Humanity Award, 2017 for it's exemplary work in the social sector.  Arpan also won an international award, C. Henry Kempe Award by ISPCAN, for doing significant work in the area of Child Abuse.
To know more about Arpan, Log on to

December 13, 2016

Arpan releases Training Kit for prevention of Child Sexual Abuse

Arpan Supporters & Pooja Taparia launch the Personal Safety Education Training Kit

Arpan launched the Personal Safety Education (PSE) kit for Class I-VI, on 1st December at YB Chavan Centre, Mumbai. The Kit is available in English, Hindi and Marathi.

The  Personal  Safety  Education  Training  Kit  is  a  culmination  of  Arpan’s  years  of  understanding  and experience of helping prevent child sexual abuse by increasing help seeking behavior amongst children and  making  adults  aware  of  their  role  in  keeping  children  safe.  It  is  a  feature  rich  set  of  tools  and instructional  guides  to  help  Teachers,  NGO  professionals,  Counselors  and  other  individuals  to  teach children Personal Safety skills.  This Kit will help School Authorities, Government and Institutional caregivers to spread the message of Safety to children, parents, teachers and the community at large, thus safeguarding children from sexual abuse.

Personal Safety Education Programme in Schools

Arpan’s flagship programme, the Personal Safety Education, aims at teaching children personal safety skills in schools, institutions and communities so that they can identify unsafe situations and seek help. It also empowers teachers, parents and adults with the appropriate knowledge, attitude and skills to prevent and deal with child sexual abuse and create a safe environment for children. 

Arpan also launched a video about it's Personal Safety Education Programme at the Event. You can watch it here.

Children's Panel at the Event

At the event, Arpan organized a Children's panel to hear what they had to say regarding the Personal Safety Education Programme. One of the children observed "On birthdays, girls would wear one piece dresses and come to school. Earlier the boys would pass comments and remarks at the girls, but after the PSE sessions the teasing stopped." Another student from grade 7 said "We should all have a PSE teacher in school so that we can know who to reach out to anytime."

Sonjoy Chatterjee - CEO, Goldman Sachs India & Achama Matthew - CEO, Bombay Cambridge Gurukul Schools

Arpan's supporters and donors were invited on stage to speak about their association with Arpan and their experiences. Sonjoy Chatterjee, CEO, Goldman Sachs India had this to say "It (Child Sexual Abuse) must be very difficult to bear on a day to day basis. That is the most important thing Arpan is helping achieve. Arpan looks at everybody in a very special way and helps create this feeling of comfort to bring about a change in emotions for a positive, better, fulfilling life." 

Achama  Matthew,  CEO,  Bombay  Cambridge  Gurukul  Schools shared "If Arpan hadn't walked in, I dont think BCG would be so concious and aware of what it means in terms of keeping children safe. And our reach has not just been the children, all our staff, parents which would probably mean almost 25,000 families. We are proud that Arpan walked in and we sustained our relationship with Arpan."

Principals Panel at the Event

Principals from schools who conducted the Personal Safety Education Programme were also invited to share their views and challenges about the programme and key takeaways about its impact. One of the principals shared " I feel children (who underwent PSE) have very high self esteem, they can express themselves very openly. I think that is a big achievement, not only from a point of view of abuse but all walks of life. They are aware that they can share their feelings openly and there are ways and means to get help when needed."

Personal Safety Education Training Kit in English, Hindi and Marathi

To get access to a Personal Safety Education Training Kit please write to us at resources[at]arpan[dot]org[dot]in

The Arpan Team after the successful launch of the Personal Safety Education Training Kit

March 12, 2015

Ms. Pooja Taparia - CEO & Founder, ARPAN interview on BBC Radio

Ms. Pooja Taparia - CEO & Founder, ARPAN was interviewed on BBC radio 9th March, 2015. Her views on the documentary film, " India's Daughter" were discussed and she spoke about the work done by Arpan's work.
It was aired from 19:30 to 22:00 (roughly around 20:15 UK time) on BBC radio 5 Live Hit List. 

