This is not the story of the young girl who died today. The circumstances of that rape were so brutal and public as to make a nation cringe. This is one of those stories that will never make headline news. Not because it lacks brutality. Not because it is done in a private place where consent is in question. Not that. Only because it has not been labelled as such. Not called rape out of fear of the perpetrators and the even greater suffering such a label could inflict, in a society that treats rape victims as social pariahs. I will call this young girl Mahalakshmi because that is what she is. A goddess to her mother. A mother who is critically ill.
Mahalakshmi is a teenager now. She has a hard time staying in school and has run away from several over the last four years. She does not like to take her anti psychosis medication because it makes her sleep. When she does not take it she violently assaults her ill mother only to express remorse and plead with her to live for two hundred years.
Sadly, her mother Meena (not her real name) may not have very long. Huffing and panting she came to see me yesterday, requesting my help to find the girl a home where she will be treated, cared for and protected from the big bad world. She gave me a dossier on Mahalakshmi’s medical history. Behind the test reports and medication history was her detailed biography by a young psychiatrist who has recently returned from abroad. I had a hunch and was stunned to see it borne out by the facts in this case.
A young child with a lot of promise being raised by a poor single mother in a slum. The apple of her mother’s eye. Precocious and bright. Mahalakshmi attends a well-known private school even though the fees are beyond her mother’s means. She returns home to a caregiver and waits for her mother to return, at 9 p.m. every night, doing her homework, reading and reciting Tamil poetry. One day when she is 11 she does not come home at the appointed time. After a couple of hours of waiting, the caregiver in a panic calls the mother who rushes home at 6:30. Still no sign of Mahalakshmi. They comb the school grounds and find the child in a hidden corner in the school. She is a crumpled heap and shaking. Mahalakshmi identifies the boy by his name. He is several years her senior. She pleads with Meena not to tell the school because he has threatened to kill Meena she did. Notwithstanding this entreaty, Meena takes the matter to the principal, afraid to go directly to the police out of concern for the family’s reputation. No charges are laid. There is no disciplinary action against the young man, who the school says is from a ” good” family. What was the young girl doing, wandering about in the school anyway? Meena has no money or strength to pursue the matter. She decides to focus on her child. Mahalakshmi does not return to that school and has run away from four schools after that. She has never been the same. She now has failing grades, has emotionally regressed and torments her mother. No rape kit was ever administered to find out the extent of physical damage. The psychological harm appears deep and irreversible.
Mahalakshmi is the victim of a brutal assault. However, she is only being treated with medication for the psychological harm she has sustained and it is clearly not working. Now 4 years later – where does one begin? I dread to think of the millions more out there that need help, healing and safety from repeated assaults?
I welcome your suggestions on assistance for Mahalakshmi.
- Delhi Gang-Rape Victim Cremated Amid Tight Security; Protests Continue (PHOTOS) (ibtimes.com)
- Mahalakshmi surprises Sahaj Grover (thehindu.com)