Abuse on reel sparks real emotions

Pin-drop silence followed the screening of a film on sexual abuse on Wednesday before a woman spoke up.

By Chandreyee Ghose in Calcutta
  • Published 23.03.18

Calcutta: Pin-drop silence followed the screening of a film on sexual abuse on Wednesday before a woman spoke up.

"I was sexually abused as a child. This is the first time I have mustered the strength to speak about it," said the woman in red, almost choking on her words.

Me too, said another member of the audience, and then another, and another.

The Little Girls We Were... And the Women We Are, a 37-minute film by Delhi-based NGO Rahi Foundation, is the story of five survivors of incest and child sexual abuse - Barnini Bhattacharyya, Ishita Manek, Koel Chatterji, Rina D'Souza and Ayesha Sinha.

Two of the women - Chatterji and Sinha - were present at the premiere of the film at Inox, Quest mall, and interacted with the audience after the show.

"The film is the result of over 20 years of hard work. We want survivors to speak up and face their trauma rather than live in guilt. Only then can they heal. Child sexual abuse is becoming an epidemic in society, yet it is much neglected," said Anuja Gupta, the founder-executive director of Rahi Foundation.

The film traces how the survivors have moved on with their lives. The scars remain but the healing has begun.

"For a long time I felt a sense of shame and guilt. It was important to bring these emotions to the forefront and cleanse myself of them," said Sinha, the founder of an NGO called Talash.

Chatterji, now an entreprenuer running a cat creche in Golf Gardens, spoke about how she felt hounded by an image of abuse. "I was as if an observer to the abuse. It was when I finally started seeing myself as a victim of the abuse that my healing began," she said.

Actress Nandana Dev Sen, ambassador for Rahi Foundation and a guest at the premiere, said: "It was heart-warming to see a range of emotions that this film evoked. Male survivors are also part of our interactions in many projects. Anywhere in the world it is difficult for survivors to find people who believe them. Even the pleas of Woody Allen's stepdaughter went largely ignored."

Gupta said the film was aimed at sensitising parents and family members. "They need to pick up the signals of abuse," she said.

Ashwin Ailawadi, the co-founder and creative director of Rahi Foundation, conducted an interactive session post screening.