The link to the interview
Do listen to it 

February 6, 2015

ARPAN's work on Personal Safety Education featured in

Towards Freedom from Child Sexual Abuse
MONEYLIFE DIGITAL TEAM | 05/02/2015 12:36 PM 

Arpan, Pooja Taparia, Child Sexual Abuse
Personal Safety Education Program By ARPAN
Child sexual abuse is not even acknowledged as a reality by many, say trainers from Arpan who are trying to create awareness about this taboo subject

In  India, talking about sex and sexuality is still a taboo. Child sexual abuse (CSA) is not even acknowledged as a reality. People were shocked when Pooja Taparia started creating awareness about the issue. She is the founder of the NGO, Arpan, which started work in this area in 2007. It came into being with a team of just two or three people who started conducting awareness sessions, training various stakeholders like children, parents, teachers, civil society groups, clubs, etc.

Going back to her own early work in this field, Pooja recalls, “The inspiration to start working on the issue came when I watched a play on CSA and was deeply moved by it. The play depicted the trauma faced by a survivor of sexual abuse as she carries on with her life, makes decisions, develops relationships and the fears and crisis she experiences in her everyday life. The play shook me from the core. The understanding that children are violated (the violation of not only child’s body but the trust implicit in care-giving relationship) and the revelation that child sexual abuse can be psychologically traumatic and disturb a person’s everyday experience of self and others if not supported and healed at the appropriate time, unsettled me. So I decided to do something about it.”

Arpan evolved an effective two-pronged strategy—prevention and healing—to reduce the occurrence of CSA and heal its psychological, social, sexual and physical consequences. Its preventative programme is called ‘Personal Safety Education’ (PSE) and is the core programme. PSE is conducted in private, semi-private and government schools and institutions. The programme aims to empower children by imparting age-appropriate knowledge, information and skills related to personal safety and by building their self-esteem to prevent and protect them from sexual abuse. The programme also includes awareness and skill enhancement of adults like parents, teachers and institutional caretakers who are the primary stakeholders in a child’s life. These stakeholders are empowered with adequate information and skills about CSA so that they can create strong safety and support networks around children in their respective environments.

The second part of Arpan’s work is to provide psycho-therapeutic support to children who report cases of attempted and continued sexual abuse. Qualified psychologists work with survivors of CSA and their families to heal the trauma and impact they faced. “We work at various levels to help restore the child’s sense of self awareness, self-worth, create safe and supportive environment, stabilisation, help the child to process the trauma and reach re-integration,” says Pooja.

Over the past eight years, Arpan has reached out to over 22,000 children and adults directly through its training and capacity building programmes.

An anecdote narrated by a parent illustrates the effectiveness of Arpan’s efforts. “When an uncle tried to kiss my child who has borderline mental retardation, the child categorically said: ‘NO, do not kiss me. I will not allow’… I did not think the child would understand, you trained us and her takeaway is so high that now I am confident that she will be able to protect herself.” The child is just under four years old. Donations can be made in the name of Arpan by demand draft or cheque, payable in Mumbai. Donors will receive a receipt as well as the 80G certificate for income-tax exemption.

1st Floor, Delta Chemicals Pvt Ltd., 
J/1, Cama Industrial Zone, 
Off. Valbhatt Road, Goregaon East, 
Mumbai 400063, India.
Phone 022 2686 2444 / 2686 8444

November 6, 2014

Arpan's work on Therapeutic Help for Child Sexual Abuse Survivors

Silences and Safe Spaces: Therapeutic Help for Child Sexual Abuse Survivors

by Shreya Sen and the Therapeutic Intervention team at Arpan

Therapy for child sexual abuse survivors is an aspect often ignored when it comes to responding to abuse. However, therapy can help navigate the various trying circumstances a survivor faces, such as in the case of incest. Shreya Sen, with the Therapeutic Intervention team at Arpan, an organization that works to prevent child sexual abuse, talk about the various ways therapy can help heal.

Addressing an issue as prevalent as child sexual abuse is often a daunting task. The patriarchal structure of our society arpan logois such that those lower in the power hierarchy (in this case, on grounds of their age) are often faced with a greater risk of sexual violence. This structure also supports and perpetuates an environment of fear and silence around this issue; so much so that the idea of community honor has come to be strongly associated with it. As an organization working towards the prevention of child sexual abuse, one of our biggest struggles is to challenge this culture of shame and social stigma attached to it so that the victim-survivors of sexual violence, and their families, choose not to keep the abuse a secret for the fear of losing social standing.

