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Years on, no escape from trauma for two victims

New Delhi, Dec. 19: One still bangs her head against walls. The other, though apparently “strong”, turns violent at times and cries.

The brutal gang-rape of a young paramedic has brought back into focus the persistent trauma of two other women, both violated in moving vehicles in 2005 and 2010 before being dumped on a city road like the victim of Sunday night’s assault.

The two, both from Mizoram, have since left Delhi but are still struggling to rebuild their lives.

Denied timely psychological counselling, and shunned by their communities, they show symptoms of severe emotional trauma, according to women’s groups.

Experts said their condition illustrated how India’s law-enforcement authorities as well as society were yet to learn how to help victims cope in the aftermath of rape.

“In most cases rape victims are not given proper counselling and the trauma persists throughout their lives. Both police and society forget about how to help such victims so they can return to their daily functioning. Rehabilitation is very important and it takes a long time,” said former Delhi police commissioner Ved Marwah.

According to a study by Israeli researchers, trauma like rape doesn’t age. “A girl raped, in her mind is being raped again and again every day. A small trigger can remind her of the event,” the study said.

The two Mizo women had left the capital. “The condition of one of them is worse” because of what appears to be recurring mental trauma, said Alana, a founding member of the North East Support Centre & Helpline (NESCH) in Delhi. “I have heard that at times, in a fit of rage, she bangs her head against the wall and keeps inflicting injuries on herself,” Alana added.

In 2005, she was just 20 and studying in Delhi University when she was abducted and gang raped by four men in a moving Santro for several hours in Dhaula Kuan, north Delhi. The men stripped her before throwing her out from the car unconscious.

The NESCH had staged protests in Delhi after the incident and met senior Delhi police officers demanding immediate arrest of the accused.

“It is shocking to say that Delhi police did not provide any counselling to her that could have helped her get over the pain. Things became more difficult when she went to Mizoram where she was ostracised,” said Alana.

Ajit Singh Katiyar, the driver of the car, was convicted in December 2009 but the police failed to arrest the other three — Danda, Jat and Tappe — who have been declared proclaimed offenders.

“Even seven years after the incident she is still shattered. She used to confine herself to a room. Last year we got her married to a local youth thinking that she would forget about her past. At times she still behaves in a strange way,” said a relative from Mizoram.

The other woman, a 30-year-old BPO employee who was gang raped by four youths in November 2010, was forced to leave her job in the capital following taunts from colleagues and friends. She went back to her hometown, but was shunned by her community and faced alienation.

“She appears to be a strong girl but is still in trauma. She becomes violent at times and cries a lot,” said a Delhi police official, who had taken her to court a few months ago.

Madhu Chandra, who runs an NGO in Mizoram, said: “It’s sad police do not offer timely and proper counselling victims are ostracised and our society does not come forward to help rehabilitate them.”

Counsellors said the trauma of being raped was different from other psychotraumas. “Rape victims need long-term care and sustained counselling is extremely important as they have more problems returning to their daily functioning,” said Raman Verma, a psychologist, pointing to a recent Israeli study that said rape has a longer impact than even terrorism.