It is every mother’s nightmare come true. On top of the trauma of dealing with my four-year-old daughter’s sexual assault, I’m also now dealing with the anger and humiliation of being doubted and victim-shamed. There has been a spate of stories in the media that have been giving the school’s side of the story.
This is mine.
My child, a student of Maxfort School, Sector 7, Dwarka, was sexually assaulted this month by one of her own classmates while the teacher was out of the class, leaving the attendant (ayah) to look after the children while also doing her chores. The incident happened during school hours.
According to my daughter, the boy opened her pants, touched her bloomers and put his finger inside. She told me it happened in the washroom and then in the classroom. She added that the boy had just finished eating his food; he had not washed his hands before touching her private parts. In the washroom, there was no ‘didi’ who could help her. In the classroom, the teacher was not around and here my daughter says the boy sharpened his pencil and put it in too.
Though writhing in pain, my daughter somehow bore it until she reached home. She did not inform her teacher who is usually cold and unresponsive, and my daughter has never felt comfortable approaching her. A child of four years eight months, she was in pain but only complained twice of ‘tummy ache’ on Friday. It worsened on Saturday, and at night, just before going to sleep, she narrated the entire incident to me. I was aghast. She cried as she spoke and went to look for an ointment that I usually apply when my children are hurt, Arnica.
When I pulled down her bloomers and saw the injury, I was shocked.
The signs of assault were visible as her private parts were red and swollen, and when I applied ointment, she started crying even more in pain. I informed my husband, and my daughter narrated the incident to him too.
Highly agitated, I sent a message to her class teacher, even though it was not yet morning. My daughter had a sleepless night, crying constantly, saying that the boy had hurt her and she was in pain, especially while going to the washroom.
Next morning, I spoke to the class teacher. She asked me to speak to the school coordinator and the principal, and to send a written complaint to the mail ID mentioned in the almanac immediately.
I called up the school coordinator, and she told me that she would try to speak to the teacher concerned as well as the principal. Meanwhile, the call to the principal went unanswered. I spoke to my daughter’s paediatrician and fearing the worst, she asked me to rush to a hospital to get my child examined. I quickly went to Rockland Hospital, and after medical examination the doctor on duty confirmed that it was a case of sexual assault. The hospital filed a medico-legal case.
I received a call from the worried class teacher asking about my child and when I told her about the details, she was almost in tears. She informed the coordinator, and I got a call from the principal at 1.21 pm. She appeared casual about the entire incident as if I was reporting a loss of my child’s belonging or talking of some minor physical injury. She asked me to speak to the counsellor and said that the school authorities would meet on Monday morning to “resolve the issue” as it was a Sunday and the school was closed.
I asked, “Had the same incident happened to your daughter, would you have waited until the next morning?”
She paused and then agreed to meet at 3.30 pm but they (the coordinator and principal) kept asking me to meet the counsellor in spite of me telling them that my daughter was being medically examined, her vaginal swab was being collected and then I had to go to the police station to file an FIR as the police had been informed by the hospital authorities by then.
I then filed an FIR (0528/2017) at Dwarka Sector 9 Police Station. While I was there, the school sent me a message and a mail asking me to meet the school counsellor next morning at 9 am. The coordinator even said that she had spent the entire evening “resolving my issue”. I asked her, what is my issue? It is a case of sexual assault in the school premises, during school hours, due to the school’s negligence. Did she have an idea how it could happen? She said, “We have accorded it the utmost priority.” And yet the principal was so insensitive that she didn’t even bother to ask how my child was, or if she could come and meet her.
On Monday morning, I went to school, and my daughter showed me the scene of crime, pointing out that there was no teacher around in the classroom, and told the policemen how it happened. She went on to narrate the same before the Metropolitan Magistrate, without changing her words or sequence of events. It showed how much the incident has affected her psyche.
Why did the teacher in question leave the class unattended for the ayah to handle? Why didn’t the school assign another teacher? If it was short of manpower, it should have shut the primary section that day. Why didn’t the school come forward and lodge a complaint with the police and take my child to the doctor when I reported it to them on Sunday morning?
The entire incident points to an alarming situation at the school’s level – teachers not being attentive to what is happening in the classroom, ayahs not being present in washrooms and a lot of loose ends that are scary for a mother to even imagine.
I saw the CCTV footage of the day as it unfolded on Friday and it only corroborates what my daughter said: “I took long to hook my pants and by then all the kids had left”. She was the last one to step out on both occasions when the children were leaving the classroom.
The teacher’s negligence is also very clearly visible.
The boy also falls into the ambit of my concern and priorities. He needs to be counselled – maybe he himself has been victimised or has seen such acts happening at home or elsewhere. At the same time, he could execute such a heinous act only because teachers were inattentive and negligent.
Yet the police appear to be going all out to defend the school knowing well the boy is juvenile and they cannot press charges against him. I believe the school’s criminality needs to established. The school should be booked for scarring my innocent child for no fault of hers and letting something like this happen in the classroom. It is getting away very easily.
How convenient for the school to pass the buck on to the boy and his upbringing and give its own principal, teachers, coordinator and management a clean chit!
Why didn’t the school furnish the entire footage of the day, from the time my daughter walked in at 9.07 am on 17th November 2017 to her stepping out of the premises? The footage that they furnished is only until 12.15 pm. The footage of the class where the kids assemble before being handed over to parents is missing. Can the school explain this lapse? Why didn’t the police question it? Secondly, the CCTV footage provided by the school only shows the girls’ washroom. Couldn’t the incident have happened in the boys’ washroom? Or is the management trying to cover itself?
My daughter is a warm, affectionate and loving child. The entire incident has left her deeply disturbed.
She isn’t going to school and her studies are disrupted. I am going from pillar to post for justice.
There have been articles published in the media that give the school’s point of view: they keep terming it ‘alleged rape’ but I have time and again termed it ‘sexual assault’. The school says the child looks ‘happy’ in the CCTV footage. By making such insensitive remarks, aren’t they belittling the girl’s trauma? It is apparent that she is hesitant at many places while stepping out of the class. She appears to be smiling only because another student is trying to make her laugh. It wasn’t an external injury that would have been visible.
An article in The Quint has given more than ample footage to the school’s lawyer who has the audacity to say my child was ‘tutored’ to say she was raped. To make a four-year-old child mug up lines is unthinkable and shows the obnoxious, sick mentality of the person who said so. And does he also think I ‘tutored’ the doctor to give a certificate of sexual assault and file a medico-legal case?
I have been thinking very vicious thoughts since this incident – I have been seeing malicious intentions in every reporter’s question, and I have angrily lashed back at them saying they wouldn’t understand my pain unless it happened to their daughters too. But this is not who I am. This is not who my daughter is. This is not how a safe society and a healthy community are supposed to be.
Stop blaming my daughter and me for ‘cooking up’ such a horrendous story and start looking where the problems may lie – in the home of the assaulter and in the boardrooms of school managements who only know how to charge parents hefty fees and yet have no concern for the little wards in their care.
What would you do if this happened to your child?