This culture of silence is often internalized by the victims themselves. A lot of survivors talk about how difficult it was for them to disclose their abuse to their support systems because they felt ashamed and guilty about what happened to them. For survivors to be able to share their stories, it is imperative to create and acknowledge spaces with a safe, compassionate and supportive environment within their immediate surroundings (families, schools, neighborhoods, etc.). Thus, it is important to work towards greater awareness at a societal level, stressing on the wide, prevalent existence of child sexual abuse and how it ties into our social fabric. Persistent and unrelenting work on this would gradually take us towards the larger societal attitude changing in favor of being more acceptable and open to addressing the issue. Additionally, having an atmosphere where sexual abuse is openly talked about allows for survivors to share their stories with each other and build a support system that allows for disclosure in an empathetic space. Through our work, we have found that people often make their own disclosures after witnessing other survivors share their histories of abuse.

At the same time, it is also essential to increase access to safe spaces beyond immediate support systems. Counselling therapy and support is one such safe space that needs to be made available to survivors for their growth and healing. In the present social context, survivors usually have to cope within a dichotomy where their abuse is being either wholly dismissed and/or ignored, or their entire personhood is being built around their experience of abuse. Therapists work towards providing survivors with stable, secure, affirmative relationships which give them a space to feel the way they want to and to help them make meaning of their experiences in their journey of healing. Furthermore, therapists are able to help survivors recognize and acknowledge the significant and seemingly insignificant coping mechanisms that the survivors may have subconsciously adopted to rebuild their lives.

csa-inside-picUnfortunately, the stigma around child sexual abuse is matched by the prejudices against its impact on mental health. At our organization, we spend a lot of time addressing the anxieties of survivors and their families that makes them resistant to the idea of therapy. Educating guardians on the meaning and methods of counselling helps reduce some of the resistance since some of the myths and misconceptions they hold against therapy get addressed. For most people, therapy is not as important a form of intervention as some others like legal support or rescue and rehabilitation programmes. But counseling/therapy is often one of the most productive way of helping survivors cope within their existing situation. For instance, in some cases of incest, the abuser may be the primary care taker of the child upon whom the child is dependent for his/her financial, physical and even emotional needs. In such cases, the survivor’s sense of helplessness and loss of control gets further reinforced because they see no escape from their situation. Here, once again, the therapist is able to empower the survivor by helping them recognize and implement their own coping mechanisms, while also being able to strengthen alliances with other trusted/helpful adults (such as a non-offending parent, a teacher, a neighbor, etc.) who can support the child and ensure a greater degree of safety for the child.

It is crucial to acknowledge the short-term and long-term mental health impacts that sexual abuse can have on a child. Trauma, in the context of sexual abuse, can be all pervasive and it may (or may not) affect various aspects of an individual’s life. To what extent it will affect someone depends on several parameters such as the age of the child, available resources, support systems, severity of abuse, relationship with the abuser and so on. The relationship established between the therapist and the survivor can often become one of the first truly egalitarian space for the survivor to regain a sense of power and control. Therapy helps survivors overcome their guilt by attributing accountability of the abuse to the perpetrator instead. Additionally, therapists can help survivors cope with issues like depression and anxiety by helping them set long term goals and envision a life beyond and outside of the abuse.

Children need to be respected, heard, spoken to (softly, openly, honestly). Their curious questions need to be answered creatively, genuinely and playfully. They believe in us and expect that we believe them in return. These are some harbingers of a relationship that the child will treasure forever! If we were to think of a child being violated of her/his basic integrity like in sexual abuse, respect, belief in the child, communicating with them openly/honestly, making them feel heard and understood become more important than ever before. These can be overwhelming times not only for the child but for their entire support system.  A therapist who is trained in work with children and families on this issue can be a person to validate collective feelings of concern, help the family navigate through this challenging patch and make visible the strength, resilience and hope, which was always present, but is now shaken up due to such trying times! We always urge guardians to never hesitate to access help – it is only a measure of the hopes and dreams that they have for themselves and their children.

This article was written by Shreya Sen and the ‘Therapeutic Intervention’ team at ArpanArpan is an NGO in Mumbai that works towards the prevention of child sexual abuse and providing therapeutic assistance to those affected by it. They also run a counselling helpline for child and adult survivors of child sexual abuse and their support systems. The helpline can be accessed on +91 98190-86444.

October 15, 2014

Arpan's work on Personal Safety Education featured in Global Fund For Children Blog

A Call to Action: GFC Celebrates the International Day of the Girl

    A girl never exists in a vacuum. Her community, family, friends, and environment all shape her life. That’s why, to support girls, The Global Fund for Children works with organizations that are rooted in the community and use innovative approaches to advance girls’ rights and well-being. Through our partnership, we help these grassroots organizations grow into thriving and sustainable community resources that can endure for generations.

    Last year, GFC invested $1.3 million in 81 organizations working to address the needs of girls in 31 countries around the world.

    The International Day of the Girl Child, established by the UN and celebrated each year on October 11, serves to highlight major issues and accomplishments in the field of girl’s rights. This year’s theme is “ending the cycle of violence.” Girls around the world confront many of the worst forms of violence, including genital mutilation, child marriage, and sexual abuse and exploitation. GFC supports grantee partners in every region of the world that are working to help the most marginalized girls and halt the cycle of violence.

    To honor the International Day of the Girl Child and to give a sense of the innovative, frontline efforts of GFC’s diverse group of grantee partners, we are highlighting two organizations working to ensure the safety and rights of girls in their home communities: Asociación Civil Defiende in Guatemala and Arpan in India.

    Asociación Civil Defiende’s educators facilitate a 
    workshop about self-esteem and feelings in a rural 
    elementary school in Guatemala.
    Asociación Civil Defiende, one of GFC’s newest grant partners, combats the sexual abuse of girls through a unique prevention program in local schools. Begun by Roberto Morales, a self-trained theater artist, the organization uses creative movement, puppetry, and theater to break the silence around the culturally taboo subject of sexual and gender-based violence in rural Mayan communities.

    Through Defiende’s workshops, children learn to assert their rights, understand and respect their bodies, and stand up for the rights of others. Defiende also works with school staff to ensure that schools are safe for both girls and boys and that teachers are equipped to respond in cases of abuse and violence.

    Arpan set up an interactive installation about safe
    and unsafe touches at the KalaGhoda Arts Festival.
    Arpan empowers children and communities with prevention and intervention skills to reduce instances of child sexual abuse for both girls and boys. Arpan is a leader in addressing child sexual abuse and was the first organization in Mumbai to offer personal safety education to children, teaching them about safe and unsafe touches and how to seek help.  

    Arpan also provides training to teachers, parents, and other NGOs on prevention and intervention. Founded by Pooja Taparia, who was motivated to create the organization by the magnitude of the issue and the unavailability of resources to address it, Arpan not only works to prevent abuse but also meets survivor needs. The organization provides psychosocial support, rehabilitative services, and safe spaces for children who have experienced abuse and works with schools to develop long-term plans to ensure the personal safety of students.

    The International Day of the Girl Child is an opportunity to recognize what has been achieved for girls around the world. It is also a call to action to address what remains to be done. GFC’s ability to support community-based organizations like Asociación Civil Defiende and Arpan depends directly on the engagement of our own community. Help GFC reach more of the world’s most marginalized girls by making a donation today.

    An Arpan educator leads a small group discussion during a
    Personal Safety Education workshop.

October 8, 2014

Arpan's study on mandatory reporting in the POCSO Act featured in Hindustan Times.

‘60% survivors of child sex abuse against reporting’

SOCIAL STIGMA Distrust of police handling the case is one of the major factors

MUMBAI: A majority of child sex abuse survivors are against mandatory reporting of abuse, which has been stipulated in the new legislation Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act (POCSOA) , revealed a recent study.

Close to 62.5% survivors interviewed for the study by Arpan, a city-based non-government group stated that they were not okay with mandatory reporting of abuse because of the social stigma. One of the clauses of the POCSOA, 2012, is ‘mandatory reporting of occurring and/ or apprehended sexual offences against children’ under Section 19, which makes failure to report punishable under Section 21 of the Act.

Surprisingly, out of the 64 respondents to the study, 40 were against mandatory reporting stating that their social environments were not sensitive enough for them to disclose abuse. “I’m a man, and it’s almost impossible to make anyone believe that I had been abused by another man,” stated one of the respondents. “I once told someone about my experience and she laughed and told me that I probably enjoyed it.”

Distrust in the manner with which the police would handle the case was also one of the major factors for survivors not wanting to report. “If I was eight or nine years old, and I knew my mother would report the matter to the police, I wouldn't know what ‘complaining to the police’ would lead to,” said another respondent.

Respondents also said that reporting without the consent of the survivor would shake the faith of the child in the trusted adult. “To have someone you confided in to do the same without one’s consent is worse,” wrote a respondent.

Only 24 survivors said that they agreed with the mandatory reporting clause.“If my abuse had been reported to the authorities at the time it was happening, it may have prevented the systematic abuse of other young girls,” said a respondent.

Shreya Sen, co-ordinator, research and development, Arpan who conducted the study said that the study was not aimed at discouraging mandatory reporting.

“The study only shows that  instead of just mandatory reporting, awareness and sensitization of responsible stakeholders needs to be done along with the need of safety education to be implemented,” she said.

October 1, 2014

ARPAN Annual Report 2013 - 2014

The seed of Arpan was planted way back in 2006. Since then, the journey of Arpan resembles the growth of the ‘Moso Bamboo tree’ which needs watering every day with no noticeable growth for some time. That does not dampen the spirit of the gardener and the watering of the plant continues. One day, it opens up, catches its first ray of sunshine and away it goes. Arpan’s story of growth has mirrored this. While the initial few years were about building a strong foundation, the last couple of years have seen amazing growth, taking Arpan to new heights. As much as this process has been organic, it would not have been possible without a focused, conscious and deliberate growth and a recognition that this transition is a trade-off between the present and the future. Allied with this, has been the realization that navigating this transition would mean to look at Arpan through a different lens as strategies that were promising for a small scale organization can hinder the growth and sustainability for a larger organization. With Arpan’s maxim, that ‘being better is more important than being bigger’ the continuous challenge has been to ensure that the growth does not jeopardize Arpan’s culture, significance of its beneficiaries, its people, its execution processes, and its quality and controls.

Arpan’s story of growth is as much a story of the organizations scale of work as well as growth in each of its clients as well as its team. Given the nature of intervention at times, growth can be momentary, transitory, intangible and not apparent. However, Arpan’s story is incomplete and futile without mapping the growth and change that happens in the life of its beneficiaries. This Annual Report 2013-14, will present the growth of individuals and their journey from being victims to survivors, from vulnerable children to empowered beings participating in their own safety, from unaware caregivers to endowed individuals creating a safety net. Integral to this journey is the growth of Arpan’s practitioners’ who evolve to become more empathetic and compassionate in their approach through their experience and interaction with beneficiaries and their lived realities.

Annual Report 2013 - 2014

September 20, 2014

Arpan's research on Mandatory Reporting

Should you blow the whistle on child sexual abuse?

According to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, which was passed in 2012, any person who knows of an instance of child sexual abuse must report it to the police, and can face punitive action for not doing so. While this has been welcomed as a vital step towards addressing the problem of child sexual abuse, recent research shows that compulsory reporting may have complications of its own.

By Shreya Sen | Grist Media – Fri 19 Sep, 2014

One day, as you’re playing with your best friend’s son, a child you’ve known since he was a mere tadpole in your friend’s belly, you notice something’s wrong. The normally hyperactive boy is listless and withdrawn, and won’t respond when you ask him what’s wrong. When you next see him, he’s the same, but this time when no one’s around he tells you something you aren’t prepared for: a member of his family has been touching him inappropriately. You know you have to do something, but what that is is still unclear: do you betray his confidence and tell his parents? Should you attempt to make sure he has access to a counselor and therapy? Or do you pick the uneasy, but possibly necessary, option of going to the police? You ask a lawyer friend about your options and learn that, by law, you are expected to report the incident to the police or risk punitive action.
In 2012, the Indian government passed the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act – an important legal document welcomed by activists as an important step in directing social and judicial focus towards the issue of child sexual abuse. But the one clause in the Act that remains a controversial topic is that of having mandatory reporting of child abuse. As the POCSO Act is the most significant piece of jurisdiction passed in prevention of child sexual abuse, it is important to view this clause and its impact through a critical lens.
Section 19 of the Act requires that an offence under the Act – or the apprehension that an offense under the Act is likely to be committed – be reported to a Special Juvenile Police Unit or the local police. Section 21 of the Act makes the failure to report or record such a case punishable by six months imprisonment or a fine, or both. Although this does not apply to children, the responsibility falls to anyone a child may have confided in or knows that a child may have been sexually abused – whether they’re a social worker, a teacher, a neighbor, a family friend, or a neighbor.
The concept of mandatory reporting originated in the USA, and the first laws on the subject were drafted in 1963. The USA has evolved a strong and well-established culture of mandated reporting (albeit amidst controversy), and it has become an important feature in the child abuse laws of that country. In a way, mandatory reporting facilitates the early reporting of child abuse, and sends a strong message that abuse is not acceptable. However, the act of reporting is a very personal one, and the feelings of the survivor as well as the ethical dilemma of the person reporting the abuse are at its core.
I work for an organization that works towards capacity building and consciousness raising about the issue of child sexual abuse. We felt that since the primary benefactors of our work and of the POCSO Act are survivors of sexual abuse, the most important way of assessing the possible impact of mandatory reporting was to ask them how they felt about it.
Around six months ago, we set about interviewing adult survivors of child sexual abuse – having coped with the trauma of abuse as children, they were perhaps more able to make sense of the abuse and its impact in hindsight, and more able to express their feelings about it with some distance. We used an online form with a qualitative, open-ended set of questions, and called for interviews by posting on relevant discussion forums on various social media platforms. Of course it meant that this restricted the sample group to only people affluent and educated enough to access social media forums and respond to a questionnaire in English. But we felt it gave people the choice and autonomy to come forward to answer these questions, if they felt ready for it, rather than seeking out survivors for personal interviews. We took no personal details, ensuring complete anonymity, and provided our respondents with helplines if they experienced triggers or required counseling. Of our 64 participants, two identified as male and 62 as female.
The results, when they came in, were eye-opening. Twenty-four of the participants – 37.5 percent – said that they agreed that reporting sexual abuse of children should be mandatory, but the remaining 40 stated that they were uncomfortable with the idea.
Of the other findings of our survey, three trends were extremely significant. First, we found that most of the respondents of the survey were not able to disclose the abuse to anyone during the abuse or soon after the abuse. The fear of being stigmatized or experiencing a backlash was particularly strong. Most survivors took time to make sense of what had happened, to find the words to describe the event and to work up the courage to talk to someone about it. Guilt and shame were two significant obstructions to disclosure – while these were apparent in almost all of the respondents’ narratives, eight of the respondents said they were sure the abuse was their fault. Some of the respondents didn’t feel like they had access to a support system, and didn’t believe they could get help even if they asked for it. Others were in denial about what had happened, or had repressed the memories of abuse. If the abuser shared a close relationship with the respondent, or had threatened them, this played a role in their decision to talk about the abuse.
Second, the reactions received after talking about the abuse for the first time had a major impact on the survivors’ healing processes. On a personal level, children reporting abuse have to revisit the trauma and deal with the consequences of their revelations. Only 17 respondents received unambiguous, positive and supportive responses upon disclosure. Some reported that their parents hadn’t done enough to make them feel believed or safe, and others said their complaints were brushed aside. One of the respondents wrote: “I assumed they [my parents] would protect me from it. They brushed it off by explaining how I was misunderstanding what was happening, and it was nothing serious. The reaction made me feel desperate and helpless. I had no more hope from anyone else.” The responses the survivors had received after speaking about their abuse had influenced they way they felt about their abusers and themselves.
The main reason that respondents supported mandatory reporting seemed to primarily be to reclaim control by shifting the blame on to the abuser, when it had been projected on to them instead by a culture of victim-blaming. They also seemed to feel that mandatory reporting would put the onus of ensuring justice for the survivor on the responsible adult stakeholders. A vital aspect for several participants was that even if the adults they confided in did not believe the child or were dismissive of the child’s disclosure, they would have to, by law, report the abuser. They also believed that mandatory reporting would make adults primarily responsible for holding the perpetrator accountable. If children were scared to take action, adults would be forced to do it on their behalf.
But the third aspect of the findings we found noteworthy was that every single one of the respondents, even those who supported mandatory reporting, said they didn’t want the police to be the first level of intervention in cases of child sexual abuse. Most participants described their social environments as being “patriarchal”, “misogynistic” or “insensitive”, and were wary of the stigma and blame that they would have to deal with if their abuse was exposed. For some others, it was more important to move on and focus on healing themselves rather than putting their abusers behind bars.
A Human Rights Watch report titled ‘Breaking the Silence: Child Sexual Abuse in India’ published in 2013 documented cases of child sexual abuse in India in various contexts. The way the justice system functions is a key deterrent to the reporting of abuse, according to the report, which says many survivors who do report abuse are “mistreated a second time by a criminal justice system that often does not want to hear or believe their accounts or take serious action against the perpetrators.” The report also establishes that most police officers lack the skill, training and sensitivity to handle cases of sexual violence.
Interestingly, all participants in our survey stated categorically that if a child disclosed a case of ongoing or past abuse to them, they would not report the abuse without the child’s consent. Most said they would consider reporting the abuse if that was the only way to stop it, but it would be a last resort, only after other forms of help, such as including the family, contacting NGOs and talking to therapists had failed. One respondent said: “If a child reported abuse to me, my immediate instinctive response would be to look for at least one adult in its proximity a) to whom it may be comfortable talking about it b) who would have an active hand in altering the circumstances under which the child faces abuse […] I would want to report it to the police and thereby make it public only after ascertaining the child had enough of a distance and dissociation from it. If that distance isn’t possible, at the cost of the abuser probably staying at large, I wouldn’t be too easy about reporting charges. What followed would probably scar the child equally if not more than the abuse.”
This may largely have to do with perceptions: in most cases, the respondents were not speaking about dealing with the police from personal experience. It’s clear that there’s plenty of work to be done not just to sensitize police, but also to spread awareness about the training police undergo and the work they do to aid survivors. The POCSO Act does provide for child-friendly investigations, but the lack of awareness about the conditions of the Act and fear of the police system is a clear deterrent to reporting.
There’s also the legal process to worry about: the gamut of lawyers, interrogations and court appearances that can easily traumatize survivors. One of the respondents wrote about how her parents went to register a complaint upon her disclosure and how she was made to identify her abuser from amongst a number of suspects. She recalled how she was not only petrified at having to see her abuser again, but she was also dealing with extreme anxiety at the possibility of identifying the wrong person and getting him arrested.
From the narratives of our respondents, the understanding that each case of abuse takes place in its own specific context was re-affirmed. Reporting abuse cannot be made mandatory as a blanket law without taking into account these specificities. The decision to report is contextual and almost entirely based on the environment, both immediate and social, of the survivor. Our approach has to extend to a more holistic and targeted approach towards prevention and intervention – legal action is not enough. Police, doctors, teachers, parents and other responsible stakeholders, need to be sensitized. Safety education programs need to be conducted for children, and alongside the law, there has to be a greater emphasis on therapeutic intervention with survivors and their trusted adults.
Mandatory reporting of sexual abuse shouldn’t prevent survivors from seeking help, and it shouldn’t make it difficult for them to disclose their abuse to a trusted adult. In the end, it’s important to remember that the focus must be on the child and what is best for them.
Shreya Sen works as a researcher with Arpan, an NGO that works towards the prevention of child sexual abuse through training and capacity building and providing therapeutic intervention for survivors. This article is part of their research on how survivors of child sexual abuse perceive mandatory reporting.